Stranger Things season 4, Volume 2 ended with a bang – a long, long bang, seeing as the finale was way past the two-hour mark. As a result, the Stranger Things season 4 ending took some digesting, especially as we had only just recovered from discovering that Vecna/One/Henry Creel were all one and the same. So, don’t be ashamed if you have a few questions, even if you’ve watched the last few episodes countless times already.
And that’s where we come in. While the creators prepare to write the show’s final season, we take a look back at everything that happened during the climactic moments of season 4. There were deaths aplenty, and a few character fates left up in the air. So, get ready to go back into the Upside Down, as we go over the Stranger Things season 4 ending in detail. And be warned major Stranger Things season 4, Volume 2 spoilers ahead!
Stranger Things season 4 ending explained: a recap *spoilers!*
The final two episodes of Stranger Things season 4 are all focused on taking down Vecna. The result is a huge final battle, the characters working together from all over the globe to destroy the villain. Let’s break down how we got there.
Hopper, Joyce, and Murray are back in Russia as they try to escape from the prison after the Demogorgon has gotten free. This takes them into the depths of the camp as they find out the guards have been experimenting on these creatures, with one on a dissection table, others in glass tubes, and Upside Down particles floating around. Our gang – along with Enzo and Uri – manage to find their way out through the toilet tunnel, hiding out in Uri’s hideaway as they come up with a way to get out of the country.
Their salvation seems to be a rusty helicopter, but it’s mysteriously not working. After Hopper gets a call across to Hawkins, he finds out how much danger their children are in and they decide to come up with another plan. Their idea? Getting back into the prison camp that they just escaped. Joyce explains that if they kill the Demogorgans and the particles, then this should weaken the monster preying on Hawkins as it’s all linked to the hive mind. The idea is that this might give the children just enough time to go through with their plan.
Meanwhile, in Nevada, Eleven has learned the truth about Henry’s origins and how she was responsible for sending him into the Upside Down – and thus creating Vecna. Reeling from this new knowledge, she regains her powers and she picks up NINA with her mind. El is back in business. And her first concern is making sure her friends are okay.
She’s desperate to get back to Hawkins to help them fight Vecna but Papa/Brenner (Matthew Modine) is convinced she is not ready yet. While Dr. Owens tries to tell him that it’s up to her if she’s ready to face this fight, a power struggle ensues as Owens starts to make the necessary plans to get El home, while Papa dampens her powers as he tries to stop her leaving. All the while, Sullivan and his government agency are on the way to take her down. They collide at the base in Nevada as Papa has a change of heart and tries to escape with Eleven only to be gunned down by a helicopter. Before they can take the shot on El, a pizza truck appears and distracts them, and Eleven uses her powers to bring down the soldiers. Papa dies as Eleven refuses to forgive him in his final moments.
Mike, Will, Jonathan, and Argyle have finally found Eleven after they’ve been searching for her based on the coordinates given to them by Susie. Now that the gang’s all back together, they try to work out how they’ll return to Hawkins to save their friends. When all feels lost, Eleven comes up with a plan to help them from Nevada by using a sensory deprivation tank to “piggyback” off Max’s mind and fight Vecna. Argyle has just the place as they head to the nearest Surfer Boy Pizza to convert a dough freezer and a lot of salt into what El needs.
While this is all happening, there are some pretty huge moments going on in the background. Hopper and Joyce finally admit their feelings for each other as they share their first kiss. Steve tells Nancy how he feels about her as he shares his hopes for their future together. Will tells Mike to trust in himself and his feelings for Eleven as he tearfully speaks about “feeling different” from other people. He later has a heart-to-heart with his brother Jonathan, who reassures him that he’ll love him no matter what. Max and Lucas also finally speak through their feelings as they share an adorable plan to go to the movies together when this is all over.
Back in Hawkins, the gang have a plan. They’re going to use Max as bait to distract Vecna while Nancy, Steve, and Robin head to Henry’s house in the Upside Down to attack his body. Here it all gets very Inception as everyone takes on their part of the plan in a different dimension. At first, it seems to be working, as Eleven helps Max fight Vecna in one of her memories. While this is happening, Dustin and Eddie distract the Demobats in the trailer park in the Upside Down to try and buy the others more time.
But quickly everything starts to go wrong. The Demobats are getting in and Eddie decides to be a hero and distracts them by luring them to him, but he’s too injured. By the time Dustin gets to him, it’s too late as he dies in his arms. In Russia, Hopper is in mortal danger after he lures a Demogorgon into the fighting pitch. Murray rains down fire on them. Meanwhile, jock Jason has turned up to where Erica, Max, and Lucas are as he tries to make Lucas bring Max back to life from her coma.
