July 1, 2022 8:01 AM EDT

This story contains spoilers for Stranger Things 4: Part Two

The final two episodes of the fourth season of Netflix’s Stranger Things have arrived. With runtimes of one hour and 25 minutes and two hours and 30 minutes, respectively, the episodes feel more like a pair of movies than the end of a TV season. Needless to say, a lot goes down in Hawkins and in the Upside Down in the season’s conclusion.

Here’s everything to know about the events of the final part of Stranger Things season 4, including how the first part of the season fits into the plot, details on the plans to defeat Vecna, an in-memoriam for the characters who died, updates on where various love triangles and relationships stand, and a look forward at where Stranger Things could go from here.

How did Stranger Things 4: Part One end?

An in-depth recap of the first part of season 4 is available here. But in short, here’s where part one left things: Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murray (Brett Gelman) go to the Soviet Union to rescue an imprisoned Hopper (David Harbour) and his turncoat gulag guard ally Dmitri (Tom Wlaschiha) from a Demogorgon fighting pit. Meanwhile, somewhere in the Nevada desert, Eleven trains with Doctor Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) and the still-alive Doctor Brenner (Matthew Modine) to get her powers back. Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Will (Noah Schnapp), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and Argyle (Eduardo Franco) are on the run from a faction of the army that wanted Eleven eliminated and in search of their friend. Back in Hawkins, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Max (Sadie Sink), Robin (Maya Hawke), Steve (Joe Keery), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), and Eddie (Joseph Quinn), investigate a new threat from the Upside Down, a creature they called Vecna (after the Dungeons & Dragons villain) who is possessing and killing people. He targets Max, but Kate Bush’s 1985 song “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” saves her life by tethering her back to reality.

The mid-season finale concludes with intertwined revelations. Eleven, who has been revisiting her past in a sensory deprivation pit, remembers that a young man she knew in the facility where she had been trained had misled her so that he could get a chance to go on a rampage and boast about his plans to reshape the world with his power. Eleven engages in a psychic duel with him, casting him into a gateway to the Upside Down where he becomes the creature we know of as Vecna. Nancy and the Hawkins crew, meanwhile, had ventured into the Upside Down to rescue Steve but Vecna psychically kidnaps Nancy’s consciousness right before she’s about to escape and reveals that he is Pennhurst Asylum patient Victor Creel’s son, and that he was responsible for the infamous killings before Doctor Brenner took him in and dubbed him “001.” The season ends with Hopper and Joyce reunited but still in Siberia, Eleven re-powered but still in an uneasy alliance with Brenner, and Nancy in danger.

Maya Hawke as Robin Buckley, Joe Keery as Steve Harrington, Priah Ferguson as Erica Sinclair, Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler, and Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield in 'Stranger Things' (Courtesy of Netflix)
Maya Hawke as Robin Buckley, Joe Keery as Steve Harrington, Priah Ferguson as Erica Sinclair, Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler, and Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield in 'Stranger Things'
Courtesy of Netflix

What happens with Hopper, Eleven, and Nancy?

The penultimate episode of season 4 resolves some plot points introduced in part one, while laying out the stakes for the finale. Vecna torments Nancy, revealing more of his backstory and laying out his evil plan before letting her go. Every time Vecna kills, he opens a gate to the Upside Down, and when he opens four he’ll be able to wreak havoc on Hawkins (and the world). Max realizes that she is still Vecna’s fourth and final target, so they come up with a plan to fight back by using her as bait. For it to work, they’re going to need weapons, so Eddie hotwires an RV and they go on a little road trip to a gun store. Inside, Nancy encounters Jason (Mason Dye), the captain of the Hawkins High basketball team. Jason is still out for revenge because he believes Eddie is responsible for his girlfriend Chrissy’s death, and the fact that he’s also armed is ominous.

Back in the U.S.S.R., Hopper and Joyce get a better look at the prison/Upside Down research lab, and learn that the Soviets also have a bunch of Demodogs and a swirling mass of Mind Flayer-like particles. While the Demogorgon attacks the guards, our heroes escape through some sewage tunnels. Yuri, the pilot who was supposed to smuggle Hopper out but instead betrayed them before being taken hostage himself, has a DIY helicopter that can help them escape to America—if he can get it working.

