Consider my mind flayed and my heart turned upside down after the emotional rollercoaster that was Stranger Things Season 4. A lot went down this season, and viewers were given major answers about the origin of Hawkins' strange happenings.
To keep your mind sharp as we await the fifth and final season, here is a recap of every single Stranger Things Season 4 episode...
In summary, Hawkins can't catch a break.
"Chapter One: The Hellfire Club"
While the good people of Hawkins might not know what went down, viewers are not kept in the dark. The perpetrator is a creepy, crawly Upside Down villain with far more humanistic qualities than we see in demogorgons or Mind Flayers (he talks, for starters...)
The entity preys on a tormented Chrissy and messes with her mind, ultimately leading her to a gruesome demise in Hellfire leader Eddie Munson's trailer. Eddie flees the scene, and we are left to assume this poor D&D-playing soul will inevitably become the crime scene's top suspect.
Oh, and in an ominous flashback at the opening of the episode, we're taken back to Hawkins' lab where a brutal massacre has occurred. At the center of it stands young Eleven (we're talking Eggos-era Eleven), leaving a shocked Dr. Brenner to say, "What have you done?"
What has she done? We will find out.
Other important takeaways: El is dealing with a school bully. Max is dealing with the aftermath of Billy's death by withdrawing from her friends and listening to copious amounts of Kate Bush. Distance has taken its toll on Nancy and Jonathan's relationship. Lucas' sassy sister, Erica, joins Hellfire in his place. Joyce receives a Russian doll in the mail and requests Murray's assistance to decipher a mysterious letter from a person called Enzo.
"Chapter Two: Vecna's Curse"
The pair pays a visit to Eddie's uncle to question him about recent events, to which he divulges that Chrissy's missing eyes are reminiscent of crimes committed long ago by a man called Victor Creel. Creel apparently murdered his family and took their eyes, and is now residing in an asylum.
Things go awry when Fred wanders off alone and begins to experience the same strange mind games that Chrissy did before her death. He becomes the second victim — and it's clear that this new villain (deemed "Vecna" by the Hawkins kids) is set on wreaking some serious havoc.
Other important takeaways: Hopper is alive! He's being tortured by Russians, and things are not going well. Mike visits California and is reunited with El, leaving Will to feel like a third wheel. Joyce's mysterious doll included a cryptic note that hinted at Hopper's well-being. She and Murray call the phone number listed in the note and are told to go to Alaska to meet a man called Yuri. El "schmacks" (a term coined by Argyle) her bully in the nose with a roller skate.
"Chapter Three: The Monster and the Superhero"
In the meantime, the rest of the group breaks into the school counselor's office to peruse the files of Fred and Chrissy. It appears that in addition to dealing with tragedy, both students were experiencing headaches, nosebleeds, and trouble sleeping before their death. Upon reading these symptoms, Max realizes that she, too, is experiencing these signs.
The episode closes with Max seeing the same vision of a ticking grandfather clock that appeared to Chrissy and Fred before Vecna struck.
Other important takeaways: Before El's arrest, she and Mike squabble over whether or not they are meant to be. Joyce and Murray are off to Alaska. Patrick, a Hawkins High basketball player, begins to experience Vecna-victim symptoms. Jason believes that Hellfire is a satanic cult and is still set on hunting down Eddie. The Hawkins crew finds a crack on the ceiling of Eddie's trailer where Chrissy died, deducing that it may be a gate into the Upside Down.
"Chapter Four: Dear Billy"
This tidbit of knowledge comes in handy when Max decides to spend her final hours at the gravesite of her brother, Billy, and Vecna makes his move. When Lucas, Steve, and Dustin find her mid-air in a trance-like state, they follow Nancy and Robin's advice of playing her favorite song and blare Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill."
Max, who is now face-to-face with Vecna in the Upside Down, begins to think of her happiest memories and makes an emotional escape from the monster's clutches to the melody of her favorite tune. It is the power of friendship and Kate Bush that have saved her. The team now knows how to ward off Vecna.
Other important takeaways: When Max is in Vecna's lair, she spots his other victims — including Barb! Joyce and Murray find Yuri, Enzo's contact, who drugs them and wants to turn them in to the Russians for money. Mike and Will have a candid conversation about the state of their friendship, and Mike apologizes for neglecting Will since his move. A stranger appears in the Byers' home with a gun, and Team Cali hits the road in Argyle's van.
"Chapter Five: The Nina Project"
Meanwhile, Eddie is still in the boathouse surviving on SpaghettiOs. Jason and his cronies come to search it, and he only narrowly escapes, taking a motorboat out on the lake. When Jason and his teammate Patrick swim out to get him, Vecna strikes, and Patrick becomes his next victim.
