We have reached the halfway point of Netflix’s Volume 1 of Stranger Things, and we have a lot of feelings. They range from “this is some of the best TV we have watched in forever” to “dear Matt and Ross Duffer, please leave those kids alone.” It has been a wild ride so far, and we are still in the story setup phase of this season. In the fourth episode, “Chapter Four: Dear Billy,” Max (Sadie Sink) is in grave danger and running out of time and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Robin (Maya Hawke) need to sneak into Pennhurst to get answers. And that isn’t all. In Russia, Hopper (David Harbour) is hard at work to make sure he gets on that plane.

DISCLAIMER: This is a recap and, by definition, contains spoilers. More spoilers than times Will (Noah Schnapp) will ask to play D&D. So; we highly suggest checking out season four first and then coming back and catching up with our recaps!

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“Chapter Four: Dear Billy” opens with Dr. Sam’s (Paul Reiser) agents filling Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Will and Mike (Finn Wolfhard) on what is going on in Hawkins. However, there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. They can’t call their friends or family or even go there. And they can’t go looking for El (Millie Bobby Brown) either. They just need to have faith and let her go through her training and take care of whatever is hurting their town.

Clearly, they don’t know these kids. Murray (Brett Gelman) was right when he told Joyce (Winona Ryder) that not telling her kids about what was happening was the best choice. They aren’t going to be able to sit tight and let things go. The agents pass on a note to Mike from El, and he heads off to read it. All she says is that she is going off to become a superhero again.  But instead of “love El,” she signs in “from El.” Let’s hope that they have the chance to squash this fight and get back to being a happy couple.

In Hawkins, Robin and Nancy arrive at the school, and Max gives everyone the rundown on her vision – the clock and hearing Vecna’s voice. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Steve (Joe Keery) tell everyone that she looked like she was in a trance. They realize that the trance is precisely what Eddie (Joseph Quinn) described. But that isn’t the worst part. Max breaks down that all the symptoms that Chrissy (Grace Van Dien) and Fred (Logan Riley Bruner) had during Vecna’s curse are the same as she has been having. And to make things worse, it looks like she has a pretty short countdown until Vecna comes to claim her.

A loud noise from within the school draws the kids’ attention. Steve grabs a lamp (like the babysitter he is) and heads off to investigate it, telling everyone to stay behind. Of course, they don’t, and as the music swells, someone comes crashing around the corner. Thankfully it’s just Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin). He just biked eight miles across town to warn them that they have a code red. Lucas fills them in on everything with Jason (Mason Dye), but even that doesn’t trump Max’s situation.

How about a cool intro to make us feel better? Max has to be okay, right? The Duffer Brothers wouldn’t hurt us like that. Right?

“Chapter Four: Dear Billy” picks back up with Erica (Priah Ferguson) painting minis and being an all-around little badass. The doorbell rings, and she is forced to answer it. Jason is on the otherside looking for Lucas. Of course, he isn’t there, and Erica has been the best little sister covering for him the last few days. He is going to owe her big time. Jason tries to get more information out of Erica, but she isn’t a pushover and shuts the door in his face. Go, Erica.

Erica telling Jason that she has no idea where Lucas is.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

Jason realizes that Lucas tricked them all and heads off to look for him. At the Wheeler house, Steve, Dustin and Lucas are trying to find the connection between the Creel House and Vecna, but it doesn’t make any sense. How is Vecna getting through without portals? And why now? Why kill one family in the 50s and then come back and start killing teens almost thirty years later? It doesn’t make any sense.

They need to figure this out, though, because Max might not make it through this fight alive if they don’t. In the corner, we see Max writing, and it’s implied that she hasn’t been sleeping either. Robin and Nancy pop up with a plan to help get some answers. The girls will head over to Pennhurst and charm their way into meeting with Victor Creel. Steve is confused why he doesn’t have a fake identity, and the poor guy doesn’t realize that he isn’t invited.

They need a certain kind of charm, and Steve ain’t it. And that charm includes winning over a very educated man. I mean, they will have a hard enough time convincing everyone that Robin is an academic scholar. But there are always clothes to help fill the role.

“Chapter Four: Dear Billy” jumps to Joyce and Murray, who have arrived at their motel in Alaska. Joyce tries to get through to the house phone, but it keeps giving her a busy tone. She doesn’t know that the world is falling apart; however, they have more important things to worry about. Men who take tons of money to sneak people out of prison probably don’t hang around waiting for people to show up late.