Eleven, having recovered her powers, learns that Max and her Hawkins friends are in danger. She wants to leave to go help them, but while Owens agrees, Brenner betrays her, saying she’s not yet strong enough. He has his men handcuff Owens and puts a power-inhibiting collar on Eleven rather than let her go again. At just this time, though, the other faction of the government raids the facility, and Brenner is shot several times while trying to escape with Eleven. Despite the collar, Eleven takes down an army helicopter before she too can be killed, and Mike and his cohort arrive just in time to get her to safety. In his dying moments, Brenner deactivates Eleven’s collar. Ultimately, on some deeply messed up and fundamentally irredeemable level, he did care for her. Although Brenner was an abusive monster, it’s still traumatic for Eleven to see her “papa” die.

Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven and Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner in 'Stranger Things' (Tina Rowden—Netflix)
Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven and Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner in 'Stranger Things'
Tina Rowden—Netflix

What happens in the battle against Vecna?

The fight against Vecna comes to a head in the season finale. The Hawkins gang has a plan: When Vecna possesses people, his physical body has to be somewhere, just like with Eleven’s powers. Max goes to the Creel house and stops listening to Kate Bush so that Vecna will make another attempt to kill her, and Lucas and Erica (Priah Ferguson) go with her. The rest of the gang will go to the Upside Down. Eddie and Dustin will cause a distraction to lure Vecna’s creepy bats away from his body while Nancy, Steve, and Robin will go to the house and kill him.

Eleven, having realized they can’t get from Nevada to Indiana in time to help their friends, realizes she can “piggyback” into Max’s consciousness. Argyle creates an impromptu sensory deprivation tank in a Surfer Boy Pizza, and Eleven goes into Max’s head so that she can psychically battle Venca when he shows up.

Hopper and Joyce have the least to do, but they make a risky phone call to the States and learn what’s going down. In an effort to help, they break back into the prison so they can kill the particles, because those particles are part of the Upside Down, and eliminating them should help all the kids in their struggle.

Vecna in 'Stranger Things' (Courtesy of Netflix)
Vecna in 'Stranger Things'
Courtesy of Netflix

Hopper and Joyce succeed in their mission, and Hopper gets to decapitate a Demogorgon with a sword before Yuri comes through with his helicopter to get them to safety. The rest of the characters have a worse time.

Vecna appears to be prepared for the Hawkin’s crew’s assault. Although Eddie draws the attention of all the bats with an extremely metal bit of guitar playing, the bats overwhelm him and Dustin. Eddie sacrifices himself to buy his friends more time. Nancy, Steve, and Robin make progress, at first, but they’re soon ensnared by Vecna’s gross tentacle-vines. Max is able to evade Vecna for a while once she’s been possessed, but eventually, he gets to her. Perhaps worst of all, Jason has found Max and Lucas, and he accuses Lucas of being in cahoots with Eddie’s satanic club, prompting the two of them to get in a brutal fistfight.

Eleven wanders through Max’s memories before coming to her psychic rescue just in time, but Vecna is able to overpower her after they duel. Vecna tells Eleven that she’s responsible for creating him and that she enabled his plan to take over the world and reshape it in his twisted image. He also explains that he is the brains behind the Mind Flayer, having come across its potential while wandering the Upside Down’s wastelands after Eleven first cast him here. He resumes his assault on Max, and Lucas watches in horror as her limbs snap in the real world. But, Mike, acting on advice that Will gave him earlier, acts as the group’s “heart” and tells Eleven to keep fighting. The encouragement gives Eleven what she needs and she bursts free of Vecna’s restraints, giving Nancy and Steve, and Robin an opening to assault his physical body.

At first, it seems like a victory, but all is not what it appears, and Vecna even warns Eleven that this is only “the beginning of the end.” Eddie has died from his injuries, and he and Dustin share an emotional moment before he passes. Vecna has been set on fire and shot multiple times, but he disappeared, Halloween-style, after falling out a window, so he’s not necessarily dead. And, worst of all, although Eleven stopped Vecna before he could make Max’s eyes explode, she still succumbs to her many injuries, dying in Lucas’ arms. Her death opens up the fourth gate, and four massive crevasses leading to the Upside Down streak across Hawkins to create a mega-gate. (One of the crevasses bisects and kills Jason, the only upside to the disaster).

Eleven is not willing to let her friend die, though, and she tries to use her powers to save Max’s life. The screen goes to black, and cuts to “two days later.”