Max starts to be lifted into the air as Vecna is about to enact his final kill. Eleven is trapped, watching, and it’s only Mike’s words that allow her to come back to her powers as he tells her he loves her, giving her the strength to fight back against Vecna. The tide turns as Vecna is injured by Eleven in this weird other dimension, while Steve and Robin fire Molotov cocktails at him in the Upside Down. Nancy shoots him through a window. Eleven then goes into Max’s mind as she tries desperately to bring her back to life. It seems she’s about to be lost forever. And while Vecna appears to die, his plan is still enacted. Max technically dies, his plan to commit four murders succeeding as gates to the Upside Down tear through Hawkins. Eleven puts her hand on Max’s heart and tries to bring her back.
Two days later, the fallout of Vecna opening the gates is felt throughout the town. People are leaving Hawkins and the local high school is set up as an “earthquake” relief center. Steve, Robin, and Dustin start helping out, and Eddie’s uncle comes in. In a heartbreaking scene, Dustin tells him what happened and how Eddie died as a hero. The others head to the hospital to see how Max is doing. We find out she’s still in a coma as the doctors don’t know if she’ll ever wake up. They head to Hopper’s old cabin in the woods to try and clean up the place, so that Eleven can live there. Hopper shows up and is reunited with Eleven – she finds out that he’s alive after all, bursting into tears.
However, as Vecna promised, this is all just the beginning of the end. Hawkins is dying. Upside Down particles sweep across the town, and our heroes look on as the color drains from the ground. As Will suggests, Vecna is nearby – and he won’t stop “until he’s taken everyone.”
Does Eddie really die in Stranger Things?
Sadly, Eddie was the major victim of the finale, his wounds from the Demobats proving too much to survive. He dies in Dustin’s arms as Eddie tells him: “I didn’t run away this time, right? You’re going to have to look after those little sheep for me right.” His fate is confirmed in a news report, the reporter suggesting he is missing and presumed dead – his body hasn’t been found but that’s because dies in the Upside Down, rather than in Hawkins. Eddie was one of the best Stranger Things characters to grace the screen in a long while – you can read our in memoriam for Eddie Munson through that link.
Joseph Quinn, who plays Eddie on the show, has opened up a bit about his character’s fate – as well as if he could return. Speaking to RadioTimes.com (opens in new tab), he said of coming back to the show: “I don’t know, I was thinking… me and Joe Keery were discussing ways in which I could [come back]. Maybe I’d be a figment of Gaten’s imagination or something like that if there could be some room for something a bit supernatural.” Although, the actor did add: “My suspicion is that Eddie has done what he needed to do for the Brothers.”
Is Max dead or alive?
Things are still looking very touch and go for Max, who is struggling to recover from Vecna’s onslaught against her. She’s in hospital in a coma with her legs and arms in a cast, and she’s likely not going to be able to see again. Lucas tells his friends that her heart stopped before coming back, but he’s not sure if she’ll wake up again. Eleven keeps quiet – not telling the team that she was the one who helped revive her.
This is the first time we see Eleven’s healing powers. It appears she managed to bring Max back from the dead. Are these new powers she’s inherited? Or simply an evolution of her powers? Or did she somehow inherit them from Vecna as she attacked him in the other dimension?
Unfortunately, the question of whether Max is really dead or alive remains. As Eleven wonders her mind, she sees nothing there at all. Eleven screams her name, but there’s no reply. There’s only darkness. It’s not clear what this means – but we’re going to need another miracle for Max to be able to survive.
Speaking to Deadline (opens in new tab), Max actor Sadie Sink shared some insight into her character’s fate. She was quizzed about if the Duffer Brothers told her is Max will die in season 5. “They’ve been very secretive about season five in general,” she replied. “We did have a conversation. They called me before I read the ninth episode because in the script it literally says that Max dies. So they called me beforehand and were like, ‘just warning you, this is in there, so you’re not like truly shocked.’ I have no idea what’s coming in five and what that looks like. Max’s storyline is very up in the air, ’cause obviously she’s in a coma and Eleven can’t find her in the void. So who knows where she is and what state she’s in.”
Did Vecna survive the battle for Hawkins? Where is Vecna now?
Our first clue that Vecna may have survived the battle comes when Nancy, Steve, and Robin go downstairs to where his body should be – but he’s not there. Then Will, back in Hawkins, says he can feel his presence, and the hairs on the back of his neck spike. He tells Mike that their battle is far from over: “Now that I’m here in Hawkins, I can feel him and he’s hurting but he’s still alive. It’s strange knowing now who it was this whole time.” We don’t know where Vecna is hiding but you can almost guarantee that he’ll be back – and probably more powerful than ever. For more, check out our deep dive on who dies in Stranger Things season 4, Volume 2.
What is happening to Hawkins? What is the snow?
In the final moments, we see Holly Wheeler look out the window and say it’s snowing. Bunt in fact, it’s the particles from the Upside Down, showing that the dimension is beginning to bleed into Hawkins. This is all part of Vecna’s plan – he wants to see his world combine with ours. “Hawkins will burn and fall, with the rest of this senseless, broken world,” he tells Eleven. “I will be there to pick up the pieces when it does and remake it into something beautiful.”
