Stranger Things Season 4 Episode 4 Review: “The Sauna Test”

Stranger Things season 4 episode 4 review

Has Eleven finally met her match in a pretty straightforward episode but one that finishes with a bang?

This is my Stranger Things season 3 episode 4 review and this episode take a bit of slower pace, but that can be expected if we’re looking at the season in potentially two acts. The first four episodes moved briskly and there’s a slight dip in the fourth, but that’s to be expected if we’re looking at episodes 5 through 8 as the second act.

Like any good play, you have to start upbeat then bring it back down where things feel like they’re going to hell before ending in a big culmination.

We’ll break down chapter 4 aka “The Sauna Test” and uncover everything we can, but if you haven’t read my reviews of the other episodes up to this point, check them out:

What The Hell Just Happened?

We open on Eleven contemplating everything that has just happened with Billy. As much as she’s becoming a regular kid, we can’t forget all the powers and other-worldly dynamics to her. Those have not gone away, but she’s just trying to live life like any other teen in the summer of 1985.

I think I still am honestly…

Max is sharing with her Wonder Woman and Green Lantern comics as Wonder Woman is seen to be the badass female that can further inspire Eleven – which we’ll see later.

Meanwhile, Dorris Driscoll has gone full Alien’s mode and is being taken to the hospital and while that is happening, Heather’s parents – including her dad who is the editor of the Hawkins Post – are tied up in the steel mill. We get our first full look at the monster for this season as Billy lets it loose on the hapless couple.

So turns out that theory about Billy evolving into that monster was wrong. Swing and a miss, oh well. The monster proceeds to attach to their face and suck their souls out in a very “Human Centipede” type way. 

Cue the opening credits…

Our Very Lives Could Be At Stake

Hopper has finally come to after a world-class ask kicking at the hands of the Terminator (which Mayor Kline refers to him as later) and Mike has summoned Max and Eleven after the revelation that “he’s back” proclaimed by Will.

Robin, Dustin, and Steve are trying to figure out a plan to see what’s in those boxes that think the Russians are storing in the Starcourt Mall. She is able to buy the blueprints for the mall and find out that an air duct leads from “Scoops Ahoy” all the way to that storage room. 

The latest blackout has caused Nancy and Jonathan to be late for work and Jonathan seems to echo the scene in Back to the Future when he asks where his clothes are before falling while putting on his pants. Turns out Tom Holloway (Heather’s dad/Hawkins Post editor) is NOT dead but looking in pretty rough shape as he proceeds to fire Nancy and Jonathan. 

Will explains that he thinks that the part of the Mind Flayer that entered him in season 2 possibly stayed in their world and never returned to the upside down before Eleven closed it. He notes that every time there’s a blackout, he senses something is up. 

These Are Some Pretty Bad Dudes

Hopper is now looking extremely Magnum P.I./Tom Selleck ish as he goes to pay Mayor Kline a visit. He wants to know who the guy is who beat the crap out of him and while beating Mayor Kline within an inch of his life he finds out the guy is involved with Starcourt Mall.

Turns out the Starcourt Mall group wants to expand into east Hawkins and they have been purchasing various pieces of land around this area. Kline informs him “that you don’t want to mess with these people” so we know the Mall – and possible Russian inclusion – are trying to harness something with the Upside Down.

The kids remember how heat was needed to push the Mind Flayer out of Will and they think the same approach will work with Billy by trapping him in a sauna. While this is going on, Steve, Robin, and Dustin convince Erica – Lucas’s younger sister – to crawl through the vent for her.

Erica is clearly a standout character in all this and she negotiates free ice cream for life for doing this.

The kids set up a plan at the pool to trap Billy in the sauna and it ends up with a pretty hard-core battle involving Eleven where Billy is actually able to get the upper hand for a bit – until eleven is able to throw him clean through a brick wall. She’s going full Wonder Woman now. 

Also, Billy is wearing a Niagara Falls hat for some reason and since nothing in Stranger Things is done randomly I’m wondering the significance of this? My only thought is how Niagara Falls is used to harnessing the power of all the water to create energy. Is this what is happening with the people that run the Starcourt Mall? Are they/the Russians harnessing the power of the Upside Down to create energy or worse, weaponry?

Things Are Falling Apart

Nancy goes to see Mrs. Driscoll in the hospital and during Billy’s battle with Eleven – where his infection is growing – the same thing happens to Mrs. Driscoll as she’s going into full monster form. 

Before we finish, Steve, Erica, Dustin, and Robin have found their way into the storage room and open up one of the boxes to find them containing canisters with green ooze. It’s impossible to see someone lift a canister and not think Back to the Future plutonium/Jurrasic Park DNA/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze.

Turns out they are in some sort of elevator and while trying to get out it begins to plummet into the earth.

We finish with Billy and Heather realizing that Eleven knows what’s up and that he could have killed him. “But not us” Heather replies as we see they’re in the steel mill with the place filled with Zombie-like people that we saw when Billy first crashed by the steel mill.

I’m thinking that the monster/Mind Flayer that was sucking the souls out of people is using them to create alternate versions of them which is why we have seen two Billys, and we can assume there’s two Heathers, two of her parents etc.

This seems to follow one of the theories that the Mind Flayer is trying to create a parallel dimension and fill it with creations of his own? We also finish the show to the song “We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn. This is a little too on the nose for me using such an obvious song connection but it plays up well in that horror movie trope of using a charming song juxtaposed with something horrific.

To me, it has a real “Midnight, The Stars and You” by Ray Noble and his Orchestra from the end of the shining. I’m not sure if that’s what they’re going for exactly but it’s what immediately came to mind.

Final Thoughts

So that’s my Stranger Things season 4 episode 4 review, and it was an intense one (aren’t they all really?). It didn’t have much in the way of 80s references but primarily was to serve the story and what’s going on with the Mind Flayer and Billy.

They’ve already set up things well enough with the style and vibe of the 80s so it doesn’t necessarily have to be drilled home through every episode – there are much bigger things that they all have to deal with more than drinking New Coke.

It was slower paced, but not dull, and definitely finishes off with a bang. I give this episode a B.