We have finally reached the end of Netflix’s fourth season of Stranger Things. Matt and Ross Duffer have held no punches this season, and it shows. This, by far, has been my favorite season so far, and the final episode feels like the epic finale it deserves. In “Chapter Nine: The Piggyback,” the mission to stop Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) goes into motion. What horrors will they face, and who will make it out alive? Keep reading to find out!

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 Nine: The Piggyback” opens as Yuri (Nikola Djuricko) does something to break the helicopter. I just wish “Enzo” (Tom Wlaschiha) and Murray (Brett Gelman) would kick him out of the club at this point. Inside the hideaway, Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper (David Harbour) chat about their upcoming date. For starters, two orders of breadsticks, lasagna and a nice chianti (yes, we made the Hannibal Lecter sounds). And then, in a moment that has been four seasons in the making – the Jopper ship sails! That is until the phone finally rings.

Joyce and Hopper talking about their upcoming date once all of this is over.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

In Hawkins, Nancy (Natalia Dyer) goes over the plan again. Erica (Priah Ferguson) is going to let Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink) know when it is time for Max to lure Vecna into chasing her. Then Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Eddie (Joseph Quinn) will drag the bats away. Finally, Nancy, Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke) are going to head into his liar and set the place on fire. No one deviates from the plan. The Upside Down group heads in and gets the mission underway. But before Steve, Robin and Nancy head off; Steve warns Dustin and Eddie to head back home if things go south.

Cue the opener one last time this season. Take this moment to grab tissues, some water and maybe a snack. We’ve got a whole two hours to get through.

In Nevada, Argyle (Eduardo Franco) is gassing up the van while Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) tries to get at least one ticket back to Hawkins. Things aren’t looking good for them at all, but El (Millie Bobby Brown) has a plan that could protect Max and the others from afar. She explains to Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will and the others about piggybacking in Max’s mind as she had done before. She just needs a tub to drift in, and Argyle has just the place.

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“Chapter Nine: The Piggyback” returns to Hawkins as Max and Lucas get comfy in Vecna’s house. They find Vecna and the mission gets underway. But while Erica is outside preparing to alert the group, one of the townsfolks sees her and heads off to tell Jason (Mason Dye), who is busy practicing with the new gun he bought. And now he is taking that gun to Creel House. This can not be good.

Back in Russia, we learn that Hopper talked with Dr. Owens’ (Paul Reiser) agent in Hawkins and briefly explained what has been happening. It has become pretty clear that they need to get back to Hawkins as soon as possible. But then Joyce realizes that they don’t need to be in Hawkins. They just need to fight against the hive mind. And a piece of that hivemind is in prison they just broke out of. So now it looks like Hopper, Joyce and Murray (flame thrower included) are heading back behind enemy lines.

Hopper picking up the flamethrower to take on their mission back into the prison.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

In Nevada, Argyle and Jonathan convince a fellow Surfer Pizza worker to let them use the kitchen for El’s trip into Max’s mind. And while they prepare and Argyle makes pizza, Dustin and Eddie prepare for the show of a lifetime. And then poor Robin gets some major anxiety over getting lost in the woods on their way to Creel House. This gives Nancy and Steve some time to chat more about how they have changed over the last few years and moving forward. And hearing Steve thank Nancy is heartwarming, and while I would love to see Nancy and Steve together, I am torn between wanting her with Jonathan too. Thankfully Robin rushes in to end that rather awkward conversation.

In Russia, Hopper and the others arrive back at the prison to find the guard station empty. They decide to take the tunnel back in, but we are with Murray about something being off. And when Hopper hears the gunfire in the distance, it only makes it worse. Back at the hideaway, “Enzo” keeps an eye on Yuri and calls him out for stalling. Something worse than a few Americans is coming, and Yuri needs to prove that he isn’t the coward he is acting like.

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“Chapter Nine: The Piggyback” returns to Creel House, where Max and Lucas are chatting over notepads. Max thanks him for being there, and Lucas presses his luck and asks her to the movies. Thankfully she says yes with a photo of the two of them. Then they spot Erica’s signal, and Max’s part of the plan gets underway. Now Steve, Nancy and Robin just need Vecna to take the bait and go after Max so they can sneak in and end him.

