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Maybe they're not setting up the end of this season, but rather the end of the series in Season 5..? So a little bang in the final two episodes this year to set up the big bang next season...
The producers have said as much, that Season 4 is a giant setup for Season 5.
 

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Excellent.
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There are only two episodes left? Then why split the season into two parts? Also, the episodes ran 20 - 30 minutes longer than most shows' 40-ish minute lengths. They could have just shifted that extra episode length into extra episodes.
There are two answers to these questions, and both of them are money. As others have said, splitting off the last two episodes means an extra month of subscriber revenue from viewers (like me) who were just re-upping to watch. (There is probably a secondary benefit of giving post-production on the last two episodes a bit of extra time.)

As for the episode lengths, yes, they could have been edited more tightly and I think lost nothing. But if the Duffers insisted on keeping all that footage in the show, we got these long episodes because the actors are paid per episode. It would have cost them more in salary to split the exact same footage into, say, twelve somewhat shorter episodes than it does to have nine longer ones.
 

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Anyway, I finally finished through episode seven. I have thoughts but too tired to post them tonight. Well, except for these two things about the very end of #7:
  • Pretty solid bit of world-building with showing that #1 is Vecna, how the portal was opened to begin with, how the Creel family stuff fit in, why that house, and so on. This does seem to suggest that Dustin is wrong, in that his theory was that the Mind Flayer is the ultimate Big Bad and Vecna is his "general". This conclusion pretty clearly seems to say that Vecna/#1 is the final boss, no?
  • Roger Ebert used to call out a trope he called "The Fallacy of the Talking Killer". This was the sort of scene at the end of a movie where the killer had the hero dead to rights, and instead of killing them straightaway, goes into a monologue about what their evil plan was. This inevitably gave the hero time to work out a way to get the upper hand and defeat the killer. #1's monologue here wasn't exactly the same thing, but boy did he talk for a long time, and quite unnecessarily to the context of the situation, in what became a blatant extended plot dump. I actually was tempted to skip ahead a couple of times. Again, good world building, but pretty awkwardly arrived at.
 

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Actually, one more episode seven thought for tonight, before I forget about it. The rest later.

It was kind of damning that a 90-minute episode didn't spend one minute on the Byers boys and Will's road trip adventure. It was essentially an acknowledgment that there is not enough going on there to need to check in on. So on the one hand I was happy not to have the episode padded out further with their arc, but on the other, it might have been good to move them along a bit so we don't have to spend more time down the stretch moving their chess pieces around. That thought got me wondering about the point of their arc, other than giving them something to do. Presumably they'll get to El and get her back to Hawkins -- but Brenner and Owens want to get her back to Hawkins too, so what's the point? She doesn't need rescuing. Then I remembered that the military now knows where El is thanks to the agent's tortured confession. So presumably those three threads will collide in the last two episodes with the military arriving at Nina to wipe it out and the boys getting there in time to, yes, rescue El.
 

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Sorry most of you had such an unpleasant time... I thought it was all fun and really enjoyed watching. Sure, some lines are silly. Sure, some are disconnected. But I found each one entertaining in its own right and I'm really looking forward to the next two episodes (although, I do wish they had broken them up: it took me a few days to get the time to watch Ep 7 at 1:40... I'll probably need a whole week to plan time to watch the 2:30 Ep 9 ...)

I do agree, though, that Will is not doing much. I wonder if that will change, or not. The actor seems pretty stiff so maybe they are purposefully keeping his role reduced.
 

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Give 'em Hell, Devils
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There are two answers to these questions, and both of them are money. As others have said, splitting off the last two episodes means an extra month of subscriber revenue from viewers (like me) who were just re-upping to watch. (There is probably a secondary benefit of giving post-production on the last two episodes a bit of extra time.)
Don't forget that the 2021-2022 Emmy eligibility period ends June 30, so by extending these last two episodes into July, they get the show and cast eligible for two different Emmy periods (assuming S5 won't be ready before July 1, 2023).
 

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I enjoyed these episodes, but there were too many different subplots going on at the same time.

I wonder what happened when David Harbour asked what was going on with his character, and they said he's in a Russian jail.

Again???????

-smak-
 

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Give 'em Hell, Devils
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I enjoyed these episodes, but there were too many different subplots going on at the same time.

I wonder what happened when David Harbour asked what was going on with his character, and they said he's in a Russian jail.

Again???????

-smak-
Yeah, kind of crazy and coincidental that Harbour plays two different characters in two different properties within the span of a year that has to break out of a secret Soviet Siberian gulag.
 

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Yeah, kind of crazy and coincidental that Harbour plays two different characters in two different properties within the span of a year that has to break out of a secret Soviet Siberian gulag.
He "spoiled" MCU with the producers of Stranger Things for that very reason. Basically he gave them details of what the gulag in Black Widow so the one in Stranger things wouldn't look too similar. They also changed his look in Stranger Things to differentiate the two.
 

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Finally watched all 7. I will say this as my very few negatives so far about the season:
  • As the kids get older in real life, some of the actors lack of acting ability shows. aka Mike and Will.
  • The arrest of El was so unrealistic. I get the show is a supernatural drama but when they add a real life realistic type event like that, they need to stick to the realty of it. No way would a minor be arrested in cuffs and put into a car to be sent to a detention place without anyone ever talking to the parent. Giant eye roll.
  • My friend kept saying this was the best season to date. I greatly disagree but I am enjoying it mostly. I just need them to all get back together. Trying to follow so many separate storylines is annoying. Not confusing, just annoying.
Otherwise, loving it!! Max really has the acting chops for someone I only remembered as being the annoying girl and sister to Billy. And my poor Jaqen. Just trynna get a little cash and help out the American and they all get forked over! The payoff for all that was Joyce being the one that saved him. Question: Why do I not remember the demogorgon being all white? I thought they were more dirt/earth looking. Or maybe he just cold in Russia as well. ;)

I'm also trying to decide who I think will live to the end. No way the entire cast does. I really think it's gotta be either Steve or Jonathon. Especially since we have that Steve and Nancy twew lurv out of nowhere again. It's probably going to be him. I really thought he was a goner when the hell bats were attacking him. I was like "oh so this is how he's going to go, not cool" but no. Anyone else have thoughts on it?
 