In Russia, Hopper prepares to head off to work. “Enzo” (Tom Wlaschiha), also known as Antonov, but we like Enzo better, lets him know that things are going according to plan and tells Hopper where he needs to go to meet up with this Yuri fellow. Hopper will be back in the states having dinner with his woman by tomorrow. Except he denies that Joyce is his woman and all the Jopper shippers are in tears. Enzo doesn’t think that the odds are in Hopper’s favor, but he doesn’t know our small-town sheriff as we do. But it might not just be the elements that will hold Hopper back. Another guard seems to be keeping a close eye on him. Hopper makes it out of prison without a hitch, but there is still time for things to go wrong.

Back in California, the agents (Ira Amyx and Kendrick Cross) are watching grass grow on tv…I mean golf while the guys try to pass the time without stressing themselves out. Mike and Will finally have a bit of a heart-to-heart about what has happened. Mike thinks that if he had handled their fight differently, she would have taken him with her. Will is worried about their friends and family left in Hawkins.

Will knows that it was Mike and their friends that saved him. Not the government. They should be in Hawkins right now with everyone else. And Jonathan agrees. The plan is to order some pizza and get back to their friends. And where is this pizza coming from? Argyle (Eduardo Franco), of course! Side note. He is 100% right about pineapple belonging on pizza. I was shown the light and will now fight for its right to be accepted.

Argyle rambling on about pizza toppings on the phone while playing with his yoyo.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

Back in Hawkins, Max finishes up her letters and gives Steve, Lucas and Dustin one each. She also leaves one for the others with them. They aren’t to be read now, but only if she doesn’t make it out of this alive. She doesn’t want to “everything will be fine” speech. She is just tired of being cursed. While they wait for Nancy and Robin, Max asks them to drive her to east Hawkins. Steve tries to stop her, but Max is smarter and more stubborn than him. Such a pushover babysitter.

“Chapter Four: Dear Billy” swaps us to Robin and Nancy, who make their way into Pennhurst. Poor Robin can’t stand the outfit, but they need to fit the part, which sometimes means pain. Dr. Hatch (Ed Amatrudo) isn’t willing to let them talk with Victor Creel, but he is won over after an outburst from Robin. Fight the patriarchy, Robin. Fight it. This duo is everything we have needed in Stranger Things.

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In Alaska, Joyce and Murray arrive to meet with Yuri (Nikola Djuricko). Who pretends to be someone else and tells them that Yuri is dead. Killed by a bear. A funny guy here. Real funny. Except we need him to get them to Hopper! So no more jokes Yuri. No more jokes. They hand over the money and wait and wait while Yuri starts counting it out. It’s pretty clear that Yuri isn’t just funny; he isn’t all there.

As they wait for Yuri to get counting, Hopper starts planning his escape. And boy, is it a good one. He breaks his pickaxe and pretends he needs a new one. He uses that ploy to get into the shed and knock out one of the guards. But the one that has been watching him realizes and heads in too. A fight breaks out, but Hopper is better, and after a few hits here and there, a big explosion and avoiding a hail of bullets, Hopper makes it to his ride and heads off towards his meeting point. Even Enzo is impressed.

Back in Hawkins, Steve takes the kids to Max’s house. She heads in to collect some stuff and leave letters for her family members. She spots her mom (Jennifer Marshall) in the backyard and chats with her for a bit. Max tells her mom that if anything happens to her, she left letters behind and that she waits until she is gone to read hers and share the others. Her mom is worried about what Max is going through, but Max just claims everything with Chrissy, and Fred has her a bit on edge.

The moment turns creepy when Vecna starts to play with her head, and she is thrown into a vision. Vecna appears and tells her that her letters mean nothing. It will change nothing. Her time is almost at an end. She finally breaks free and rushes off to the car. The guys can tell something is wrong, but she isn’t interested in talking about it.

Lucas, Dustin and Steve waiting outside of Steve's car for Max outside of her trailer.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

“Chapter Four: Dear Billy” returns to Nancy and Robin at Pennhurst. They make their way through the grounds before finally getting down to where they hold Victor. Robin nearly ruins their chances, but Dr. Hatch still lets them in. Inside, they are given a list of rules to obey before getting their chance to come face to face with Victor Creel (Robert Englund). He isn’t interested in talking to them until they share that they think the thing that killed his family is back.

We jump to California, where Argyle is rocking out on the way to deliver the pizza. At the house, Mike and Will continue to have a little heart-to-heart about everything going on. They apologize to each other for how they have been acting. Mike feels like he has been so focused on El that he wasn’t focusing on his friendship with Will. But they need to be a team to face what is coming. Best friends forever.

The doorbell rings downstairs, and one of the agents goes to get it. Except it isn’t Argyle. It’s another agent, except they aren’t on the same team, and a firefight breaks out. The guys barely make it out of the house alive with the other agent who was shot. Thankfully, Argyle has arrived at this point, and they jump into the back of his van and rush off. Eduardo will need a long vacation after hanging out with these guys.