Inside Creel House, Max taunts Vecna until he starts moving upstairs and prepares for his attack. Back at Surfer Pizza, Mike helps El prepare for her trip, and the two have a moment to talk about their relationship. And just a brief moment before Argyle drops some pretty sweet pizza down in front of them. Pineapple included. If you talk badly about pineapple on pizza – we aren’t friends. While El and Argyle try to get Mike to try the excellent pizza, Jonathan chats with Will about how he wishes they still talked to each other. It’s a sweet moment, and it’s great that Jonathan doesn’t feel the need to push Will to tell him what is going on but just that he is there when he needs to.

Will and Jonathan talking while preparing El's tub for her dive.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

But, emotional moments aside, it’s time for El to start her journey. She is able to piggyback on Max and realizes that Max’s plan isn’t working. But Max isn’t ready to quit yet. She takes a seat and has a heart-to-heart with Vecna about her feelings over Billy’s (Dacre Montgomery) death. Deep down, she wants to die because of her guilt over how she feels about Billy. Lucas overhears this confession and starts to say some mean things like deserving to be the fourth sacrifice. So, of course, this isn’t Lucas talking its Vecna. Max’s plan worked, and now El can jump into her mind and face off against Vecna that way but finds herself in one of Max’s memories.

With Max holding Vecna’s attention, the next phase of their mission can begin. Now it’s time for Dustin and Eddie to grab that bats attention with a show dedicated to Chrissy (Grace Van Dien). I’d let Eddie play for me any day. “Chapter Nine: The Piggyback” shifts between Max running from Vecna, Dustin and Eddie summoning the bats to them, Erica running from Jason’s gang and Jason sneaking into Creel House. When the montage comes to an end, Max finds herself in her happy memory while Dustin and Eddie lock themselves in the trailer.

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Back in the Russian prison, Hopper, Joyce and Murray find themselves surrounded by mayhem. All of the little Demogorgons they saw have broken out of their cages and are running around killing everyone. They are able to find one guy who explains what happened and that “the shadow” they saw went into someone. But they don’t get the who because the guy dies. But it’s pretty clear that the shadow invaded the monsters.

In the Upside Down, Steve, Nancy and Robin head into Creel House to take on Vecna from the inside. While they are playing hopscotch over Vecna’s vines, El travels through Max’s mind. The memory she has is from Max’s childhood. But then she spots the DJ station from the other memory Max is hiding in. While Max is patiently waiting at one of the tables, the balloons start to pop and blood splatters everywhere. It seems like Vecna has found a way into this memory.

Max watching the balloons explode and blood fly everywhere in her happy memory.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

In Creel House, Lucas realizes things are taking too long and tries to get Erica’s attention. But Jason arrives and doesn’t understand what is going on. When Lucas tries to get him to leave Max alone, Jason draws the gun. He threatens to kill Lucas if he doesn’t wake up Max.

We shift back to Russia for a moment; Hopper comes up with a plan to draw all the monsters to the pit so they can kill them together. Joyce doesn’t like the idea of Hopper being the bait, but he is determined to make it back alive this time. They have a date, after all.

“Chapter Nine: The Piggyback” returns to the Upside Down, where Dustin and Eddie prepare to face off against the bats in case they get through. Dustin is a firecracker, and we love it. Absolutely love it. And while they are fighting bats, Steve and the others are still playing hopscotch. But getting to Vecna really wasn’t going to be that easy, right? When the house shifts, Robin is yanked up against one of the walls by Vecna’s vines, and then Steve and Nancy follow afterward.

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While Steve and the others fight against the vines, Hopper lures one of the little Demodogs on a chase and Eddie and Dustin keep fighting the bats. When they realize that the bats are going to break into the trailer, Dustin heads back into normal Hawkins. But Eddie realizes that they still need more time and cuts the rope between both worlds, grabs his weapons and heads off to draw the bats away. Duffer Brothers. We need to chat. Like right now.

