The Piggyback Massively Ups the Stakes in Stranger Things With All-Out War

By the conclusion of Papa, nearly all of The Hawkins Gang is where they need to be for the big battle with Vecna. After making a shocking return from the dead, Dr. Martin Brenner, or Papa, is is finally dead. For real this time. But the Surfer Boy Pizza crew is a long ways from Hawkins, Indiana. Over in Russia, Hopper and Joyce are grounded while an unwilling Yuri and a helicopter that won’t fly. In Hawkins, Steve, Max et al are ready outside Creel house. And the Surfer Boy Pizza crew are driving through the desert. As Season 4 comes to its finale, The Duffer Brothers have A LOT of story threads to connect. Keep in mind, this episode recap of The Piggyback superficially touches on the major story points of what was a busy two and a half hours.

The Piggyback Moves All of its Story Pieces in Place

Much of the early chunks of The Piggyback are setup for the battle with Vecna. In Russia, an unwilling Yuri takes his time repairing his helicopter, hiding a part to keep it grounded. Meanwhile Hooper and Joyce share their unrequited feelings for one another along with a love of food. Unfortunately, the couple don’t get much time along together before Owens’ assistant gets back to them. And she gives them all the bad news. Too far away to get back to Hakwins in time, Hopper and Joyce realize that the particles they found in the prison lab are a part of the hive mind. So after breaking out of a Russian prison, Hopper, Joyce, and Murray have to break back in to hurt the hive and, hopefully, buy Eleven some time. At least they will have a flamethrower this time.

Meanwhile Hooper and Joyce share their unrequited feelings for one another along with a love of food.

Back in America, the Surfer Boy Pizza crew are making a hopeless bid to get back to Hawkins. When a billboard sparks a series of flashbacks, however, Eleven realizes they don’t need to be in Hawkins to save Max and the others. Just like she did with Billy, Eleven can to ‘piggyback’ her way into Max’s mind to wage a ‘mind battle’ with Vecna. Fortunately, there’s a Surfer Boy Pizza store nearby (watch out, Domino’s) where Argyle and Jonathan empty out a freezer to turn it into sensory deprivation chamber. And in The Upside Down, Nancy, Steven, and Robin enter the Creel House for their commando raid on Vecna while Dustin and Eddie get ready to serve as a distraction. But things aren’t looking so good in the real Creel House – Max, Lucas, and Erica are ready but Jason and his crew are on their way, too.

Hawkins Declares All-Out War on Vecna

Early setup quickly gives way to big action in The Piggyback’s latter half. A lot happens. In Round One, best laid plans fall apart quickly. Though Max’s idea to lure Vecna initially goes nowhere, the former Henry Creel finally shows up. Too bad Vecna totally knows what they’re up to. It gets worse when Jason et al show up. While his team members restrain Erica outside, Jason lays a beating on Lucas. In the Soviet prison, Hopper, Joyce, and Murray quickly find themselves in over their head. There’s not one but a whole bunch of demogorgons and one quickly pins Hopper down. Meanwhile Vecna wraps Steve, Nancy, and Robin up in tentacles. And Eleven just can’t match up with Vecna, quickly losing in her psychic battle inside Max’s mind. At least Eddie gives the best metal concert EVER when he plays Metallica’s Master of Puppets as a distraction.

At least Eddie gives the best metal concert EVER when he plays Metallica’s Master of Puppets as a distraction.

Don’t forget about the Surfer Boy Pizza crew. Taking Will’s earlier speech from Episode 8 to heart, Mike opens up to Eleven while she floats in their homemade sensory deprivation tank. Finally, Mike says the one thing she’s wanted to hear – “I love you”. Cue the bell for Round Two. That admission renews Eleven’s desire to fight and she breaks free of Vecna’s tentacles. At the same time, Eddie proves he can be a hero, sacrificing himself in front of a heartbroken Dustin. And just like that, the battle turns everywhere. Hopper, Joyce, and Murray kill of the Russian demogorgons. Lucas bests Jason in a fistfight. Back in the Creel attic, Steve, Nancy, and Robin unload on Vecna’s body with Molotov cocktails, and a sawed off shotgun.

The Piggyback Ends With a Victory In Name Only

Yet it’s all a pyrrhic victor. Perhaps in a nod to the original Halloween’s ending, Steve, Nancy, and Robin discover Vecna missing after shooting him out a window. Max’s body is broken and bloody – it’s only Eleven’s intervention that brings her back after clinically dying. Four massive gaps from each of Vecna’s four gates also rip across Hawkins, tearing through buildings (and Jason’s body) before meeting in the middle of the town. Back in the real world, two days later, the news reports the event as an unprecedented earthquake. While many residents of Hawkins are seen driving always, others are gathering for food and shelter at the high school.

…The Duffer Brothers work overtime to tie together story threads.

In The Piggyback’s final 20 minutes, The Duffer Brothers work overtime to tie together story threads. Robin makes cute with her crush, Vickie, who’s broken up with her boyfriend. So who knows what Season 5 holds for her. In a heartbreaking moments, Dustin finds Eddie’s uncle and lets him know that his nephew wasn’t a Satan-worshipping killer – he died a hero. After spending the season separated, the Byers family, Hopper, and Eleven reunite. Yet it’s a somber affair with Max in a coma and Will acknowledging that Vecna is hurt, not dead. In an important nod to Season 2, Will believes he now shares the same psychic connection with Vecna as he did the Mind Flayer. With its final shot, our heroes watch while dark clouds swirl, smoke rises from cracks in the ground, and flowers wilt. The Upside Down appears to be seeping into this world.

Stranger Things Delivers an Emotionally Satisfying Season 4 Final While Setting Up Its Final Chapter

At nearly two and a half hours, The Piggyback is longer than most standalone movies have any right attempting. Certainly, the extended epilogue challenges Return of the King for longest ending on top of endings. But The Duffer Brothers ensure that this ending has meaning for what came before it … and what’s coming next. Somehow Stranger Things pulled together its most ambitious season yet. There was plenty of action and genuine suspense while the episode’s quieter moments packed themselves with well-earned emotion. Nearly every story and character arc found a satisfying resolution. Most importantly, The Piggyback sets massive stakes for what should be a highly anticipated fifth and final season.

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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