“ Elle, somebody’s going to die…”
As the penultimate episode of Stranger Things season 4 comes to a close, we hear these words spoken by Will. We then are taken into the Winnebago with an individual shot of each of the remaining characters–starting with Steve.
Somebody’s going to die… Is this a singular proclamation–or will there be multiple casualties as season 4 of Stranger Things comes to a close?
Episode 8, “Papa” prepares us for battle before the final chapter. Plans are made, directions are clear, and it’s all or nothing. In this review of episode 8, “Papa,” we will break down the plot, look at some themes, and explore where everything goes from here.
If you want to remember what got us to this point, you can read my reviews of all the previous episodes here:
- Chapter 1: “The Hellfire Club”
- Chapter 2: “Vecna’s Curse”
- Chapter 3: “The Monster and the Superhero”
- Chapter 4: “Billy’s Death”
- Chapter 5” “The Nina Project”
- Chapter 6” “The Dive”
- Chapter 7” “The Massacre at Hawkins Lab”
Stranger Things Season 4 Chapter 8: “Papa”
Netflix begins with a recap of everything that went down in Volume 1. We catch up with Eleven who has learned the truth about Henry. She feels as if all those experiments done with her in the lab were only to track him down. Papa explains that the intention was to track the Soviets, but Eleven knows he can’t be trusted.
But ultimately, she did open the gate to the Upside Down, and Henry/001/Vecna has only been growing with power this whole time. The rest of the gang knows he preys on people with traumatic pasts and that there will be a fourth murder. Max explains that the grandfather clock chimes four times, and with three murders so far–that fourth murder/chime will signal the end of the world.
Eleven will be the only thing that can save Hawkins, but Papa will not let her go. The military is after her, suspecting she is behind the murders. Mike, Will, Jonathan, and our stoner relief have the coordinates and are on the way to rescue her.
Back in Russia, Murray, Joyce, and Hopper have escaped from the Soviet prison with some hostages in tow. They need to get back to the states but there’s no transportation. Yuri has a helicopter–which he has never flown–and it seems like they’re pretty screwed. A call is placed to Dr. Owens, but will anything be able to happen in time to get them back home?
Meanwhile, the Scooby-Doo gang has put together their plot to kill Vecna. His holdout appears to be the attic at the old Kreel home, and while he’s in the Upside Down, he’ll have to physically be in the attic–like he’s Dracula lying in a coffin. This is when they can take him out.
Max will be the bait, knowing she’s got Kate Bush to pull her out of any harrowing situation. When in doubt: just run toward the light.
The kids in Hawkins steal a Winnebago, load up on ammunition, and realize the basketball team is looking to take them out, too. Whether they’re facing the supernatural–or these high school hicks–they have begun to understand this may not end well.
Even though Eleven is told her friends are safe, she knows better and has been able to see them in the dark void.
Back in California, the military has attacked and taken out the people in the lab. Eleven busts her way out, only to be restrained by Papa. The two of them flee amid all the destruction, and even though Papa is shot down, Eleven takes out the helicopter and the soldiers. Amidst all this destruction, her powers have returned, and Mike, Jonathan, and Will finally find her. They know she’s in danger–as is everyone in Hawkins.
Will they return in time? Is Eleven strong enough to take on Vecna? And what role does the military play in all this?
Themes and Observations
I feel that the pandemic filming restrictions are most notable in Stranger Things season 4 episode 8. This is no fault of their own, but seeing the big wide-open scenes in the field and then in the desert makes it pretty obvious that these were the only options to continue production.
They seem quite out of place, but this was probably the only option. I’m wondering if everything in the NINA facility–and the death of Papa–was intended to play out like this? Did they have to adjust on the fly, and what was the original intent for scenes like this? Leaving Papa dying in the middle of the desert doesn’t seem like the original plan, but I may be wrong?
We keep coming back to the theme of what family is. It doesn’t always have to be your direct blood family, but can be the family we’ve created. Papa explains to Eleven that the two of them are family and we can clearly see–in the three different groups–how our “family” can be created and isn’t just limited to those we share a last name with.
The bond between Mike, Eleven, and Will is incredibly strong. And as Will explains to Mike in the van (with some deep subtext) they are going to be connected forever. The people we go through intense experiences with often bond us to them for life. The group in Hawkins has built their own little family, and it’s just as real as any siblings or direct relatives.
No matter how they are created, a family is in it together for the long haul–and nothing can break that bond. Hopper and Eleven are not related, but he is her father. And the bonds we create with the families we are given are so strong that they’ll take us across the country–or across the world–to get back to them.
And who is the monster? Is it something living in us that we have to suppress? Eleven has struggled with this all season, but now, in her eyes, Papa is indeed the monster. Whether or not his motives have had good intentions, the monster can still form within us.
Eleven has been able to suppress the thoughts that she is the monster, but will this hold up, or will a confrontation with Vecna reveal more than she realizes?
Wrapping it Up
There’s a definite “calm before the storm” feeling at the end of Stranger Things season 4 episode 8. But that’s to be expected. We need a moment to catch our breath and prepare for what is no doubt an intense finale.
Brenner–in his dying last moments–has freed Eleven literally and physically from her restraint. He knows there is no stopping her. As of right now, she knows she’s not the monster, and the power of love–and family–are more powerful than anything the Upside Down could produce.