Back in Max’s memory, she is busy stacking chairs against the door before seeing it turn into the Creel House door. Max tries to use a different memory to hide in, but Vecna is onto their plan. Max needs to hand herself over, or everyone else will die. Back in the real world, Lucas tries to explain everything to Jason, but he won’t accept what is happening. The two end up fighting, and the gunshots scare Jason’s friend and give Erica the upper hand to get away. However, Jason steps on Max’s walkman, which can’t be good.

Eddie climbing the rope out of the Upside Down before realizing that he needs to stay to give them more time.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

In Max’s memory world, Vecna is seconds away from finishing her when El finally manages to arrive and now the real fight begins. While Eddie races away, Dustin tries his hardest to get back into the Upside Down and manages to fall in but hurts his leg in the process. And then we get flashbacks for Eddie, which doesn’t bode well for him when he decides to finally stand up to the bats. But that isn’t all. Hopper is still on the run in Russia, and Jason and Lucas’ fight is still raging on.

And while Max tries to piece together how El is in her memory, Vecna prepares to show El all his new tricks. As their fight rages on, Dustin watches as Eddie takes out as many bats as possible. Things aren’t going well in the Vecna/El fight, and he ends up throwing her into his domain and tying her up. He forces her to watch as he ties up Max. El tries to get him back off his plan by telling him that Papa (Matthew Modine) is dead, and she tries to connect with him. But that isn’t enough, and while Papa was a bad guy, El is responsible for the birth of Vecna, finding the Mind Flayer and allowing it to give him more power.

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Vecna has been trying to use El to open these doors the whole time, but she was fighting it. Constantly closing the ones that opened. This made him have to find a new way to get through, including some sacrifices to rip over the dam holding the worlds apart. And as he tells her that there is nothing she can do to stop him, we watch as her friends and family suffer and slowly die. And then, to complete his mission, he begins killing Max and opening the final gate.

Back in Nevada, Mike and the others try to force El to wake up, but the control of Vecna is too strong. Will pushes Mike to keep trying and keep talking to her. He finally admits that he loves her and that he isn’t scared of her. But scared that one day she is going to realize she doesn’t need him. Mike shares everything he has been scared to say. He encourages her to realize her potential and that she is loved, and to fight back against Vecna. And his speech works. And not just for her. It seems like Lucas, Hopper and Eddie all get some fight back.

Vecna wiping away a tear from El's face.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

However, it looks like El is too late to save Max. Lucas watches as her limbs slowly break before El is able to knock Vecna back. We don’t know precisely what this means for her, though. Joyce saves Hopper, and the two manage to lead the Demogorgon and his dogs into the trap just in time for Murray to set fire to them. As Vecna falls, all of the monsters fall along with him. Steve, Nancy and Robin are freed, which allows them to head into phase four.

“Chapter Nine: The Piggyback” gives us another epic montage of El fighting Vecna in his trance world, Hopper taking on the Demogorgon with a sword and Steve and the others taking care of Vecna in the Upside Down. In Vecna’s final moments, he warns El that they have no idea what is coming and that they have already lost. Sorry to break it to you, Vecna, but killing this gang is a bit harder. We even glimpse Max waking up in Lucas’ arms, though we don’t know in what condition.

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In Russia, Yuri arrives with “Enzo” to pick up the gang, but in the Upside Down, Dustin finds a very injured Eddie. Eddie gave everything to ensure the plan went off and, in the end, didn’t run. He makes Dustin promise to watch over the little sheep for him since he is going to go on and graduate because this is Eddie’s year. We watch as Dustin makes his promise to Eddie before he dies. Editors note – someone, please get me more tissues.

And if Eddie’s death wasn’t enough. We then watch as Max, who survived Vecna’s attack, dies in Lucas’ arms as Erica runs to call an ambulance. It seems like her death has triggered something in the Upside Down, and we watch as the final portal rips open and Jason along with it. Each of the other portals rips open as well, meeting in the center of Hawkins, tearing buildings down in its path. In Nevada, Mike tries to wake El up, but she isn’t ready to leave Max’s side yet. In one final attempt to save her friend, she uses her power to restart her heart.

