Nearly three long years after season 3 graced our screens, Stranger Things season 4 has finally arrived on Netflix today (Friday, May 27).
Obviously, plenty has changed in the real world since we last visited Hawkins, Indiana, but just as much looks to be different in the show. There's a couple of new locations (at least) in California and Russia, new monsters for Eleven and the gang to fight and new problems to negotiate. Oh, and a terrible new haircut for Will.
There are also some new characters alongside plenty of returning favorites. But with such a big cast list, it can be hard to keep track of who's who and what's happened to them over the previous 25 episodes.
So, before you settle down to watch the seven new (and long) episodes, here's our guide to the cast and characters of Stranger Things season 4. Oh, and also check out our guide to how the main Stranger Things characters have grown over the four seasons.
Stranger Things season 4: Returning cast
Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown)
Stranger Things is very much an ensemble show, but Eleven is as close to a lead character as it gets. Then again, she can throw buses down the street and open gateways to another dimension using only her mind, so that’s fair enough.
Eleven, or El, or Jane to use her birth name, was very much a loose cannon in season 1, unsure of how to use her power and not understanding much about the world beyond the fact that she liked Eggos and Mike. But a brief spell with an outlaw gang in S2 gave her control over her abilities, while her S3 friendship with Max taught her about more mundane matters such as shopping and boys.
In Hopper, she gained — and then lost — the closest thing she’s had to family, and it will be intriguing to see whether a new life in California with the Byers clan works out — and whether her long-distance relationship with Mike can survive.
Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard)
Though his best friend Will is the one at the center of much of the drama in Hawkins, it’s Mike who gets the most screen time. He’s intensely loyal to his D&D-playing pals, but is prone to bursts of temper and has fallen out with most of them at one stage or another. Often that’s been related to his relationship with Eleven; he was the first person she bonded with and has struggled to balance his loyalties to the group with those to her. As the most mature of the gang, he’s also found himself torn away from the more childish pursuits of the others. With Will and El now in California, will his focus be elsewhere in S4?
Will Byers (Noah Schnapp)
Poor old Will. Marooned in the Upside-Down in S1, possessed and catatonic for much of S2, then sidelined in S3 as Mike, Lucas and Dustin all discovered girls, he’s not had the easiest few years. But in his devoted mother Joyce and sensible brother Jonathan he has a strong family unit that has now expanded to include Eleven in California. The events of the first three seasons will obviously have affected his mental state, so the big question for Will in S4 is whether he can ever have a normal life. Oh, and whether his hair can get any worse.
Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin)
Geeky Lucas is a key member of the D&D-playing group. He’s particularly close to Dustin and Mike, although a shared attraction to Max threatened to cause problems with the former, and his initial distrust of Eleven led to a fight with the latter. Still, that’s all sorted out now, and Lucas played a key role in taking down the Mind Flayer in S3, thanks to his impressive slingshot skills. Season 4 will apparently see him join the basketball team in an attempt to become more popular, but we'll have to see how that goes.
Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo)
Speaking of nerdy, here’s Dustin: the archetypal high-school science geek who’s always embarking on convoluted projects and experiments such as building a radio receiver capable of intercepting Russian spy broadcasts and, er, raising a pet demodog. His goofball humor makes him the most instantly lovable of the Hellfire Club, while his double-act with Steve is behind many of the show’s funniest moments. And though he lost out to Lucas in the race to romance Max — and gave S2 one of its most heartbreaking moments at the school dance — he’s now going strong with his long-distance girlfriend, Suzie. Just don’t let him look after your cat.
Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink)
Californian native Max is everything the boys in the gang aren’t: streetwise, practical and, well, cool. That’s made her a vital part of the group, with skills such as her ability to drive and knowledge of first-aid proving invaluable. Her on-off relationship with Lucas hasn’t always been smooth — mostly because he’s so clueless — but her friendship with El appears strong enough to endure their separation in S4. A bigger issue is the death of her brother, Billy, in S3. Though he’d treated her terribly at times, how she copes with her grief seems set to play a big role in this season.
Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder)
One of the best TV moms, Joyce Byers will stop at nothing to protect her sons, Will and Jonathan. And she gets plenty of opportunities to do that in Hawkins, what with the whole portal-between-a-monster-filled-world-just-behind-her-house thing. Throughout it all, Joyce stands resolute, refusing to believe Will is dead in S1 (without which he might really have been killed) and playing a key role in freeing him of the mind flayer’s possession in S2. Given the death of Bob in S2 and the supposed death of Hopper in S3, it’s understandable that she decided to move the family to California in S4. The question now is whether her luck will finally change.
Jim Hopper (David Harbour)
Hawkins’ chief of police is another character who’s had a hard life, losing his young daughter to cancer and his wife as a result of their shared grief. He subsequently spent most of the first three seasons of Stranger Things being beaten up, blown up, assaulted by killer vines from another dimension or thrown across rooms by Eleven. Or just jilted by Joyce.
Worse still, it seemed at the end of Season 3 that we might have seen the last of those wonderful flowery shirts, but we now know that he’ll be back to swear, sweat, smoke and smack bad guys about in S4.
