The fourth chapter in the fourth season of Netflix’s original series Stranger Things will certainly receive well-deserved acclaim, particularly for the emotional performance provided by Sadie Sink. In “Dear Billy”, Max grapples with and prepares for her impending demise, Will and Mike become friends again, dream detective duo Nancy and Robin go undercover, and Hopper’s escape takes a sour turn as Joyce and Murray meet Yuri.
Spoilers for Stranger Things season 4 episode 4 ahead.
The Clock Is Counting Down
It’s an eventful episode for Jonathan, Will, and Mike despite the fact they’re not in the episode much. The trio learn from Owens’ agents that Eleven has left in the hopes to help Hawkins again. Asking the three to stand down from pursuing her because there are other government factions currently looking for her, the three are essentially placed on house arrest. A letter from Eleven to Mike reads “I have gone to become a superhero again. From, El.” Later in the episode, the Byers’ house is invaded by people in tactical gear — assumedly the United States military. One of the two agents assigned to protect the three young men is shot, while the other displays some seriously impressive training with a pistol. The second agent manages to take down about a dozen of the military personnel. Mike, Will, Jonathan, and the agent who saved their lives escape in Argyle’s van.
In Hawkins, we begin the episode with the group going over the details of the school therapist’s files on the dearly-departed Chrissy and Fred and Max’s experience. Chrissy died a week after her headaches began, Fred died after six days, while Max is on day five. They’re also able to deduce that Chrissy and Fred died just 24 hours after their first hallucination, which Max has now had — leading her to the conclusion that she has around 24 hours to live. Coming to terms with something so absolute, Max writes letters to all of her friends and remaining family to say goodbye.
Back In A Jiff
Hopper finally makes his escape, breaking his sledgehammer and asking a guard for a new one at the toolshed. While the guard goes inside to fetch a new tool, Hopper ambushes him before moving on to removing his ankle shackles. Another guard sneaks up on Hopper and a fight ensues, and there’s nothing fancy about how Hopper fights — it’s all heavy fists in a down and dirty fashion until Hopper breaks the man’s neck. Hopper lights dynamite in the shed and escapes through the rooftop to a snowmobile, which he uses to flee. The Russian soldiers at this prison have Stormtrooper levels of bad aim, and about 20 of them manage to miss shooting him with AK-47s, which is fine, because Hopper manages to make it to Yuri’s stash house. Let the man eat his peanut butter, he’s deserved it.
If you had a bad feeling about Yuri, your bad feeling was correct and you should listen to your gut more. Joyce and Murray had to watch Yuri count money for hours because he is waiting for his true plan to unravel — they have been double-crossed. On the phone with Dmitri, Yuri tells him that the prison warden has been alerted about his involvement in Hopper’s escape, and that he’s also called the KGB to pick up the Americans. Hopper is caught and taken back to the prison, Dmitri is already at the prison but now he’s a prisoner, and Yuri has drugged Joyce and Murray to ensure he can fly them to Russia soon.
Nancy puts Robin in a disguise and the two of them forge some documents to get an interview with Dr. Hatch, the director of the facility that houses Victor Creel, hoping they can learn something that will help them save Max. While the pair are initially denied access to Creel, Robin gives a very compelling monologue on how women are not taken seriously in psychiatry and that if they were men, they would have access to Creel whenever they wanted. Unclear whether it is due to realizing the hypocrisy of his ways or simply out of desire to not be on the receiving end of Robin’s fury, Hatch grants the two permission to speak to the serial killer alone for 10 minutes. Freddy Krueger himself Robert England guest stars in the episode as Victor Creel, who reveals his face to the young women when they inform him they believe that he didn’t kill his family. Creel tells the story of how his family was killed by the demon, and how Vecna tormented him with memories.
Steve’s Babysitting Service
As Nancy and Robin realize their potential as a detective duo, Steve is once again stuck as the babysitter — this time, though, it’s noble as he needs to be around to protect Dustin, Lucas, and most importantly, Max. Refusing to spend her last hours in Hawkins, Max insists that Steve drive them wherever she asks. First, they stop at her and her mother’s mobile home. Surprised to see her mom home and in the backyard, Max opts to hand-deliver the letter she’d written to her. As the two share a hug, the sky darkens and Max’s mother shifts into the figure of Vecna, which is probably one of the least-huggable villains I’ve seen. Vecna, ever the one to taunt, leaves Max with haunting words before she awakens from her trance.
“Maxine, you think some letters are going to make things right? You’ve broken everything. Your time is almost at an end.”
Max’s Time Extension
While visiting her departed older brother Billy’s grave, Vecna puts Max in a trance — mentally she is in the Upside Down, while physically she is levitating off the ground over Steve, Dustin, and Lucas. Vecna uses the memory of Billy to frighten Max, but she still manages to run away from Billy and Vecna. She enters a place clouded in red fog, and Vecna taunts her that he has her in his grasp already, just as he does with the others who have already succumbed to him. Dustin is finally able to contact Nancy and Robin, who thanks to their detective work and quick minds tell Dustin they can break her out of the spell by playing her favorite song to bring her back to reality.
Fortunately, Max’s friends know her favorite song — “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush — and the song brings Max’s awareness back. Seeing Steve, Dustin, and Lucas through a closing portal in the distance, she knows she has to make her move. Ripping off one of Vecna’s branches and causing him to drop her, Max runs like her life depends on it — because it does. Vecna throws (literally) everything he can at her while she runs, and runs, and runs toward the portal. The final scene shows us that Max has made it through the portal as she falls to the ground and cries, lying in Lucas’ arms.
The first volume of Stranger Things season 4 is available to stream now on Netflix. Follow our episodic recaps here.