El watching over Lucas who is holding Max's body.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

“Chapter Nine: The Piggyback” jumps to two days later. Families are rushing out of Hawkins as El, and the others arrive in town and see what happened. The government is blaming it all on an earthquake. They also talk about how Eddie is presumed dead but was the prime suspect in the murders that occurred in the week leading up to the quake. At Nancy’s house, she is packing her car when the Surfer Boy Pizza fan pulls up, and everyone is reunited.

We watch as Jonathan and Nancy finally see each other after everything that happened, and Robin pats Steve on the back as they walk away. It seems like we won’t be getting any conclusion on that love triangle until next season. We also see Dustin reunite with Will, Mike and El and break the news that Lucas is with Max at the hospital. We then watch as Lucas reads to Max while she is in a coma. As if this episode hasn’t had us in tears multiple times, this moment is one of the hardest. They all come together again, only to be crushed by so much pain. Lucas believes Max coming back to life was a miracle, but Will and MIke have other ideas on what happened. They might even know the truth. But no one tells Lucas, at least not right now.

Steve, Robin and Dustin arrive at the school to donate some items for those in need and offer their time. Robin ends up volunteering alongside Vickie (Amybeth McNulty) while Steve and Dustin help with separating clothes. Vickie opens up to Robin about the stress with her boyfriend, and it seems like Robin might just get her happily ever after in the end. Later, Dustin sees Eddie’s uncle (Joel Stoffer) putting up a missing-person flyer for him.

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Mr. Munson doesn’t want to talk to Dustin and still claims Eddie’s innocence in the whole thing. Dustin shares that he was with Eddie when the earthquake hit and returns his necklace, essentially letting him know that Eddie is dead, but he was brave up until the very end. Dustin just wishes everyone would have known who he really was and is sure they would have loved him. Sure, Duffer Brothers, let’s cry some more.

“Chapter Nine: The Piggyback” shifts to Hopper’s cabin. Everyone works together to start cleaning things up and get it back to tip-top shape after everything that happened. Nancy and Jonathan board up the windows while trying to determine if they are okay. Both seem like they want to share things but decide against it. And when Nancy asks about his college application letter, he lies to her again.

Hopper hugging El after she realizes that he is still alive.

Image courtesy of Netflix 2022.

Inside the cabin, El finds some privacy which lets Will and Mike chat. Mike knows that El is worried that Brenner was right about her not being ready and is doubting if she could have really saved all of them. But we know that without her, Max wouldn’t be alive right now, even if she is in a coma. Will then shares with Mike that he can feel Vecna still now that he is back in Hawkins. Will still has some weird connection to the Upside Down, the Mind Flayer and Vecna himself. He is hurt but not dead. Their mission now needs to be to kill him for good.

The conversation is cut short when a car arrives that screams government. Inside, El finds a bottle as she cleans her room, and we see her enter her trance again and back into Max’s mind. But Max isn’t there. However, she is pulled out of it when she hears the door to her room opening. And finally, El learns that Hopper is alive. And if seeing him reunite with Joyce was heartbreaking, this will tear you apart. Tissues guys. Get more tissues.

“Chapter Nine: The Piggyback” comes to a close as Will gets a tickle up his spine, the dust from the Upside Down falls on Hawkins, and everyone realizes that their lives are about to be forever changed – again.

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I’m not okay. The final episode of this season of Stranger Things was fantastic. But it tore me in two. This entire season tore me apart in ways I never thought possible. And Eddie’s death – I don’t think I will ever recover. Netflix and the Duffer Brothers really took things to the extreme this season, and I love where the story is going. Did this final episode need to be this long? I don’t think so, but it was good for what it was. Netflix has announced that the fifth season of Stranger Things will be it’s last, so everything they set up here should be answered when it finally airs. How long will that take? Who knows, but we will be waiting.

What are your thoughts on volume two? Let us know in the comments below and on social media!

STRANGER THINGS Season 4 Funko Pops Are Out of This World

Julia Roth
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