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Stranger Things season 4: our 5 biggest takeaways

Stranger Things
(Image credit: Netflix)

Stranger Things season 4, Volume 2 was a beautiful yet violent, gut-wrenching journey – and we're still not over it. So, in order to cope, we crafted a list of our 5 biggest takeaways from this season aka the most important factors and also the things that will more than likely carry over into Stranger Things season 5 and affect the outcome of Eleven and co.'s final journey together.

Warning: Spoilers for Stranger Things season 4, volume 2 ahead! If you haven’t watched the last two episodes of season 4, turn back now!

If you’re all caught up, go ahead and scroll on to see what we think will be the biggest nail-biters in season 5. And if you're still not sure what happened in the finale (we don't blame you), check our guide to the Stranger Things season 4, volume 2 ending to make sure you have all your details straight before scrolling through our list.

1. Eleven will never be safe

Or at least it sure seems that way. Though the California Crew was able to make it to NINA's secret underground lab and rescue Eleven from the government officials who want to kill her, Sullivan is still alive – and he is not happy. When they make it back to Hawkins, Eleven moves back into Hopper's abandoned cabin in the woods and (much like in season one) has to resume living in isolation in order to stay off the government's radar. So much for a normal high school experience in California.

Sullivan's takeover of the underground lab proved to be the closest he and his men have gotten to Eleven yet. In his mind, Eleven is public enemy number one and responsible for Vecna's deaths and the other doomsday-like events that keep occurring in Hawkins. He was close, and he's definitely not going to turn back now.

2. Vecna is still alive

Vecna in Stranger Things 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

And he may have been here this whole time. As the gang cleans up the cabin and Hopper and Eleven finally reunite, Will suddenly becomes frightened. He tells Mike that he can still feel Vecna, that he has always felt him, and that Vecna is badly hurt... but still alive.

Nancy, Robin, and Steve managed to successfully set Vecna's physical body on fire and break Eleven and Max out of his gross, fleshy clutches. Unfortunately, they were too late to stop the gates from being opened, which allowed the Upside Down to successfully merge with the normal world and cause a massive earthquake that claimed even more lives in Hawkins. In the final moments of the finale, Will feels a chill on the back of his neck and the gang turns around to see the sky blackening and the flowers dying around them. It's possible that Vecna could return more powerful than ever seeing that his evil plan worked and, as Will said, "won't stop until he takes everyone."

3. Max's fate remains uncertain

Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield in Stranger Things 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

They were so close...and then Jason had to burst in and ruin everything by distracting Lucas and destroying the cassette player. Though, it's possible that not even Kate Bush's 'Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)' could save Max this time. Even hiding in a happy memory, like the Snow Ball where she and Lucas kissed for the first time, was not enough to keep her safe. Even Eleven showing up in said happy memory and kicking some ass wasn't enough! 

As Vecna breaks Max's ankles and blood pours from her eyes, Eleven puts her hand over Max's heart and somehow manages to bring her back to life – though just barely. A now blind Max, frightened, tells Lucas that she's not ready to die before falling into a coma – one that the doctors aren't sure she'll ever wake up from. Will season 5 bring us another miracle? Or will Max slowly succumb to her injuries ad never come back? We have no idea, but we're hoping for the best.

4. The Upside Down is, uh, open

Stranger Things 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

Like we mentioned before, Vecna's plan worked. In the last few minutes of the season, Mike's little sister Holly runs to the window and shouts to the Wheelers: "It's snowing!" But those aren't snowflakes falling to the ground, they're particles from the Upside Down. As the particles fall, the clouds darken, red lightning strikes, and nature begins to turn gray and rot. 

When Nancy was taken by Vecna in Volume 1, he made her walk through a vision of his plan: "I saw a dark cloud spreading over Hawkins, downtown on fire, dead soldiers, and this giant creature with a gaping mouth. There were so many monsters, an army, and they were coming into Hawkins. Our Hawkins. Our home." At the end, we see the dark clouds and we can only assume that the red lightning strikes are setting the town on fire. There's no need to find portals between worlds anymore: everything is bleeding together – and god only knows what that'll mean for the people of Hawkins who don't know about or don't believe in the existence of another world. We predict chaos, deadly chaos, and a lot of it.

5. Season 5 will likely see the deaths of more of our favorite characters

Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson in Stranger Things 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

Season 4 introduced us to not one, not two, but three lovable characters – and then pulled the rug right out from under us. It was bad enough that we lost Barb in season 1, and Joyce's kind, sweet boyfriend Bob in season 2. Then they had to really drive it home in season 3 and kill Alexei – an adorable, darling genius who just wanted a cherry Slurpee. We spent the first episode of Volume 1 learning about Chrissy and wanting her to win, only for Vecna to launch her into the air and break her jaw in several places. In episode 2, we lost Fred Benson – roving reporter for The Weekly Streak and seemingly Nancy-obsessed dork. It would've been cool to see how he helped Nancy in her investigation and even join the rest of the crew in bringing down Vecna, but nope. He gets one of the worst waking nightmares of all moments before his death.

The biggest upset of the fourth season is, of course, the death of Eddie Munson. Netflix tried to throw us off by putting up a billboard covered in Upside Down vines that read: "Protect Steve" in capital letters. Fans were already worried that Steve might succumb to his bat bites (which they just bandaged up, assuming he wouldn't bleed out, and never talked about again) and went into this season assuming the worst for our beloved babysitter and favorite Family Video employee. Instead, they took our boy, the frizzy-haired metal rocker who loved Dungeons and Dragons and hated authority. The heart of the season. An innocent man on the run from the police, the people of Hawkins, and a psychopathic, scapegoating basketball team that spent the majority of the season hellbent on capturing and killing him. He went out fighting: for Chrissy, for a town that had turned against him, and for the greater good of humanity. It's fair to say that we can expect more of this in season 5, and that the second we fall in love with someone new: they might get eaten to death by demon bats and bleed out on the floor of the Upside Down before we even get to see them reach their full potential. R.I.P. Eddie Muson, you shall be missed.

Those are our biggest takeaways from the season! For more, check out our list of Stranger Things season 4, Volume 2 Easter eggs for cool details and references you might have missed.

Lauren Milici
Lauren Milici

Lauren Milici is a Senior Entertainment Writer for GamesRadar+ currently based in the Midwest. She previously reported on breaking news for The Independent's Indy100 and created TV and film listicles for Ranker. Her work has been published in Fandom, Nerdist, Paste Magazine, Vulture, PopSugar, Fangoria, and more. Her first collection of poetry, "FINAL GIRL," sold out of print. Her second collection, "Sad Sexy Catholic," is forthcoming in 2023.