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Things We Want To See Happen In Stranger Things 4

After years of waiting, "Stranger Things" Season 4 is finally on the horizon, with a two-stage release date planned for May 27 and July 1, 2022. Though Netflix has produced other hits since the premiere of "Stranger Things" Season 3, the show is still among the streamer's most popular series. The combination of a long wait and a devoted fan base has built expectations for the new season sky-high, and with so many different characters and plotlines now part of the story, there are a lot of interesting directions it could go.

It has already been announced that Season 4 will feature several new characters, many of whom will be students at Hawkins High. That suggests that there will be plenty of new supernatural mysteries facing the citizens of the town. However, Hawkins won't be the only hub in "Stranger Things," as in the past. With Hopper (David Harbour) imprisoned in a Soviet prison camp in Siberia and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and the Byers having moved away from Hawkins entirely, the new season could be splitting its time between several different core locations.

With so much ground to cover and a huge ensemble of characters spread across it, "Stranger Things" Season 4 has the difficult task of balancing its different arcs while also allowing room for new plotlines. Fortunately, the show has a pretty good track record through its first three seasons, all of which have earned critical acclaim. That bodes well for what's to come, but there are still a lot of big question marks. Here are some of the things we'd love to see in "Stranger Things" Season 4, how likely they are, and how they could fit into the bigger story.

More of the Byers Brothers

When "Stranger Things" first premiered on Netflix, it was a story about Will Byers' (Noah Schnapp) mysterious disappearance and his family's unceasing efforts to find him. Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) took more of a leading role at the start than in later seasons, and while a lot of the story remains tied to Will's friends (and of course Eleven), much of the first season's emotional foundation was based in the Byers family; it seems over time, the show has moved away from this. Will's relationship with his older brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) was a huge part of "Stranger Things" Season 1, with their favorite song — The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" — acting as the season's anthem.

The introduction of more and more characters in Seasons 2 and 3 removed much of that focus on Will and Jonathan's relationship. They have spent more time with other characters than with each other, with Jonathan's arc becoming more tied to Nancy wheeler (Natalia Dyer) and Will's arc becoming more tied to his friends. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but "Stranger Things" would be smart to get back to the Byers brothers. Their wholesome relationship was a big reason why the series became so popular in the first place, and it deserves more screen time. Now that the Byers have moved away from Hawkins, Will and Jonathan might finally be able to reconnect.

The Return of Kali

One of the most controversial episodes of "Stranger Things" was "The Lost Sister" (Season 2, Episode 7) which followed Eleven on a solo pilgrimage to Chicago, where she reconnected with one of the other test subjects from Dr. Brenner's supernatural experiments. 

That "sister," as Eleven calls her, is Kali (Linnea Berthelsen) — a young woman with the power to force crafted visions into people's minds. While "The Lost Sister" has received criticism for its large departures in pacing and tone from the rest of the show, Kali is an intriguing character with a meaningful role in the larger story. As such, it would be great to see her return in Season 4.

Bringing Kali back would be great for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the presence of another super-powered character would open possibilities for new kinds of action and storytelling. Kali's abilities are quite different from those of Eleven, and their limits have barely been tested on screen. Secondly, Kali brings a lot of interesting opportunities for Eleven's own story. Because of their shared past, Kali and Eleven have a connection that can't really exist between any of the other characters. Now that Eleven has left Hawkins and entered a new stage of life, it feels like the perfect time for Kali to return and stir things up.

More Super-powered Characters

While Kali is the only super-powered "Stranger Things" character other than Eleven to get any significant screen time thus far, there have been hints that Season 4 could change that. 

One of the "Stranger Things 4" teaser trailers released by Netflix depicts Hawkins Lab in the days before Eleven's escape, providing glimpses at all the other children Dr. Brenner experimented on. The show has never really addressed the fates of Brenner's other test subjects, and while most of them may never have developed any sort of supernatural abilities, there's room for "Stranger Things" to introduce at least one or two more enhanced characters in Season 4.