Back in Alaska, Yuri continues to count his money while Joyce and Murray enjoy some coffee and watch. With all the money there, he heads off to check in with Enzo to make sure Hopper is still alive. Which he is, and at the safe house. With peanut butter. Except he isn’t safe. Yuri is a no-good double crosser. While on the phone with Enzo, Yuri tells him that he has sold him and Hopper out for more money. And now he plans on delivering Joyce and Murray over, too, since they are knocked out by the coffee. Bad Yuri. Very bad, Yuri.

“Chapter Four: Dear Billy” returns to Hawkins as Steve and the others arrive at the cemetery. Lucas tries to get Max to talk to her. He doesn’t need a letter to understand what is happening; she is right in front of him. But Max isn’t ready to open up this can of worms. We shift to the cemetery, where Nancy explains the situation to Victor. He then goes into exactly what happened at Creel House. How his family was being haunted and the things they suffered through, right up until the death of his wife, daughter and son.

The monster put was causing the same troubles that Max seems to be going through now. Right down to the trances that Max and the others seem to be going through. But, he could never figure out exactly what happened in that house or how the demon was able to do it all. He does know that it was the voice of an angel that helped guide him out of his trance. When he tried to kill himself to join his family, the doctors at the hospital refused to let him. Nancy tries to ask about the angel, but Dr. Hatch bursts in and calls them out on their lies.

Robin and Nancy listening to Victor Creel's story about what happened to his family.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

At the cemetery, Max sits at Billy’s headstone and reads him a letter. It’s an update on what has been happening since his death. Max is really broken up over his death and her choices that night. The what-ifs come spilling out along with her tears. She apologizes for everything that has happened and for his death. As she is getting ready to leave, darkness comes over her, and we see Billy (Dacre Montgomery) calling out to her.

Steve is over waiting and heads up to check on her. But Max is in Vecna’s trance now. A trance has her facing Billy and listening to him tell her how terrible a sister she was. That she wanted him to die, but that isn’t all. She wants to die too. And that is why Vecna is here – to end her suffering. When she trips back, Billy shifts into Vecna, and she comes face to face with her nightmares. Outside of the trance, Steve, Lucas and Dustin try to help snap Max out of it.

Dustin tries to get ahold of Nancy and Robin, but they are busy trying to get away from Dr. Hatch. Robin realizes that the angel’s voice that Victor was talking about was music. Pennhurst uses music to help calm its patients. There must be a connection there. When the adults won’t listen, Nancy and Robin head off running. Max is running, too, except her world is a bit creepier at the moment. Dark graveyard with heavy mists and a creature chasing her. Yeah, she wins.

Nancy and Robin are able to make it away from the guards and get Dustin’s message. Max continues to run from Vecna while calling out to her friends. She eventually stumbles upon a mysterious area. It appears to be the true home of Vecna, complete with red skies and black pillars jutting out of the ground. While she investigates, Dustin and the others try to figure out Max’s favorite song.

The place Max found looks a lot like the remnants of a home. But before we can get a really good look, she comes face to face with Chrissy and Fred before having to face off with Vecna. He binds her to one of the pillars as the guys finally find her favorite song, “Running Up That Hill,” by Kate Bush. This creates some kind of connection between the two worlds that Max is able to see and possibly get through. But Vecna is strong and unwilling to let her go so easily.

But our Max is a fighter. And she hangs on to those happy memories she has had over the years and uses them as strength to break free and get to safety. “Chapter Four: Dear Billy” comes to a close with Max safely back in the real world.

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Protect Max at all costs. That is what the rest of the season needs to become. Our poor girl has suffered so much since her introduction in season two, and she just needs a moment to be happy and free of all this pain. The first three episodes of Stranger Things season four have provided us with a nice build-up, but this one is really getting us into the nitty-gritty of what we can expect. What is Vecna’s connection to Creel House? Why did he kill Victor’s family and then just disappear? What is happening with El? Will Mike, Will and Jonathan be okay? What is going to happen to Hopper and the others now?

We have so many questions and just three more episodes in volume one to try and find answers. I don’t want them to rush, and they clearly aren’t if the length of these episodes is any indication, but I would like to know that everyone makes it out of this unscathed. They have to. Right? In other news, I would like to make a formal request to Netflix and Matt and Ross Duffer to continue making incredible stories within this universe. And to always hire the incredible talent behind the music choices. Seriously, this soundtrack is going to absolutely rock.

We aren’t going to get any more answers to our questions here! Let’s get moving!

TV Series Review: STRANGER THINGS Season 4 Volume 1



Julia Roth
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