Stranger Things Season 4 Episode 2 Review: “Vecna’s Curse”

Courtesy Netflix

In Stranger Things season 4 episode 2, “Vecna’s Curse,” we get fully introduced to Vecna’s power and the kids realize something has returned. We get some connections to the past and Victor Creel, while also seeing the struggle Eleven goes through.

The horror theme continues through episode two and so far, there is nothing to indicate this season will show any positive notes. The characters are all at a crossroads and their futures are very uncertain.

In this review of “Vecna’s Curse,” we will break down the plot, look at a few themes, and, of course, point out any of the great 1980s references.

If you haven’t read the review of episode one, you can check that out right here

Season 4 Episode 2: “Vecna’s Curse” Plot Summary

We start with a flashback to the end of season 3. When Joyce blows up the machine underneath the Starcourt Mall, Hopper doesn’t go through the portal as we thought. He actually dove out of the way of the blast and survived, only to be apprehended by the Russians. 

Mike has headed out to California for spring break, and Murray has, too. Nancy is doing some fieldwork and we get a shot where everything is upside down as Chrissy’s body is being taken away. Is Chrissy now in the Upside Down? Nancy is also getting some flashbacks to earlier times and Barb. She knows something isn’t right. 

Meanwhile, is Mike cooling a bit in his relationship with Eleven? Is Will upset that the two of them have drifted apart? 

We get a flashback to Eddie leaving the trailer where Chrissy dies and Max witnessed the whole thing. She also saw the lights flicker–and we know that’s never a good thing in Hawkins…

Murray and Joyce go through the ransom letter and we see Hopper is being tortured as a prisoner in Russia. The basketball players have seemed to form a posse after they are confronted about Chrissy’s death. It is believed Eddie killed Chrissy because of some cult connections to the game the nation seemed to fear in the 80s: Dungeon and Dragons. 

The basketball team has their own investigation, as do Dustin, Steve, Robin, and Max. The four of them convene at the video store to try and find Eddie through a drug dealer, Reifer Rick. While Nancy is investigating the disappearance, we realize that nerdy Fred Benson may be possessed by Vecna. 

Back in California, Eleven is keeping up the guise of being happy and popular until she is humiliated at a rollerskating rink. Millie Bobby Brown has been so good just in these first two episodes. 

While this is going on, Murray and Joyce attempt to call Russia using a primitive VPN. She is told to take $40, 000 to Enzo in Alaska as a ransom for Hopper. The two of them realize Hopper is being held captive somewhere in Russia. Underscoring this is a piece from Iolanta by Tchaikovsky. It’s about a princess who has been blind since birth and doesn’t know she is a princess. Does this represent Joyce at all and she is more unique than she realizes? Or about the blindness the victims of Vecna experience?

Fred Benson hears that grandfather clock. Does this sound reveal the arrival of Vecna? Nancy interviews Eddie’s uncle, who tells her the story of Victor Creel and how he killed his whole family, the same way Chrissy died. Creel is still alive and we get a good connection with Michael Myers from Halloween. 

Fred encounters Vecna and back in California, Eleven has snapped and attacked Angela pretty viciously, too. It echoes back to the opening of episode one: “what have you done…?” The Scooby-Doo gang breaks into Reifer Ricks and finds Eddie, who tells them the story of what happened to Chrissy. The four of them obviously understand after suffering through three years of this. Dustin realizes it’s Vecna who’s arrived; the true spellcaster aka the dark wizard.

Episode 2 finishes with Vecna in what we now know is the Creel house. How connected are Victor Creel and Vecna…?

Themes, Connections & Foreshadowing

One theme I’ve found in episode 2, “Vecna’s Curse” is about perseverance and determination, and they can only come after a setback. Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to bounce back. In the case of Eleven, her perseverance is taking her in a direction more akin to her early days in the Hawkins lab. Instead of rolling over after being humiliated by Angela, something snaps. Where she would have normally used her powers, she resorts to old-school physical violence. 

But is Eleven going to go too far in one direction and maybe become a villain herself? Will that be the only way to get her powers back? Will she be tempted by “the dark side?”

There are also themes of hope, and hope can make us spring into action. Joyce has lost all hope for Hopper and is just numbly going about her life. When she finds out there’s a chance he’s alive, she immediately springs into action and doesn’t care what it takes. Sometimes we need that rock bottom to head back in the direction we intended. For Eleven, this may be taking her back to a place she never wants to revisit. 

I like how Fred’s glasses reflect the flames of the burning car. The flames surround his eyes to foreshadow his impending doom at the hands of Vecna. We can see his eyes being burned by these reflective flames. 

When we see Lucas throwing up in the bathroom, is he hungover, or possibly possessed, too? We saw Chrissy throwing up the same way in episode one. Are we to believe they are hinting at this fate befalling Lucas? Is he even going to make it out of this season alive? 

Speaking of the basketball house, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the basketball hangout has Christmas lights strung around the place. We all know the importance of Christmas lights in the world of Hawkins…

OK, this may be me digging too deep, but I’m wondering about connections between Dustin, Lucas, and the two cops: Officer Callahan and Officer Powell. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m wondering if these two cops may actually be Dustin and Lucas from the future. In the Stranger Things world, time travel has been hinted at. Have Dustin and Lucas from the future gone back in time to 1986 to try to protect things? I wouldn’t have made these connections until Officer Powell–who I can picture Dustin as when he’s older–uses that same line we’ve heard from Dustin, “holy mother of God…”

1980s References and Connections

There are some great movie references here including Footloose, and 16 Candles, and we see posters for Teen Wolf, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I like the reference to Ocean Pacific clothes which started in the early 70s but rose to prominence in the 80s. I loved Ocean Pacific, but there was no way in hell my mother was buying them for me. 
I know this effect has been done in a ton of movies but I love the sun dissolve of Nancy’s investigative trip and reminds me of the scene in Wall Street when Bud leaves the airplane hangar. 

Here are a few more 80s-related things I caught:

  • The Hulk Hogan card in the Taxi
  • Courtney Cox, in what I believe is Family Ties
  • Thundercats

Some other songs I caught were:

  •  “You Spin Me Right Round” by Dead or Alive
  •   “Rock Me Amadeus” by Falco
  •  “Tarzan Boy” by Baltimora (shoutout Jungle Boy from AEW)
  •  “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads.

 “Psycho Killer” seemed an appropriate choice when Eleven snaps–just like she did back in 1979….

Final Thoughts on Episode 2: “Vecna’s Curse”

I love how this is moving along pretty quickly. But a lot of ground has already been covered. This is probably because of the longer run time of each episode. These are all at least 75 minutes long and the extended time means they don’t have to rush the story.

There is a notably different tone than in the last few seasons. Since this is the second-to-last season, there is more chance of things going to hell and this season-ending on an uncertain note. I don’t notice much in the way of upbeat music, especially in the score.

The intensity has started right away. At the start of season 3, things were a little more jovial and light-hearted. Not this time around, though. The most serious threat ever has evaded Hawkins, and things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better. 

Keep reading my reviews of Season 4 here: