Stranger Things season 4, volume 2 ending explained — what just happened?

Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven, wearing her white vest
(Image credit: Netflix)

After nearly four hours of twists and turns, volume 2 of Stranger Things season 4 is at an end. Thankfully, there’s plenty to digest while we endure the (probably quite long) wait for Stranger Things season 5, which is unsurprising given the average episode length of season 4 as a whole comes to over 85 minutes.

If you watched the finale and still have questions, then look no further. Here’s Stranger Things season 4, volume 2’s ending explained, though beware: there are plenty of known unknowns and of course plenty of spoilers as well.

Stranger Things season 4 ending explained 

The build up to Stranger Things season 4’s grand finale focused on an attempt to take down Vecna once and for all. With Vecna requiring a fourth death to open the world to the Upside Down, Max volunteers as bait, with Lucas on hand to pull her out. 

Meanwhile, Dustin and Eddie aim to distract the Demobats protecting what turns out to be Vecna’s physical form, giving Steve, Nancy and Robin a free run at it. The third part of the scheme is in Russia, where Hopper, Joyce and Murray plan on killing a set of monsters who have absorbed particles from the Upside Down. By killing them, they reason, whatever they’re fighting will be weakened. 

The final piece of the puzzle is Eleven, who is remotely piggybacking in to Max’s viewpoint to offer psychic support. 

It’s a great plan on paper. But as Mike Tyson once quipped, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face” and that’s kind of what happens to the Stranger Things gang. Vecna bats away Eleven and traps Steve, Robin and Nancy in vines before working on finishing off Max. 

But thanks to sterling work from the Russian squad, Vecna is weakened and the Demobats are killed — albeit too late for Eddie who we can add to the series’ casualties list. Still, it’s enough to turn the tide, as Nancy, Steve and Robin are freed and use a combination of shotguns and molotov cocktails to wound Vecna. But is it too late for Max? The Upside Down gateway is open, so probably, however…

 Is Max still alive? 

The opening of the Upside Down gateway suggests that Max is dead, but we then see her in hospital in a coma. According to Lucas, her heart stopped before she came back, but it’s not clear if she’ll wake up again.

This is likely thanks to Eleven’s healing powers, but there may be limits to them. When Eleven wanders Max’s mind looking for signs of life, she sees nothing but darkness, and Max doesn’t reply to shouts. In short, it’s not looking good.

That said, Dr. Brennar did say that Vecna absorbs the people he kills, which means Max could still stand a fighting chance. We shall have to see.

But Vecna is dead, right? 

You wouldn’t bet on it. Not only is there suspiciously no body, but upon returning to Hawkins, Will senses that Vecna is still around there somewhere. “Now that I’m here in Hawkins, I can feel him and he’s hurting but he’s still alive,” he warned. “It’s strange knowing now who it was this whole time," he adds — a reference to the reveal that Vecna was apparently pulling the strings of other Stranger Things nasties from earlier seasons.

So who is definitely dead? 

Jason and Eddie are two clear victims. The former was ripped in half when the Upside Down gates opened, while the latter died in Dustin’s arms following a Demobat assault, heartbreakingly telling him “I didn’t run away this time, right?” 

And while a news report says that he is missing but presumed dead, that doesn’t feel like it’s going to be a twist: the reason the body hasn’t been found is because he died in the Upside Down rather than in Hawkins. The report mentions a total of 22 casualties with more in hospital or missing, but we assume those are mostly nameless residents, rather than key characters.

What’s with the rain/snow in Hawkins? 

At the end of the season, a young girl says that it’s raining in Hawkins. That would be far nicer than the actual truth: that particles of the Upside Down are bleeding into Hawkins. 

This is just the beginning, and it’s going to get worse first. Nancy got a look at Vecna’s plans and sumarized it to the group like this: “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.”

Given the season ends with the world draining of color with plants dying and Hawkins burning, it’s safe to say that season 5 of Stranger Things isn’t planning on starting off slowly.

So there will be a Stranger Things Season 5, then?

Oh yes: Stranger Things is thankfully immune from the curse of Netflix cancellations, and the company has confirmed that season 5 is in production, and that it will be the grand finale. We’d be surprised if it arrived before 2024, but when it does come, it will at least be bingeable in one go.  

Next: Stranger Things season 5 won't be resurrecting these characters. Plus, here’s the 9 new movies and shows to watch this weekend on Netflix, Hulu and more.

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.