El and Owens arrive at a government facility where they are conducting what is known as "The Nina Project" to try and return Eleven her powers. Eleven is put through PTSD by way of reuniting with Dr. "Papa" Brenner, who forces her to go into a sensory deprivation tank to recall a series of repressed memories.
These memories take her to the Rainbow Room, the place where she and the other lab children played, and she encounters a strangely serene lab assistant who says things like "Someone’s a sleepyhead this morning." No.
El remembers snippets of the lab massacre from Episode 1, but still, we are unsure how everything connects. When she wakes, her powers have returned.
Other important takeaways: The Russians have discovered that Enzo is helping Hopper and have thrown him into a cell. Joyce and Murray are tied up in Yuri's plane but manage to free themselves. Murray utilizes his black belt skills to take out Yuri, and the pair manages to miraculously land the aircraft. Max and Lucas share a few sentimental moments together discussing the power of Kate Bush.
"Chapter Six: The Dive"
In Hawkins, the crew is one step closer toward finding Vecna, as they now know he can be traced through electromagnetic energy. They find Eddie on the run once more and bring him with on their latest mission: locating a newly-opened portal to the Upside Down.
A compass leads them to the middle of the lake where Patrick died, and they indeed find an opening to the alternate dimension. They deem this portal "Watergate," and the episode wraps as Steve goes through it only to be attacked by a hoard of angry demo-bats.
Other important takeaways: Steve has clearly never seen The Lord of the Rings and misses all of Dustin and Eddie's literary references. In what is possibly the biggest plot twist yet, the parents of the kids start to wonder where their children are and if they are in danger.
"Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab"
Over at The Nina Project, Eleven is still recovering memories. She recalls a conversation with the lab assistant in which he tells her that Papa means to kill her. He offers to help her escape, as long as she aids him in removing a device buried in his neck, and this is where things begin to go haywire.
An unwitting Eleven obliges, and we soon learn that this man is actually Henry Creel, son of Victor Creel, who was Dr. Brenner's very first patient ("Number One"). Henry was the one that murdered his own family and has since been under Brenner's watchful eye with his powers suppressed.
Now freed, viewers, along with El, learn that Henry was behind the massacre at Hawkins Lab. Past Eleven tried to stop him, throwing him against a wall with her mind, and accidentally opened a portal to an alternate dimension. Henry falls through this portal, where he becomes the creature we know as Vecna.
Other important takeaways: Do demo-bats have rabies? Asking for Robin.
"Chapter Eight: Papa"
After taking a fourth victim to create a fourth portal, Vecna will have the power to take over the world. This means that he is just one kill away from unleashing mass chaos. Set on taking him down, the Hawkins crew steals an RV and visits a store called War Zone to load up on weapons. The battle has begun!
In Russia, Joyce, Hopper, Murray, and Enzo discover that the prison has been experimenting on demogorgons. It's not a good time. They find that the prison is also home to a caged cloud of floating particles from the Upside Down.
Other important takeaways: In one emotional scene, Will shows Mike the painting that he has been working on. Dr. Owens is captured by Jack Sullivan. Steve confesses that he's dreamt of having six kids and traveling around in an RV with his future Harrington brood.
"Chapter Nine: The Piggyback"
Since Eddie's jams bring all of the demo-bats to the yard, Dustin makes a narrow escape, but Eddie stays behind to keep the creatures at bay. This wrongly-convicted felon, who has spent the entire season running, decides that this time he will stay put. His sacrifice costs him his life, and it's one of the most gut-wrenching scenes of the season.
Meanwhile, Jonathan and Will have created a makeshift sensory tank using salt from Argyle's pizza place. Eleven is using her powers to infiltrate Max's mind as a way to protect her friend and encounter Vecna.
In a face-off between Brenner's children, Eleven wounds Vecna, but not before he begins the process of making Max his next victim. Just as he promised, a massive portal begins to bleed into the real world, destruction ensuing. Eleven (and the flambé squad) finally render Vecna unconscious, and Max manages to escape his clutches alive, but barely.
The episode culminates by jumping ahead two days later. Hawkins believes they have survived a terrible earthquake, leaving the town to ponder yet another inexplicable tragedy. Max is hospitalized and in a coma, leaving us to ponder what state we will find her in next season.
Despite the bleak turn of events, we do get some heartfelt moments: Dustin offers Mr. Munson Eddie's guitar pick and shares that his nephew died a hero. Hopper and Eleven finally reunite. The crew is back together in Hawkins but are uncertain about what's to come since Will says that he can still feel Vecna's presence.
It seems that the war is not won quite yet...
Other important takeaways: Hopper and Joyce have a moment. Steve confesses that Nancy has always been part of his "six lil nuggets" fantasy. Robin shares a moment with her crush, Vickie.