Stranger Issues Season 4 is brimming with gut-punch moments: the humiliation of Eleven by a relentless bully, terrifying encounters with the villain Vecna, and the ultimate reveal of that character’s origin story.
However arguably essentially the most emotionally highly effective scene of the season’s first quantity arrives in episode 4, when Max (Sadie Sink) is held psychologically captive by Vecna, a serial killer from the Upside Down who entrances and tortures his victims with their worst fears and experiences earlier than murdering them. The showdown between Vecna and Max unfolds to the soundtrack of Kate Bush’s ’80s hit “Operating Up That Hill,” a percussion and synth-driven ballad about making a take care of God that occurs to be Max’s favourite music.
Max’s previous expertise with trauma — particularly, watching the Thoughts Flayer brutally kill her stepbrother Billy (Dacre Montgomery) in Season 3 — makes her a goal for Vecna’s manipulation. She’s turn out to be withdrawn and adrift, pulling away from her associates and sinking deeper into what appears like despair. Whereas sitting at Billy’s grave, she weeps over the loss, trembling as she says aloud how and why he died, and confessing she will’t share these particulars with anybody else.
When Vecna seems on the gravesite, it is first as Billy, mutilated, bloody, and desirous to deepen the emotional wound that’s Max’s survivor’s guilt. Vecna as Billy tells Max: “[L]ate at night time, you’ve typically wished to comply with me. Comply with me into dying. That’s the reason I’m right here, Max, to finish your struggling as soon as and for all” — alluding maybe to suicidal emotions Max hasn’t talked about.
Max tries to outrun Vecna when he materializes as himself, however finds herself within the Upside Down. Whereas caught in Vecna’s grip, a tear at the hours of darkness dimension reveals her associates on the opposite aspect, desperately attempting to avoid wasting her from Vecna’s curse. After all, it is “Operating Up That Hill,” blasted into Max’s headphones that breaks Vecna’s maintain on her.
As Vecna prepares to take her life, Max closes her eyes and sees joyful reminiscences: laughing with El, dressing up as a Ghostbuster for Halloween, dancing with Lucas (and kissing him). She breaks free, momentarily incapacitates Vecna, and runs with the dedication to stay towards her associates, dodging particles that Vecna throws in her path. Max hurls herself by the portal, awakes from the trance, and is held by Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin). “I assumed we misplaced you,” he cries. “I am nonetheless right here. I am nonetheless right here,” she says.
For some followers who’ve skilled despair and suicidal ideas, or tried suicide, the prolonged scene reads as greater than only a traditional psychological thriller. As an alternative, it seems like a metaphor concerning the problem of overcoming suicidal ideas and emotions. That interpretation resonated with quite a few commenters in a Stranger Issues subreddit put up about Max’s escape from Vecna, although the phrases “suicide” and “despair” are by no means uttered within the present.
“This episode hit me arduous too, as a result of once I was at my most depressed, I discovered my favorite band, and that made me cling onto life,” one commenter wrote. One other mentioned: “I cried watching this scene as a result of it captured so effectively what it was wish to undergo a significant depressive episode and persuade myself to maintain going.”
Netflix declined to touch upon the scene, however these followers’ interpretation won’t be far off. The present’s music supervisor, Nora Felder, instructed Selection: “In some methods, this scene might be understood as alluding extra broadly to the interior struggles with personal demons that many teenagers wrestle with throughout troubled occasions, particularly when feeling alone and estranged from others.”
Brett Wean, director of writing and leisure outreach for the American Basis for Suicide Prevention, felt equally.
“Whereas I’m not sure what the Duffer Brothers supposed with this sequence by way of it being an allegory for somebody going through despair or suicidal ideas, it definitely tells me one thing that persons are assigning that means to it on this approach,” he wrote in an electronic mail. “I believe viewers’ interpretation…speaks to the place persons are at proper now, significantly younger folks, as lots of them face adversity and isolation on account of the pandemic.”
Protecting components towards suicide embody connections to associates, household, and neighborhood help. Isolation and hostile childhood experiences, together with verbal and bodily abuse of the type that Vecna’s different victims appeared to endure, are among the many danger components.
Vic Welle, a psychological well being peer help coach who has deliberate however not carried out suicide makes an attempt, instructed Mashable that they discovered the scene highly effective.
“The depiction of what it is wish to be at that time of despair is basically captured effectively,” Welle mentioned. “The Upside Down as this place of distortion and a spot of virtually hopelessness the place Vecna is saying the worst issues, the worst fears you might need about your self…and what in the event that they’re true? That is what it is wish to be in that place of feeling utterly nugatory.”
“The depiction of what it is wish to be at that time of despair is basically captured effectively.”
But what makes the scene so memorable isn’t just its portrayal of psychological and emotional disaster, however the swift, heartfelt efforts from Max’s associates to avoid wasting her life. They do not flinch at attempting to rescue her. They know which music to play as a result of they have been paying consideration, they usually do not surrender, whilst Max is the one who finally makes the selection to outlive.
“The actually hopeful piece is the position of connection to neighborhood and reminders of that means and objective,” mentioned Welle.
Whereas the scene is not any blueprint for assist somebody in a psychological well being disaster — the present continues to be only a sci-fi/horror sequence, in spite of everything — the spirit of Max’s associates’ intervention could also be value drawing on in actual life.
For these experiencing suicidal ideas and habits who additionally really feel like they lack emotional help, Welle mentioned the scene can as an alternative level to discovering neighborhood elsewhere. Within the absence of trusted, shut family and friends, Welle recommends Options to Suicide help teams just like the Massachusetts-based Wildflower Alliance, which gives digital conferences and has a listing of help teams folks can discover. Welle has participated in peer help teams after they felt unable to speak to their family members.
And whereas the foreboding sense that weak youth are doomed by Vecna works for the present’s narrative arc this season, Welle famous that experiencing trauma does not at all times result in despair or suicidal emotions and habits.
“If in case you have one thing actually enormous occur to you and you’re surrounded with compassion, assets, and the power to course of and make that means of that and combine that into your general life story, I believe that is actually totally different from having to hold that in isolation,” mentioned Welle, who describes themselves as a trauma and psychiatric survivor.
In the long run, Stranger Issues did not must spell any of this out. Between the profound writing, Sink’s masterful efficiency, and the impeccable music alternative, it was all there, ready for viewers who would perceive.
If you wish to speak to somebody or are experiencing suicidal ideas, Disaster Textual content Line supplies free, confidential help 24/7. Textual content CRISIS to 741741 to be linked to a disaster counselor. Contact the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI, Monday by Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. ET, or electronic mail [email protected] You can even name the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Right here is an inventory of worldwide assets.