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  • The arrest of El was so unrealistic. I get the show is a supernatural drama but when they add a real life realistic type event like that, they need to stick to the realty of it. No way would a minor be arrested in cuffs and put into a car to be sent to a detention place without anyone ever talking to the parent. Giant eye roll.
Hey, that's the 80's for you! Those were hard times, back then.
 

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Max really has the acting chops for someone I only remembered as being the annoying girl and sister to Billy.
Max may be my favorite character now thanks largely to Sadie Sink. They put a lot on her shoulders in these episodes and she was up to the task.

I'm also trying to decide who I think will live to the end. No way the entire cast does. I really think it's gotta be either Steve or Jonathon. Especially since we have that Steve and Nancy twew lurv out of nowhere again. It's probably going to be him. I really thought he was a goner when the hell bats were attacking him. I was like "oh so this is how he's going to go, not cool" but no. Anyone else have thoughts on it?
My guess is that no one dies this season. As for next season, the final one? Maybe then. They didn't have the guts to kill Hopper before, in what would have been a really affecting death. That makes me think they won't have the guts to kill someone later, either. Or maybe that's when he really does get it. :)
 

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Auteur
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I finished it off last night. Some masterful editing throughout the season, always propelling the narrative. Ending with their best season yet. Just fantastic all around!

Going into the last two I figured they'd kill off Eddie. He was low hanging fruit, a fan-fave this season, but expendable, story-wise. I also thought they would kill Max, as well, which they did. But copped out and Elle brought her back. I see what they're doing, adding the remorse of saving someone who doesn't want to be saved (I'm predicting this will be an arc in S5).

But they should have kept her dead. Much like Whedon did with Serenity (although the statute of limitations is up on that, I won't specify) when he started killing off characters, you thought "oh crap, who's next!?" They should have kept Max dead for much the same dread - who will they kill in season 5? A cop out for sure, but hopefully it pays off.
 

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Then I remembered that the military now knows where El is thanks to the agent's tortured confession. So presumably those three threads will collide in the last two episodes with the military arriving at Nina to wipe it out and the boys getting there in time to, yes, rescue El.
Internet points to me for calling this. Not that it was particularly hard to work out.

I've watched chapter eight but not nine yet, so will wait to post any detailed reaction about the end of the season after I've seen it all. A couple of quick-hitters about eight, though:

The ninety-minute runtime didn't really bother me, but it was a bit surprising about how little happened during it. Except for the action set-piece showdown at Nina, there was almost no development of anything. Again, didn't really bother me, and I'll need to see chapter nine to evaluate, but it feels like there is a way tighter version of this season that would be just as effective as what we are getting. Although I am enjoying what we are getting for the most part, and its Netflix's money not mine, so that is more of an academic thought.

Eleven taking down the helicopter was pretty cool. Well-staged. Millie Bobby Brown gives good intensity when they need it.

I had some issues with the military invading Nina and just gunning down other Americans soldiers. And then the helicopter sniper outright murdering Papa. We're supposed to look at Sullivan as a bad guy and otherwise not think too hard about stuff like that, I guess, but I don't think it plays well.

I wonder if Papa's death was intended to be poignant. The way it was shot and scored suggested the Duffers wanted us to feel something -- or maybe, something other than happiness -- at his death. I did not. I was quite glad that when he asked Eleven for absolution at the end, she refused to give it to him.
 

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witless and unarmed
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Enjoyed the season! I was most bored by El in the lab and didn’t pay much attention during those scenes and then regretted it after the big reveal lol.

The other big reveal that didn’t get tied up this season and thus I suspect will be huge in the final season is that the Upside Down is stuck in time on the day Will disappeared. That seemed too meaningful to go nowhere. I hope it doesn’t mean some sort of ending that resets the timeline, because then it nullifies everything we, and the characters, have been through. Gives me shades of End Game fear. I hope they do something cooler.

I also feel like they pulled their punches for the most part on character deaths. We’ve yet to lose someone we really care about.

I generally don’t like how much every season they have to split off into different groups and plots but the cast is so big you can’t have them all together all the time. At least they do a pretty good job of having them all meaningfully contribute to the final showdown.

Last thought this felt like their Empire Strikes Back moment - the hero defeated, another hero in a coma, the bad guy won.
 

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I watched the first 2 eps and started reading this thread, then realized that apparently most of the eps dropped on a single day so I had to stop reading. But I agree with some of the early comments in the thread. There is hardly a quiet or reflective moment in either episode, it's bang bang bang full-steam-ahead the whole time. It was exhausting to watch. The Duffer brothers have no sense of rhythm, you need some valleys for the peaks to pay off. And they've directed their mostly young cast in the same way, every character seems to be coked up and rarin' to go.

And does every movie and show that takes place in high school now have to trot out the same old tropes - the cliques with the nerds, the jocks, the beautiful snobby girls. The scene where pretty much the entire school surrounds El and is laughing and taunting her was ridiculous, people don't behave like that en masse. It was also very unpleasant to watch.

The deaths are pretty cool, yeah, but even those, with the bones crunching and limbs contorted, has been done countless times in Asian horror films.

I'll continue watching, it's entertaining enough, but after reading some rave reviews that this was the best season since the first, which was indeed awesome, so far I'm disappointed.
 
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