Obviously, too many people running around with superpowers would probably be a bad thing for the show overall. "Stranger Things" has enough characters and storylines to balance already, and introducing an "Avengers" team of psychic children could easily move the tone and focus of the show too far from what fans want to see. However, in smaller doses, glimpses of some other super-powered characters could be a fun way to keep things interesting. At the end of Season 3, Eleven was unable to use her own powers, and it's possible that the way she regains them is by working with other similarly-powered kids. That could just be Kali, but given the flashbacks that have been teased so far, it seems likely that "Stranger Things 4" will expand the ensemble of psychic characters by introducing at least a few more.

A New Direction for Hopper

From the very beginning, Jim Hopper (David Harbour) has been one of the most popular characters in "Stranger Things." His combination of overt gruffness, surprising ingenuity, and tragic backstory has made him a uniquely-compelling member of the cast. 

However, Hopper has fallen out of the spotlight as the show has gone on, with "Stranger Things" Season 3 in particular marking a major downgrade for his overall role in the show. He's never been one for careful planning, and his methods have always been a bit unorthodox, and Season 3 transformed him from a highly-capable eccentric to an angry, bumbling fool. Hopper wore silly shirts, yelled at teenagers, and was used for slapstick comedy rather than plausible, emotional story beats.

Harbour still entertains, no matter what version of Hopper he's playing, but the sheriff of Hawkins deserves better in "Stranger Things 4." Fortunately, his secret Siberian imprisonment may be exactly what the character needs to shed the goofiness he's been plagued by and return to his roots. The experience of survival (and hopefully, eventual escape) will surely be hard on Hopper, and it will be exciting to see how the experience changes him. Harbour himself has teased that Season 4 will reveal some big Hopper secrets, which could mean that more of the man's complicated past will be revealed through flashbacks.

A Likable Mike

Close your eyes and think back to "Stranger Things" Season 1. Remember how likable Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) was? He was a devoted friend who did everything he could to find Will (Noah Schnapp), even facing mortal danger. When he encountered Eleven for the first time, he helped her without question. When things got risky, he didn't turn back. Sure, Mike always had an ego and was never a perfect protagonist, but he was a compelling part of the story.

Then Season 2 happened, and Mike got positively angsty. Then Season 3 happened, and Mike got downright mean. 

Nowadays, he is toxic to his friends, possessive of Eleven, and borderline homophobic to Will. And because of everything else that goes on at the end of "Stranger Things" Season 3, he never really received any sort of a proper redemption arc. In an ensemble as big as "Stranger Things," there is room for complicated characters who make mistakes; seeing a protagonist mess up adds depth and dimension. But Mike has been far too unlikable for far too long, and if he's to remain a central part of the story in "Stranger Things" Season 4, the show has to remind us of why we should still like this guy.

Real Cosmic Horror

Cosmic horror has always been at the heart of "Stranger Things." The Upside Down, the Demogorgon, and the Mind Flayer all harken back to Lovecraftian tradition — monstrous creatures from other realms whose true nature and intentions are impossible for humans to fully understand. "Stranger Things" Season 1 leans the heaviest into that tradition, as very little of the show's supernatural side was explained at all until Season 2.

Lore exposition is inevitable in a show like "Stranger Things," however, and over time, the initial cosmic horror has given way to more traditional sci-fi and fantasy hallmarks. The Upside Down isn't scary because it's mysterious anymore, but because there are monsters there. And because the monsters themselves have become better understood with time, they too have lost some of their fear factor.

Hopefully, "Stranger Things" Season 4 can return the series to its cosmic horror roots. An early teaser trailer introduced fans to the Creel House — a haunted home somewhere in Hawkins with apparent ties to the Upside Down — and its dark history. That's exactly the sort of new twist the show could use in revitalizing its cosmic horror elements, diving into the town's past and the nature of the Upside Down without become too overly explanatory. "Stranger Things" has a brilliant fantasy backdrop that could play host to all kinds of unseen horrors, and adding in some new ones could be a refreshing change after two straight seasons of the Mind Flayer.

Less of the Cold War Storyline

A big part of how "Stranger Things" has strayed from its cosmic horror roots is because many of the show's mysteries have been solved, but there are other reasons too. One is that Season 3 turned the Cold War storyline — more flavor than substance in the first two seasons — into the series' primary focus. 

We learned that there was a Soviet military facility underneath Hawkins, that Russian assassins were stalking the streets, and those plotlines made up a majority of the season's screen time. Steve, Dustin, Lucas, Robin, Hopper, Joyce, Erica, and several other characters dealt primarily with the Russians in Season 3, neglecting the supernatural mystery elements of the show in the process.