To recap, Hopper was seemingly killed when Joyce shut down The Key, the Russians’ dastardly machine for re-opening the gate to the Upside-Down. But an S4 trailer entitled ‘From Russia with love’ showed a shaven-headed Hopper doing manual labor in a gulag work gang — so presumably one thread in the new series will be how he gets back to the USA.
Steve Harrington (Joe Keery)
From dishy Steve Harrington the über-jock to hapless Steve the ice cream slinger at Scoops Ahoy in the space of three seasons, it’s been quite the ride for Hawkins High’s resident heart-throb. In truth, his arc has been by far the least convincing in the show: though he was never quite as nasty as his friends Tommy and Carol in S1, he was still a million miles from the goofball idiot he’d become by S3. Hopefully season 4 will restore a little pride to a character who played a pivotal role in defeating the armies of the Upside-Down three times. The fact that he’s swapped ice cream parlor for video-rental shop bodes well; anyone would struggle to be taken seriously in a sailor’s uniform.
Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer)
In contrast to her former beau, Nancy’s character has been skillfully developed by the ST writing team. She’s still impetuous at times, but her journey from flighty teenage girl to sensible, ambitious woman has been far more believable than Steve’s arrested development. It appears that S4 will see her working as an editor at the Hawkins High newspaper, which could be seen as something of a backwards step from the Hawkins Post but which presumably has the advantage of not being run by a zombie. Her relationship with Jonathan, meanwhile, will be tested by the fact they’ll now be 2,000 miles apart.
Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton)
Jonathan takes his duties as an older brother very seriously, whether he’s searching through creepy forests at night, exposing the Hawkins Lab’s secrets or introducing Will to The Clash. Then again, Jonathan takes everything very seriously. Come on, man, smile occasionally! Maybe a change of scenery and a bit more sun courtesy of a move to California will help. Although on the flip side, he’s now got to deal with being on the other side of the country from girlfriend Nancy.
Erica Sinclair (Priah Ferguson)
Lucas’ little sister had a minor role in season 2 but really came to the forefront in S3. Brave, sharp witted and very fond of ice cream, she quickly became a fan favorite and it’s no surprise that she’ll have a bigger role in S4. Her relationship with Lucas can be fractious — understandable, given they’re siblings — but with Will and Eleven now out of the picture, she seems set to play a key role in the Hellfire Club’s future.
Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke)
Though Steve’s former classmate and coworker at Scoops Ahoy tends towards the sarcastic and cynical, she’s also smart. After all, it was her mastery of language that helped unravel the Russians’ code, and her quick thinking that ultimately helped Steve get a position alongside her at the Family Video store. She’s still working there with him as S4 starts, providing plenty of opportunities for further gags at his expense.
Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman)
Paranoid? No, they really are out to get Murray Bauman. A former investigative journalist, Bauman was instrumental in revealing the Hawkins Lab’s nefarious activities and winning posthumous justice for Barbara. He also played a key role in helping turn Alexei against his Russian comrades and in gaining access to their bunker. Plus, for good measure, he played matchmaker to Nancy and Jonathan — but there’s no evidence the authorities held that against him.
Other returning cast members
- Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery): Max's brother died at the end of S3, but he is listed among the cast members; presumably he will feature in a flashback at some kind, but it's also possible he could make a fuller return somehow.
- Karen Wheeler (Cara Buono): Karen Wheeler, mother to Mike and Nancy (and little Holly) had a lucky escape in S3, when she decided to resist Billy's amorous advances and thus avoided being turned into part of a giant sludge monster. She's likely to return in S4.
- Ted Wheeler (Joe Chrest): The mild-mannered father of the Wheeler household has somehow remained oblivious to the supernatural goings-on around him. And indeed, to almost everything else. That's unlikely to change this season.
- Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine): Rumor has it that Brenner, the former head of the Hawkins Lab, could return in S4.
Stranger Things season 4: New cast members
We know of at least 13 new cast members in Stranger Things season 4, but one in particular caught our eye…
Victor Creel (Robert Englund)
Yes, that's Freddie Krueger himself, Robert Englund, coming to Stranger Things season 4; as if it wasn't spooky enough already. He'll play Victor Creel, a disturbed man who's locked in a psychiatric hospital for a 1950s murder.
The other known cast members are:
- Peter Ballard (Jamie Campbell Bower): A worker at the psychiatric hospital.
- Argyle (Eduardo Franco): A pizza delivery driver and stoner who befriends Jonathan in California.
- Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn): The head of the Hawkins High D&D club, The Hellfire Club.
- Dmitri (Tom Wlaschiha): A Russian prison guard.
- Lt. Colonel Sullivan (Sherman Augustus): An army man who's fighting the evil in Hawkins.
- Jason Carver (Mason Dye): The rich kid at Hawkins High.
- Yuri (Nikola Djuricko): A Russian smuggler.
- Vickie (Amybeth McNulty): A cool band nerd who may or may not have a romantic entanglement with one of the main characters.
- Patrick (Myles Truitt): A Hawkins High basketball star.
- Ms. Kelly (Regina Ting Chen): The school's much-loved counsellor.
- Chrissy (Grace Van Dien): Hawkins High's lead cheerleader.
- Unknown (Levon Hawke): A punk who we suspect could be Robin's brother.
Stranger Things season 4 arrives on Netflix in two parts. Part one hit the service on May 27, with part two joining it on July 1.