Three thoughts going into the Stranger Things 4 season finale:
One, despite being “off the air” for three whole years, the series remains as popular as it ever was, packing the cultural oomph to propel a Kate Bush single from 1985 into the #1 spot and have everybody singing it.
Two, I’ve noticed that when you mention any new story about a bunch of kids saving the world, people don’t assume you’re ripping off The Goonies or ET anymore. They say you’re ripping off Stranger Things. The IP has become so popular that it’s replacing what inspired it. The same happened with Star Wars, which was inspired by old space epics like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, but soon took their place.
Three, despite spending billions and billions, so far Netflix has failed to come up with anything else that hits this kind of cross-generational cultural impact. They’ve made shows that are popular with adults, and popular with kids, but never both at once, or on this level.
I mean, just….think about all that. And now the question is….where from here?
The common Hollywood practice is to just keep doing something until it sucks, and then keep doing it well past that point until the money’s no longer there. The Duffers are at the point where they could just make something really terrible and the inertia would simply let them coast through it, but it hasn’t happened. They didn’t have to work half as hard on the behemoth that is Season 4, but they did anyway. Stranger Things doesn’t suck yet!
But what happens when it does? What happens when the story we’ve all been following concludes and has to be supported by weaker prequels and spinoffs? Perhaps nothing, if we’re lucky. There’s a ton of bad Star Wars material out there but that hasn’t stopped people from loving the original trilogy, or the good new moments where we can find them, or the general concept of the thing.
Will Stranger Things always be with us? The next few years will determine the answer to that. Season 4 Part 2 premieres July 1.