As a fictionalized historical backdrop, the Cold War parts of "Stranger Things" work fine. And for what it's worth, the whole "secret base buried beneath the mall" arc led to some great moments. But "Stranger Things" isn't a show about historical fiction; it's a science fiction series. With Hopper imprisoned in Siberia, Season 4 is bound to have more of the Cold War storyline, but hopefully it will all be in service to other elements rather than the show's primary focus. 

"Stranger Things" is a series about mystery, discovery, and scares, and there's very little of any of that in sensationalized Soviet villains. If it wants to avoid the pacing issues of Season 3, "Stranger Things 4" needs to return its Cold War content to the backseat, where it belongs.

Time Travel?

Due to a number of Easter eggs, hidden allusions, and apparent coincidences, some fans have theorized that "Stranger Things" Season 4 could involve time travel (via Nerdist). Season 3 has a lot of references and parallels to "Back to the Future," and Hopper's letter to Eleven in the finale mentions a desire to "turn back the clock." Several of the Season 4 teaser trailers have also included clock imagery, including one in Dr. Brenner's lab and another, more frightening one in the Creel House. So, what would time travel mean for "Stranger Things," and how could it happen?

The simple answer to that second question is that the Upside Down could function on a different timeline from the regular world. Perhaps, on a journey back from the Mind Flayer's realm, a character could get accidentally trapped in the past or the future. Maybe the decades-old Creel House murders were caused by some sort of temporal event. Or perhaps, as some have theorized for years, the Upside Down is actually a post-apocalyptic future — one where a nuclear end to the Cold War turned the Earth's natural landscape into a monstrous wasteland.

There's no guarantee that "Stranger Things 4" will start messing with the timeline, but it would be a fresh narrative direction ripe with possibilities. With a lot of questions still hanging about different characters' pasts, a time travel plotline could be the perfect tool for Season 4.

More Eleven and Max

One of the best things to come out of "Stranger Things" Season 3 was the wholesome friendship between Max (Sadie Sink) and Eleven. Their dynamic is a blast to watch every time they're on screen together, but unfortunately, that wasn't all that often after the first couple episodes. Now that Max and Eleven are living in different places, they'll likely have even less opportunity to hang out. Nonetheless, it would be great if "Stranger Things" 4 could contrive some way to give fans more of this beautiful friendship.

Since Mike and Eleven are still together at the end of Season 3, and since the Byers all still have friends in Hawkins, the core cast will surely be reunited. When they are, on screen quality time between Eleven and Max might not be the ultimate priority, but hopefully we'll at least get a little bit. Both characters went through major trauma in the "Stranger Things" Season 3 finale, with Max losing her (admittedly abusive and racist) brother, and Eleven losing Hopper and her powers. Healing will be an important part of both of their stories in Season 4, and it would be great if they got to do some of it together.

Steve and Robin's Friendship

Another great friendship to come out of "Stranger Things" Season 3 was the one between Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) and Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke). Their shared journey from antagonistic coworkers to close friends was one of the best parts of the whole season, and Robin's admittance to Steve that she's gay — a big display of trust for a teenager in the 1980s — set them up as mutual confidants for Season 4. While it's nice to get some LGBTQ+ representation in "Stranger Things," and to get a strong female friendship between Max and Eleven, diversity isn't the only promising part of Steve and Robin's relationship.

Ever since his turn from school bully to adopted teenage dad, Steve has been a fan favorite. However, his development stagnated a bit in Season 3. Most of his arc was about him struggling with feelings of failure as the people he went to high school with all moved on to bigger and better things. That's a powerful story in itself, but Steve seemed due for a win; a jump to the next stage in his life, if you will. Likewise, Robin seemed a bit down and out herself when she entered the story in "Stranger Things" Season 3. 

Here's hoping Season 4 has them assisting each other more through young adulthood. Keery and Hawke have fantastic on screen chemistry, and it could make for some great scenes.

