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What Are Critics Saying About Netflix's 'Stranger Things?'

Netflix's signature hit returns after three years.

In a rare bit of good news for Netflix, “Stranger Things” is finally back. 

As you’ve probably heard, Netflix  (NFLX) - Get Netflix Inc. Report hasn’t been having the best year. 

The so-called “pandemic bounce” has worn off now that people are going back outside, and the company announced last month that it had lost 200,000 global subscribers in the first quarter of the year. Even worse, it projected that it will lose another 2 million global net paid additions over the three months ending in June, it’s first major drop in more than a decade.  

As a result, the company has laid off about 150 employees and seen its stock drop precipitously, with a 63% loss since last year. 

When “Stranger Things” is at its best, it’s top quality nostalgic escapism. You can understand why Netflix executives might be in the mood for that. (To say nothing of literally anyone paying any attention to the news.)

‘Stranger Things’ Is One Of Netflix’s Biggest Hits

Now, to be fair here, no one show is going to be able to turn around Netflix’s fortunes. Let’s not ask too much of the Duffer Brothers.

Netflix is churning out subscribers for all kinds of reasons, including an increasingly crowded streaming market, social media platforms such as Tik-Tok scooping up young eyeballs and a relative dearth of recognizable intellectual property. 

(While it wouldn’t be technically accurate to say that Disney and Warner Bros. own every recognizable popular culture entity…it certainly does feel that way sometimes.) 

But literally anything that could change the conversation around Netflix would be helpful at the moment. 

Created by Matt and Ross Duffer, “Stranger Things” debuted in the summer of 2016. Netflix was already several years into the original content game by then, and had had great success with original dramas such as “Orange Is the New Black” and the various Marvel shows. 

But “Stranger Things” was something else, and it turned out to be the four-quadrant hit (i.e., appealing to people of all genders and ages) that Netflix needed.

A loving tribute to Steven Spielberg’s ‘80s oeuvre and the early work of Stephen King (a short hand for the character Eleven is basically “what if ‘E.T.’ was also ‘Firestarter’”?), it became a sleeper hit in 2016, to the point that #justiveforbarb became an omnipresent Twitter tag.

Netflix's 'Stranger Things.'
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What Are Critics Saying About The New Season Of ‘Stranger Things’?

As with nearly everything that becomes popular, “Stranger Things” has always had its detractors, as there are critics who feel the show never rises above the level of pastiche.

But “Stranger Things” also has its defenders, with many praising the young cast and lauding the show for delivering blockbuster thrills in a television format.

After a lengthy break necessitated by the pandemic, the show is finally back on May 27th for its fourth season. This season will be broken up into two parts, with the second part arriving on July 1st. 

And Netflix is pulling out all the stops to make sure you know the show is back.

The Duffer Brothers, who recently had to deal with spoilers leaking via a Monopoly game, have indicated that this will be the penultimate season, though Netflix will no doubt try to talk them into spin-offs and such.

But until that last season arrives, what are critics saying about the new one?

Let's just say it's a mixed response.

The Hollywood Reporter notes that "The midseason finale of Stranger Things is 98 minutes, and five of the other six episodes are over 70," and writer Daniel Fienberg thinks that makes for an unwieldy viewing experience.

He also notes that "this is the most violent and frequently gross 'Stranger Things' season to date.

While he appreciates the ambition, Rolling Stone's Alan Sepinwall also takes issue with how long all the episodes now run, deeming it all a bit bloated.

Also, puberty is relentless, and Sepinwall can't help but notice that "Finn Wolfhard’s Mike looks like he could play power forward for the Pacers."

Variety also thinks this season needed an editor. We're noticing a theme.

Some people like it, though. Entertainment Weekly's Kristen Baldwin thinks the new season is a return to form.