Nancy has seen what this will look like, Vecna having showed her a vision of his plan. She told the others at the time: “I saw a dark cloud spreading over Hawkins, downtown on fire, dead soldiers, and this giant creature with a gaping mouth. There were so many monsters, an army and they were coming into Hawkins.” The first evidence of this the gang looking around and the world draining of color, plants dying all around them, and Hawkins burning in the distance.
Where was Vecna back in the early seasons of Stranger Things?
In the finale, Vecna tells Max that she’s much braver than her brother Billy was, confirming that he was linked to the Mind Flayer – it appears Vecna was essentially the captain, and the Mind Flayer was an instrument of destruction. Vecna confirms this when he tells Eleven what happened to him after he was forced into the Upside Down. He was lost, wandering the dimension when he came across the beast, which looked just like the spiders he had befriended as a child. Vecna takes control of the entity, using its power to enact out his vengeful plan. While we didn’t meet the series’ true antagonist until season 4, he’s been calling the shots this whole time. And as Brenner/Papa says, he’s been getting stronger.
How much do Hopper and Joyce know about what happened with Vecna?
When Hopper and Joyce were in Russia, all they knew was that their children were in danger, but they didn’t know from what. But when they reconcile with Eleven, it seems they’ve been filled in on what went down. It’s possible that Owens’ colleague who dropped them off told them what happened, or maybe they don’t know everything just yet. In the next season, we could see some more exposition on this, but it’s not clear if this will happen off-camera.
Is Murray still alive?
The last we saw of Murray, Enzo, and Uri, they were being whisked off in a helicopter back to the US. While we don’t see them again in the final episode, it seems pretty certain that they also made it to the States. What we don’t yet know is what the repercussions will be for the Russians – or if we’ll see them again in season 5. It’s possible that they’ll be given immunity for their help saving Joyce and Hopper.
Who else died in the battle for Hawkins?
Aside from Eddie, a news report confirms that 22 people have died, as well as countless others being in hospital and missing. One character we know who is among the dead is Jason, whose body was ripped in half when the gates to the Upside Down opened. However, it’s not yet clear if anyone else we know is among the victims yet.
What is Will hiding?
Will is keeping a secret, but he’s not ready to share what it is yet. In episode 8, he opens up to Mike about feeling different from other people. He tells his best friend with tears in his eyes: “When you’re different, sometimes you feel like a mistake.” Jonathan speaks to him later about this in the Surfer Boy Pizza kitchen as he reassures him that he’ll love him no matter what. Will clearly doesn’t feel ready to share whatever it is he’s hiding yet, but it’s a beautiful moment between the brothers.
Will Nancy and Jonathan stay together? What’s next for Steve?
The Nancy, Jonathan, and Steve love triangle has been around since the first season, but the events of season 4 have made everything more complicated. Steve and Nancy grew closer, with Steve confessing he still had feelings for her. Before Nancy could reply, they were interrupted so we don’t yet know if she returns these. Jonathan has also been struggling with how he feels about Nancy, as he told Argyle he’s yet to apply to the same college as her as he doesn’t know if he wants them to stay together. By the end of the season, they’ve reconciled but a lot is left unsaid. Just catch Steve’s heartbroken look as they hug when Jonathan returns to Hawkins and you’ll know there’s a lot more to tell about their story.
What happened with Sullivan and Dr. Owens?
The last time we saw these two was back in Nevada when Sullivan ordered the kill shot on Eleven. She survived by taking down the helicopter and managed to escape with the Surfer Boy Pizza gang. There was a big explosion, and Sullivan steps outside of Brenner’s labs and see the Pizza truck driving off – unable to catch them as his form of transport has just been blown up. No doubt he will be back in season 5. Dr. Owens’ fate is a little more confused, as we don’t know whether he survived the attack in the lab, or even if he managed to escape from his handcuffs. We’ll have to wait and see, though he is perhaps one of the less key characters in this story.
Is there a Stranger Things season 4 post-credits scene?
There is no Stranger Things season 4, Volume 2 post-credits scene. There was a sort-of post-credits scene mid-way through the season, but there’s no tag at the end. Instead, we’re left to think about Eleven and the gang looking over a burning Hawkins, with no sign of exactly what happens next.
Will there be a Stranger Things season 5?
We’ve mentioned it already: Netflix has already confirmed that Stranger Things season 5 is on the way. However, it will be the show’s last season, as this story comes to an end. You can read everything we know about Stranger Things season 5 through that link.
For what to watch next, check out the best Netflix shows and the best Netflix movies available right now. And for more on Stranger Things, check out our rundown of the biggest Stranger Things season 4, Volume 2 Easter eggs and references