New Powers for Eleven

At the end of "Stranger Things" Season 3, Eleven was left powerless — stripped of her telekinesis after an intense battle with the Mind Flayer. That loss of power is an intriguing setup that could lead to a compelling Season 4 arc, perhaps one where Eleven is forced to learn more about herself and her place in the world as a normal, non-psychic person. It seems extremely unlikely, however, that Eleven will be powerless forever. Most likely, her current struggles will build up to a climactic return to form, possibly near the end of "Stranger Things" Season 4.

While it would be satisfying enough just to see Eleven regain her pre-existing abilities, it could be even more entertaining if her psychic revival brings new powers to the table. The "Stranger Things" Season 2 finale showed Eleven briefly levitating while fighting the Mind Flayer, so there's precedent for her to gain full-on flight abilities in Season 4. Or, perhaps her powers could come back with some entirely new, as-yet unseen facet, more akin to Kali's psychic vision projection.

In the past, Eleven's powers have been powerfully connected to the Upside Down in ways that have never been fully explained. If "Stranger Things 4" explores new sides of the Upside Down, that could be an interesting opening to have Eleven rediscover (and perhaps even magnify) her abilities.

A Better Arc for Lucas

Lucas Sinclair deserves better. In three seasons of "Stranger Things," everyone else in his friend group has received long, complex character arcs, while he's been relegated to being a supporting character. Make no mistake — he's a great character, and Caleb McLaughlin has done wonderful work with the limited storylines he has received. That's exactly why "Stranger Things" Season 4 needs to give Lucas (and McLaughlin) better material.

For the most part, the story of Lucas has been defined by the people in his life. His relationships with friends like Max and his sister Erica have comprised most of his screen time. That stands in stark contrast to Will, Mike, Dustin, Eleven, and even Max herself, all of whom have received scenes dedicated to their own internal growth and development. It's a bad look for "Stranger Things" as one of its only Black characters — and the only one to have a major role in the show from the start — keeps being relegated to side plots and comic relief. Lucas is a great character with a lot of as-yet narrative potential untapped, and he deserves more of a spotlight in Season 4.

More Mystery

Despite its origins as a cosmic horror series, "Stranger Things" isn't really a show about mystery anymore. It's a show about human relationships. It's a show about retro nostalgia. It's a show about growing up. It's a show about family. 

As long as these elements stay strong, it's a pretty great show. But the loss of mystery in Season 3 was an unfortunate development, and if "Stranger Things" wants to keep hitting the kinds of narrative and emotional highs it has become known for, that mystery factor needs to come back.

Thankfully, the Eleven flashback teases and the introduction of the Creel House in the Season 4 trailers bode well. It looks like "Stranger Things 4" will be building out the supernatural underworld of Hawkins in new and interesting ways, adding to the town's dark past and posing new questions about the nature of the Upside Down. Those are the kinds of storylines that can keep the show tense and mysterious, while still allowing space for the many character arcs and relationships that have become core, essential elements in it storytelling toolbox.

There are unlimited possibilities in a narrative setup like the Upside Down, and as of now, "Stranger Things" has barely scratched the surface. New monsters, new superpowers, time travel, other dimensions — these are all possible additions that could build on the first three seasons without retreading the same tired terrain.

Season 1 Vibes

"Stranger Things" changed a lot from the beginning of Season 1 to the end of Season 3. It went from a relatively focused, thematically and aesthetically driven show to a much larger ensemble series driven by its long-term character arcs. That's not a bad thing. The show has a fabulous cast, and for the most part the characters are all written with nuance and care. That's a winning formula, and it's why a simple scene like Eleven's break up with Mike at the mall can be so great, despite the fact that it has nothing to do with monsters, or superpowers, or the Soviet Union.

Yet, it's hard not to feel like "Stranger Things" has sacrificed some of its originality along the way. Season 1 was an impressively-paced supernatural mystery revolving around two paralleled, inextricably linked events (Eleven's escape from Hawkins Laboratory, and Will's abduction into the Upside Down). Though there are many different characters, it connected them all, and their arcs and storylines came to mirror each other in powerful ways. The combination of that tight thematic focus and the intense mystery component of the story made every scene colorful, tense, and packed with emotion.

That's the sort of energy "Stranger Things" needs to recapture with Season 4.Although the most recent season earned critical praise, its lower overall scores speak to a predictability that has hurt the series overall. Hopefully, "Stranger Things" Season 4 can return the series to its former towering heights.