We’ve reached it. The final episode of volume one for Stranger Things season four. Netflix and Matt and Ross Duffer left us with quite the cliffhanger, and now my heart is pounding through my chest thinking about what will happen to Steve (Joe Keery). So we aren’t wasting any more time. In episode seven, “Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab,” Hopper (David Harbour) battles a monster, El (Millie Bobby Brown) uncovers her past and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) decodes a message from the Upside Down.

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 Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab” opens where episode six left off, with Steve getting eaten alive by the creatures in the Upside Down. But he isn’t alone. Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Robin (Maya Hawke) and Eddie (Joseph Quinn) arrive just in time to help beat them back. Robin is worried about Steve having rabies, but the pound of flesh and incoming monsters might be a bigger threat at the moment. Nancy drags them off into the woods to find a safe place to hide.

Open credits timeβ€”Shimmy, shimmy.

When the episode picks back up, we see Lt. Col. Sullivan (Sherman Augustus) chatting with Agent Wallace (Kendrick Cross) again. Wallace doesn’t give up any information at first, but the fear of getting put back in the locker has him speaking up. He begs Sullivan not to kill her. But we don’t get to see what he tells her since we jump over to El, who is trying to use her powers outside of the simulation. Dr. Sam (Paul Reiser) needs El to work faster so they can save Hawkins and everyone else. He needs Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) to rethink his strategy and help El.

He meets with El and tells her that she is regressing. She is allowing her fear of the truth to stop Project Nina from working. El needs to face her past to move on. She can’t hide from what happened. She needs to come to terms with it to get her powers back and save everyone. Dr. Brenner wants her to take one last dive into the past, and from the episode title, we expect it will be to that fateful night. While El prepares to go back into the chamber, Dr. Brenner takes out the final tape in his collection, and her last dive gets underway.

Back in Hawkins, the police are questioning Dustin, Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink) about why they were at Lover’s Lake. However, they can’t get their stories straight. But Erica (Priah Ferguson) calls them out, and the fighting starts. Powell (Rob Morgan) finally decides to split the kids up and question them. In the Upside Down, the crew makes it to Skull Rock and Nancy patches Steve back up, and we get a cute moment. While I love her and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), there is seriously some unfinished business with Steve.

They work out what to do next, and Robin knows that finding guns and explosives needs to be on this list. But Hawkins PD is pretty far away and most likely doesn’t have explosives. But Nancy knows somewhere closer they can get guns – her bedroom. Eddie’s shocked to find out that Nancy is way more badass than he expected. They decide to head off, and Eddie tosses his vest at Steve to protect his modesty. A few earthquakes send them crashing to the ground, and the gun idea is solidified.

Eddie, Nancy, Steve and Robin traversing through the Upside Down heading to Nancy's house.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

“Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab” shifts to Russia, where everyone prepares for the fight. Hopper and Enzo (Tom Wlaschiha) chat about what is to come. Even if they kill the Demogorgon, the guards will likely shoot them. They lighten things up by talking about their kids and how the way they act reflects how they acted to their fathers. Hopper just wants El to find a way to come into her own and be her own person. Hopper opens up about how he thought he was placed in this hell because of what he did, but now he thinks it’s for what he can do, and that is to help El one last time.

Outside of the prison, Murray (Brett Gelman) puts on his best Yuri impression while the real Yuri (Nikola Djuricko) and Joyce (Winona Ryder) are tied up in the back. They manage to make it in without any complications. Yet that is.

Back in Nevada, El dives Project Nina, where Dr. Brenner is checking her out after her attack. She refuses to tell him what happened, pretending she doesn’t remember. Dr. Brenner calls everyone together and tries to get answers. 002 (Tristan Spohn) claims that she must have fallen and hit her head. Dr. Brenner uses a collar to force 002 to tell him everything, and even though he tries to say he didn’t do it, 002 finally admits what happened, and he is punished for it.

Back in the Upside Down, Steve thanks Eddie for helping him and coming into the Upside Down. He tells him not to thank him; Steve was the real badass. Just like Dustin said. Dustin worships the ground Steve walks on to the point of annoyance. Eddie is actually really jealous of Steve and would never jump into the lake to save him. Not under normal circumstances, that is. But he watched both Robin and Nancy take the plunge and couldn’t let them go alone. Eddie also tells Steve that Nancy didn’t waste a moment going in and saving him, and if that isn’t true love, it doesn’t exist.

As they head into Nancy’s house, we see and hear Dustin trying to reach out to them via radio in the real world. Lucas thinks they may have gone through the gate, but Dustin doesn’t think they are stupid enough. Erica then blackmails Lucas into telling him everything that has been going on. Like the boss little sister that she is. There are some excellent sibling relationships on TV, but none I love more than Lucas and Erica at this moment. Do you copy?