STRANGER THINGS. Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in 'Stranger Things' (Courtesy of Netflix)
STRANGER THINGS. Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in 'Stranger Things'
Courtesy of Netflix

The Upside Down comes to Hawkins

At first, it seems like Eleven was able to undo most of the damage, but we learn that’s not really the case. She saved Max (or brought her back to life) but Max is hospitalized and the doctors don’t know if she will ever wake up. More troublingly, Eleven can’t find any sign of Max when she tries to psychically reach out to her.

Though many Hawkins residents are leaving the town in the wake of the deadly “earthquake” (nothing overtly supernatural has emerged from the cracks… yet), the California crew has arrived. They work on fixing up Hopper’s old shed in the woods so Eleven can stay there, but their cleaning is interrupted when Hopper and Joyce—with the help of one of Doctor Owens’ allies—arrive. Hopper and Eleven have an emotional reunion. Will, however, having been possessed by the Mind Flayer before, is uneasy. He knows Vecna isn’t dead. Sure enough, ash starts raining from the sky and a gray wave of death consumes the nearby vegetation. The Upside Down has come to Hawkins.

Does anyone die in Stranger Things 4: Part Two?

Two fairly major characters die in the last two episodes of season 4, one nearly dies, and one character’s fate remains unknown. Brenner dies in episode 8. It’s not too shocking, given that fans were under the assumption that he had already died (and since he’s a pretty horrible person), though it is surprisingly affecting. Eddie also dies, and although he was only introduced this season, he’s a natural addition to the crew and it’s sad to see him go—especially since all of Hawkins thinks he’s a satanic murderer instead of a hero who just liked playing Dungeons & Dragons with his fellow weirdos.

Max was technically dead before Eleven revived her, though it’s unclear if she’ll ever actually get better. The TV-savvy viewer can assume that Sadie Sink probably won’t play a comatose body for all of season 5, so it seems reasonable to think Max will recover in some form. Even so, Vecna really did a number on her.

It’s unclear if Doctor Owens survived or not. Last we saw him, he was handcuffed and begging for Eleven’s life. Would his rivals in the military summarily execute him? Maybe, but we didn’t see a body.

We also didn’t see Vecna’s body, but Will confirmed that he is indeed still alive.

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Where do all the love triangles stand?

While it may seem kind of petty given all the death and the potential Upside Down-ification of the world, season 4 also shook up the love lives of many of the characters. Joyce and Hopper are back together, which is nice. And, it appears that Robin and her bandmate/crush Vickie (Amybeth Mcnulty) might be playing for the same team after all.

Lucas and Max reconcile their relationship by the end of the season, but Max is in a coma.

Nancy and Steve—who you may recall were dating way back in season 1—spent a lot of quality time together this season, and it seemed like they were rekindling their romance. However, once Jonathan was back in Hawkins, he and Nancy played the boyfriend and girlfriend part together again even though it’s very clear that there are problems in their relationship that predate Vecna. Steve is being a good sport about the situation, but the love triangle will probably come into play in the fifth and final season, so get ready, shippers.

There appears to be one more love triangle. Though Will’s sexuality has never been explicitly confirmed, the series has implied that he’s gay. Will’s crying after his talk with Mike about he’s the “heart” of the group seems to imply that he might have feelings for his best friend. It doesn’t appear that Mike has any idea and Will doesn’t seem like he’s going to act on those feelings just yet, but this could be a potential plot point in season 5.

Joe Keery as Steve Harrington and Maya Hawke as Robin Buckley in 'Stranger Things' (Tina Rowden—Netflix)
Joe Keery as Steve Harrington and Maya Hawke as Robin Buckley in 'Stranger Things'
Tina Rowden—Netflix

Where does this leave us for Stranger Things season 5?

Between the gateway to the Upside Down and all the various bits of personal drama, there’s a lot that Stranger Things needs to tackle in the next season, which the Duffer Brothers have said is the final one of the series (However, the end of the show is unlikely to mark the end of the would-be Stranger Things franchise—Netflix has hinted there could be spin-offs in the pipeline).

It’s unclear what will happen in the final season, which doesn’t yet have a release date. The Duffer Brothers previously said they were looking into a time jump between the fourth and fifth seasons (in large part because the child actors are growing up). But since the season finale ends with the imminent incursion of the Upside Down into the real world, a big time jump seems a little less likely.

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