‘Stranger Things’ review: The Duffer brothers extend the Netflix show’s race to the finish line in several ways

After an almost three-year absence since season 3, and with the kids looking visibly older and thus moving on to another set of issues in a way parallel to maturing in “Harry Potter” – the Netflix series is at some respects a victim of his own success. Overwhelmed by expectations and clearly unfettered in terms of creative interference, the producers responded with a dizzying new threat while scattering the characters, in one case across the world in terms of this cliffhanger involving Hopper (David Harbour).

The first two episodes feel particularly pumped up before the storytelling of the Duffer Brothers and company settles into its rhythm. Even then, there are detours and subplots that could easily be dropped or cut, killing time as the show unveils the Upside Down’s latest peril and what could be done to stop it.

The most effective aspect concerns Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who remains the show’s emotional centerpiece. Flashbacks that explore her early life and origin story — as well as the debate over whether she’s a monster or, as her friends view her, a superhero — are the highlight of these episodes, though this story arc isn’t immune to the general faux pas of moving too slowly.

Of course, those who are completely in love with the show might decide there aren’t too many good things, and “Stranger Things” – now set in 1986 – rewards them with a new assortment of references and twists. pop culture homages, from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” to “ET the Extra-Terrestrial” to “The Silence of the Lambs” (yes, the movie wasn’t released until 1991, but never mind). There are also new faces with gender underpinnings, among them Robert Englund, aka Freddy Krueger.

Lavishly produced, the fourth season also seems to up the ante when it comes to cruelty and intimidation, taking advantage of the vulnerability of its corny characters. At the same time, the soap opera elements of relationships have begun to feel a little played out, or perhaps just overshadowed by the terrible dangers facing children and even the world.

In what appears to be an effort to spread the hype (and subscriber satisfaction) over a longer period, Netflix has announced that it will be holding back the two climactic episodes until July, creating another cliffhanger before viewers can’t wait. learn each other’s ultimate destiny. As it stands, these seven chapters total almost nine hours. Therefore, anyone planning a weekend binge should budget accordingly.

Nearly six years after its premiere, “Stranger Things” has carved out a place in the pop culture firmament that has helped elevate Netflix, so it’s understandable, if not logical, that the service and the filmmakers want to extend its run. .

That said, it certainly wouldn’t have hurt to rush “Things” a bit. Because while there’s a fine line between Hawkins and Upside Down, from a narrative standpoint, the portal separating epic from exaggeration can be just as narrow.

“Stranger Things” premieres the first part of its fourth season May 27 on Netflix.