Erica raises an essential question, who is opening the gates if it isn’t El or the commies? Either Dustin wasn’t paying attention to Nancy’s theory about Vecna opening portals to attack from the last episode, or they think Watergate was a one-time thing. But they still need to figure out how he is doing it and his motives. They all agree that Vecna must have some psychic contact that allows him to reach out to people in the real world from the Upside Down. This connection must be powerful enough to open more gates. If he wants to open gates, Vecna must be working with the Mindflayer.

Lucas, Dustin and Erica discussing Vecna's motives and how he is opening portals.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

In the Upside Down, Nancy realizes that her guns don’t exist because it is frozen in time to the day Will disappeared, November 6, 1983. Downstairs, Steve is calling Dustin because he can hear him and thinks he might be there. But then they realize that they are hearing him from the otherside. They try to reach out, but it seems that the normal world can’t hear those in the Upside Down. This gives Nancy the idea to try and reach out the same way Will did with the Christmas lights. Steve spots some sort of field around the chandelier, and when they reach out and touch it, it causes the light to burn brighter on the other side. This catches Erica’s attention as Eddie uses morse code to tap out “SOS.”

“Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab” returns to the Prison as Murray and Joyce wait for the warden to arrive. Murray keeps playing with the gun, to Joyce’s dismay. The warden (Vaidotas Martinaitis) finally comes, and it almost seems like he will call Murray out on their lie. But, he doesn’t suspect them and takes them to witness quite the show. The guards line the men up in the pits, prepare them for battle, and explain the rules. This is the first time since her supposed death that Joyce has laid eyes on Hopper. It would be much happier if not for the Demogorgonon on the otherside of the door.

Back in Nevada, El is living out her past through Project Nina when she realizes the others are watching over her with scowls. They aren’t happy with what happened to their friend and blame it all on her. The orderly (Jamie Campbell Bower), who survived being beaten, invites her to play chess while he explains that Dr. Brenner knows that they attacked her. He planned it that way, so the cameras were turned off. And that he knows they will come and kill her, and he isn’t going to do anything about it. The only way for El to survive is to escape, and he has the means to do it.

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Back in Hawkins, Dustin grabs a Light Bright to help them communicate with the Upside Down. Nancy can manipulate the lights and say hi through the lights. They use this to tell them that they are stuck in the Upside Down and need help getting out. Dustin explains that there must be more gates where all the murders occur. This means that there must be one in Eddie’s trailer. It’s seven miles away, but Robin points out that they must have had bikes back in 1983.

Back in the real world, Powell finishes his chat with Max, and she heads off with the others. When the police realize that the kids are upstairs, they check, only to find them rushing down the driveway on bikes. Erica pops a tire so they can’t follow, and they rush off towards Eddie’s trailer. In the Upside Down, Steve and the others are heading that way as well, but one of the creatures seems to have alerted Vecna to their travels.

“Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab” shifts back to El, trying her best to stay out of everyone’s way in the Rainbow Room. Dr. Brenner arrives we see the same scene from episode one play out from El’s point of view. She then tells the guard that she is getting headaches again and wishes to see the nurse.

El pretending to color while she waits for the time to sneak out of the Rainbow Room.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

He escorts her through the halls, but she dips off and sneaks out a side door, eventually meeting up with the orderly. He has a way for her to escape, but she must go alone. Even if he wanted to go, Dr. Brenner had all of the workers chipped so they couldn’t leave without being found. El offers to remove the device from his neck and help him just like he helped her.

In Russia, Hopper, Enzo and the others prepare to take on the Demogorgon while Joyce, Murray and the others watch. The alarm blares, and the men have just enough to prepare themselves before the monster is unleashed. Hopper wraps a cloth around his weapon and pours the alcohol on it. However, the lighter won’t work.

Above, Murray turns his gun on the warden and takes him hostage. They tell the warden that if he wants to live, then they will free Hopper, but it’s already too late for that. The Demogorgon arrives and begins murdering everyone. Hopper struggles with the lighter, but it eventually works, and he manages to keep the monster back. Murray forces the warden to take them to the control room and force them to open the doors while Enzo tries to pry them open from the pit.

When the warden and guard refuse to help them, Murray goes black belt on their asses and then tries to work the doors himself. In the pit, Hopper and Enzo continue to try and hold off the Demogorgon. Just as Hopper’s light goes out, Joyce manages to open the door, and Enzo and Hopper make it through the door. But the Demogorgon gives them one last scare before Hopper throws his weapon into its face. Mouth? Flower looking thing? I’m not an expert in Demogorgon anatomy.

