Warning: the following article contains spoilers for Stranger Things season four episode four “Dear Billy”
To recap our last recap: the end of episode three saw Dr. Owens break El out of a prison transportation van, so episode four opens with Owens’ colleagues explaining the situation to a bewildered and indignant Mike, Will, and Jonathan. Meanwhile, back in Hawkins, the gang (minus Lucas) has just broken into the school at night to read Fred and Chrissy’s files.
In a pinch, a lamp can serve as a weapon
After reading the files, Max reveals to the group that she’s been experiencing the same symptoms as Fred and Chrissy, namely headaches followed by visions. She’s been having headaches for five days, and just had her first vision; she notes that Fred and Chrissy both died less than 24 hours after their first vision, so she’s convinced she’s going to die tomorrow.
Hearing a noise in the hallway and deciding to investigate, Steve brandishes a lamp as a weapon, only to narrowly avoid attacking Lucas, who was coming to warn them about his basketball teammates and their search for Eddie and Dustin.
Jason (the head basketball jerk) and his cronies turn up at the Sinclair home, only to be turned away by Erica. Fortunately, the gang is safely holed up at the Wheeler home, debriefing. While Max writes farewell letters to everyone in her life, Nancy and Robin share their plan with the rest of the crew: to visit Victor Creel at Pennhurst Asylum.
Who you gonna call? Surfer Boy Pizza
The boys in California are now under house arrest courtesy of Dr. Owens’ friends. Jonathan soon gets an idea for their escape, and naturally, his new BFF Argyle is a key component.
At the same time, Nancy and Robin, in aggressively ’80s attire, arrive at Pennhurst, and manage to successfully impersonate academics and plead their case to Director Hatch, who grants them access to speak to Victor Creel.
Joyce and Murray arrive at Yuri’s Fish and Fry, only to be told that they just missed Yuri, who has been killed by polar bears. Just kidding, the guy who told them that is Yuri! What a jokester.
While Joyce and Murray watch Yuri count $40,000, Hopper successfully escapes the chain gang after blowing up a shed and making off on a snowmobile. The entire time I was watching this action-packed scene, I was distracted by concerns about what would happen to Hopper’s bare feet in the snow. Am I the only one?
Max visits her mum at home in order to deliver one of her farewell letters, and ends up having a Vecna-induced vision in which he tells her “your time is almost at an end”.
Vecna, please acquire some chill.
Life pro tip: don’t accept drinks from, or open the door to, strangers
While Max is on her farewell tour of Hawkins, Nancy and Robin visit Victor Creel, played by Robert Englund, AKA Freddy Krueger himself.
Over on the west coast, before the Byers (and Mike) can put their pizza-based plan into action, a bunch of dudes with guns turn up and start redecorating Joyce’s lovely home with bullets, wounding one of the agents and killing the other. The gang escape in Argyle’s delivery van, injured federal agent in tow.
Hopper finds the meeting point, which is a church filled to the brim with smuggled supplies, primarily peanut butter and jeans. The entire time I was hoping he would find shoes in there, but alas, my frostbite-related concerns were not addressed.
Enzo discovers that Yuri has sold him, and subsequently Jim, out to the prison warden, so soldiers burst into the church just as Enzo is apprehended by his fellow prison guards and Joyce and Murray pass out after drinking coffee that’s been drugged.
Running up that (cemetery) hill
The Hawkins crew make it to the cemetery so Max can read her farewell letter to Billy’s tombstone.
Victor Creel shares his story with Nancy and Robin: some 14 years after he returned from WWII, he and his wife used a small inheritance to buy a new family home. A month after moving in, the problems started, primarily disturbing visions and finding dead animals in their yard.
One fateful night, as the family is at the dinner table, the radio becomes distorted while playing Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘Dream a Little Dream of Me’. Creel’s wife Virginia is the first to be killed in what we (the viewers) recognize as Vecna’s signature style, followed by his daughter Alice. His son Henry is gravely injured, falls into a coma, and dies a week later. Only Victor survives, having been transported into a flashback of his time in WWII France. Soon after he finishes sharing his story, Nancy and Robin are caught by the Director, and end up fleeing the asylum on foot, with Robin losing a shoe.
Nancy and Robin figure out that Fitzgerald’s song acted as an anchor of sorts, tethering Creel to reality. This is perfect timing because while Max is reading her letter to Billy, she experiences what should be her final (and fatal) vision. This vision gives us a detailed look at Vecna’s lair in the Upside Down; tbh, the decor leaves much to be desired.
Fortunately, the girls are able to tell the rest of the gang what they’ve figured out, and after much fiddling with cassette tapes, they blast Max’s favorite song, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”, in order to call her back to them and pull her out of the Upside Down. As the song plays, we’re treated with a montage of Max’s favorite moments in Hawkins, reminding her of what’s waiting for her at home. Fortunately for all Maxheads out there, it worked, and the episode ends with a grateful Lucas clutching Max to his chest as the sun sets.
Stranger Things is available to stream on Netflix. The first seven episodes of the new season are out now, while the final two eps will drop on Friday, July 1.