Stranger Things season 4, episode 1 recap – the premiere explained

By Marc Miller
Published: May 27, 2022 (Last updated: February 17, 2024)
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Netflix Stranger Things season 4, episode 1 - The Hellfire Club - Netflix Series


Bolder and bloodier than one would expect, Stranger Things returns with a strong outing but is only one Hop away from returning to top form.

This recap of Netflix’s Stranger Things season 4, episode 1, “The Hellfire Club,” contains spoilers.

Access the archive of news, recaps, and reviews of Stranger Things.

Stranger Things season 4, episode 1 recap

It’s 1979, and Martin Brenner likes to start his day with a piping hot cup of coffee and time himself solving a crossword puzzle in under a minute. He heads to the office and grabs Ten, a young boy he is working with, to find anyone if he puts his mind to it. Brenner asks him to locate Dr. Ellis. However, Ten becomes terrified because he sees Dr. Ellis with a child named Six, and they’re now both dead. Brenner then hears screams and cries from outside. Suddenly, the door is thrown from its hinges and knocks the good doctor over.

When he wakes up, Ten is dead. He walks the halls, and countless dead bodies are sprawled over the floor. Blood and glass are everywhere. He enters a subject’s room, and someone who must be Eleven turns around. She has bloodstains all around her eyes. Brenner then asks her, “What have you done?” I’m guessing precisely what you taught her, Doc.

Fast forward to the spring of 1986, and we wonder to ourselves if the kids are alright. There have been some changes in the Stranger Things universe. El (Millie Brown) and Will (Noah Schnapp) are in Lenora Hills, California. El is making an adorable diorama of Hopper, including a fantastic mustache, and Will has grown taller and lengthier but appears to be wearing the exact sized clothes. Joyce (Winona Ryder) has a frustrating job working at home cold calling customers to buy sets of encyclopedias. Mike (Fynn Wolfhard) is getting ready to visit El for spring break. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) has the same long-distance girlfriend who changes his Spanish grade, and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) is on the basketball team in the hopes of becoming famous.

Then we have Max (Sadie Sinclair), who seems not to be dating Lucas anymore. She is suffering because the loss of her stepbrother, Billy, caused a rift at home. Max is now in a new house, and her mom works two jobs. She chooses not to tell her guidance counselor about her nightmares. She is suffering from posttraumatic stress. Max always has her head stuck between some headphones, and her grades suffer. The guys are part of The Hellfire Club, a group of freaks and geeks that is a punkier D&D. The boy’s substitute Lucas’s sister, Erica (Priah Ferguson), in for him when he can’t make the year’s final campaign because he’s playing in the championship game.

The older ones, Nancy (Natalie Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), are doing the long-distance thing. She is wearing her Emerson college shirt while working on the school paper. He is learning a trade and waiting for early acceptance. Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawk) are still friends working at Family video, and they share their girl troubles. Two new characters are significant. One is Chrissy, who is having auditory and visual hallucinations, like hearing her abusive mother criticize her and seeing spiders escaping from a grandfather clock in a tree. She wants to purchase some pot from Hellfire Club’s Eddie (Joseph Quinn) to calm her nerves.

But we will get back to them later. In the meantime, poor El is being terrorized by her new classmates. They make fun of her for paying tribute to Hopper. They knock her over and even smash the diorama she made. When she comes to tears, she tries to use her powers to fight back, but nothing happens. She is powerless, but why? Later in the episode, Lucas ends up winning the game on a buzzer-beater, but Mike and Dustin skip it to spend the night with the members of the Hellfire club. It appears the group may be breaking up.

Perhaps the biggest reveal comes in that Russian doll Joyce was sent. Murray tells her to break it open, but he thinks it is probably rigged with a bomb from the communist bastards across the Pacific. When Joyce does, she pulls out a note written with cutout letters. It says, “Hop is alive! He Looks ford too date, Pleaz to make.” Is Hopper alive or is someone playing a cruel prank? Frankly, it reads more like a ransom note than anything.

The ending

Now, Stranger Things takes a bloody, gruesome turn for the show that even made me take a step back. When Eddie takes Chrissy to his trailer park home for something more robust than weed, she wanders off while he goes to grab the Special K. She starts to hallucinate. She is now trapped in a two-story home. A woman at a sewing machine is scolding her. Finally, her father has his nose, mouth, and eyes glued and sewn shut and is screaming for help. Then, a dark, ominous figure that looks like a Demidog (maybe a Demigod?) corners her and tells Chrissy it is time to end her suffering.

Eddie comes out of the bathroom and finds Chrissy standing in the middle of the room, eyes fluttering back and forth while rolling in the back of her pretty little head. She is having a seizure, and Eddie is desperately trying to wake her up. The last thing he needs is a teenager having a medical emergency in his drug storage warehouse.

In Chrissy’s hallucination, the evil creature grabs her head by his claw and begins to lift her off the ground. The funny thing is, while Eddie is shaking the poor girl, he notices she begins to levitate. Has the upside-down world met the right side up without crossing over? He is terrified, and it only gets worse as the beautiful sweet cheerleader is thrown up against the ceiling. While Eddie looks up, all four limbs of Chrissy are broken and turned in a different agonizing way. Her jaw is separate and resting in a way that makes me think Chrissy is a big Jim Carrey fan. And finally, both of her eyes sink into the back of her head.

Welcome back, Stranger Things! Boy, have we missed you.

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