But it seems like Hopper and Enzo have gone from one prison to another until the door opens on the other side. And who is waiting for them? Joyce! It’s okay; you can cry. I did. All three times, I watched Hopper slowly smile as he nuzzles his head into her hat. Jopper is the endgame. Calling it here and now.

“Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab” shifts to Hawkins in the Upside Down as Steve, Eddie, Nancy and Robin head towards Eddie’s trailer. They pass the Creel House but choose to keep going. They are nowhere near prepared to face off against Vecna right now. Thankfully, they find the portal inside the trailer, and Dustin can break it open. Steve and they see Dustin, Lucas, Max and Erica on the otherside waiting for them.

We shift back over to Hawkins Lab and El’s memory as she prepares to pull the device from the orderly’s neck. Just like she did with the piece of the spider creature from last season, she uses her powers to pull it out. But they aren’t out of trouble yet; it seems that El’s disappearance hasn’t gone unnoticed, and the guards find them, forcing them back into the lab. But surprise, El isn’t the only one with powers. The orderly is just like her and sends the guards flying against the walls before killing the final one. He hides El in a closet and heads off to find them a way out. But before he leaves, he reveals that he is 001. We’ve got a sneaking suspicion that El wasn’t the one responsible for the massacre.

The friendly orderly showing El that he has the 001 tattoo on his wrist proving that he is the original.

Image courtesy of Netflix.

Back in present-day Hawkins, Dustin and the crew set up a landing pad, and after some weird physics, they are able to get a rope that Steve and the others can climb up and then climb down. Robin is the first one out, followed by Eddie and then Nancy. But Nancy doesn’t fall into Eddie’s house; she falls into a black abyss before landing in a pool. But not just any pool. The same pool where Barb (Shannon Purser) was killed during season one. We realize that Nancy is in a trance, just like Max and the others, as Steve tries to shake her out of it. Vecna is after Nancy, who is haunted by the death of Barb.

“Chapter Seven: THe Massacre at Hawkins Lab” returns to El, who hears the alarms sounding outside the door. She waits as long as she can before heading out to see what is happening. As she makes her way down the hallway, she hears screaming and sees blood everywhere. She finds Dr. Brenner knocked out (we suspect she thinks he is dead) and all of her other siblings. She eventually makes it into the Rainbow Room, where she finds 001 killing 002.

So it wasn’t El that caused all the bloodshed. It was him. El tries to run away, but he refuses to let her go. He tries to connect with her and remind her that he knows what it is like to be different. That they are so much more alike than her and the other siblings. Back in the Upside Down, we see Nancy climb out of the pool and into Vecna’s version of Creel House. Vecna has been waiting for her to uncover the truth and his connection to Creel House.

And here it is. The question that has been on our minds this whole time – who is Vecna? It starts with Victor Creel’s (Robert Englund) son (Raphael Luce), who isn’t happy and tired of pretending to be normal. He began perfecting his skills and tormented his parents. When they started to see that he was the one behind everything, he killed them. But he didn’t know his own strength and nearly died himself. But he was never truly free because he then fell into the hands of Dr. Brenner.

In Hawkins Lab, he was tested on, and when he couldn’t be controlled, Dr. Brenner cloned his abilities and tried to create others he could control. But how does this tie to Vecna? When El disagrees with 001’s choice to kill everyone and leave the lab together, a fight breaks out. They mentally attack each other back and forth, and it looks as if El is going to lose. But then El taps into a memory that makes her happy, her birth, and uses all of her power to break open a portal to the Upside Down with 001’s body. The portal seals over as we watch 001 fall through the Upside Down and slowly shift into Vecna.

We can see the 001 tattoo still on his arm in the present day. And this is where “Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab” comes to a close.

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What an episode and a way to end the first half of season four of Stranger Things. I won’t lie. I thought the orderly was just around to make us feel better about all of the torment El was going through. Someone she could lean on through it all. I did not see that plot twist coming. But now it makes more sense. The way Vecna and El’s powers were so similar and how each episode highlighted it. I highly suggest going back through and rewatching the first six episodes now that you know the truth.

Now we have to wait another month before we get the epic conclusion to this season. But we have a lot of questions still. Like is Nancy going to be okay? What’s her favorite song? Where are Jonathan, Will, Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Argyle (Eduardo Franco)? Are they going to make it to Nevada in time to tell El what is going on? How are Joyce, Hopper and Murray going to get out of Russia? And what are Jason (Mason Dye) and his crew up to?

Let us know your theories and questions! Plus, how did you like the season? Tell us in the comments below and on social media!

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Julia Roth
Catch Me