For Stranger Things fans, it has been a long three years.
The 1980s-set sci-fi Netflix drama last streamed new episodes with its second season on July 4, 2019, and it left things on quite a cliffhanger. Although the teenage heroes once again defeated the Upside Down, it didn't come without sacrifice: Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) was suddenly without powers and moved to California with Will (Noah Schnapp), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and Joyce (Winona Ryder); Billy (Dacre Montgomery) died; and Hopper (David Harbour) appeared to have died but was really taken to Russia.
Fans will have to wait a little longer to see how things shake out in the fourth season, which streams the majority of its episodes during Volume 1 on May 27. (The final episodes will then follow on July 1.) But critics have already previewed the action, and now they are sharing their reactions. (Full disclosure: those who screened the show early were only permitted to share social reactions to the Season 4 premiere episode, nothing beyond that.)
"The show feels more mature, reflecting how these characters and the audience have grown while also keeping the same elements that make it #StrangerThings," freelance writer Sophia Soto wrote on Twitter in the first of a multi-Tweet thread, which you can see below.
Soto continued to specifically call out the emotional nature of series stars Brown and Sadie Sink's storylines this season, writing, "As someone who loves these characters, Millie Bobby Brown & @SadieSink's individual storylines really hurt to watch, but also felt honest. I loved their performances and found myself brought to tears by both of them. They never fail to amaze me."
The fourth season, which begins with the usual group of heroes split up, as Eleven, Will, Jonathan, and Joyce are still in California (and Hopper is still in Russia), leans harder into horror than ever before, even though its sci-fi roots are still firmly in place, as many are already discussing. This includes welcoming horror legend Robert Englund as a guest star. As you saw from the trailer, a war with supernatural forces is coming to Hawkins, and it will take everyone working together to win.
"Episode 1 of #StrangerThings4 sets the stage for the darkest and scariest season yet. The scale massive, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the new and returning characters are stellar. I'm so happy to be back in this world," wrote Daniel Baptista of The Movie Podcast.
Collider's Steven Weintraub took to Twitter to warn fans that the premiere episode is "almost an hour and 15 minutes of set up." But, he didn't want that to scare anyone off, noting that he "loved it."
"Instead of rushing into the season the Duffer brothers take their time and do a lot of character building. Not what I expected and love when that happens," he explained.
Thus far, Stranger Things has a 75 Metascore, and none of these social reactions affect the Metascore. However, Season 4 reviews, which are expected to drop the week of the season launch, might. (If the scores for the new season are drastically higher or lower than in the past, when they get added to the previous season's reviews and re-averaged, the overall number would change.) Check out the Stranger Things title page around the Season 4 premiere for that news.
Read on for what critics are saying on social already: