Forget Obi-Wan — Stranger Things season 4 has everything at stake

Millie Bobby Brown in Stranger Things; Ewan McGregor in Obi-Wan Kenobi
(Image credit: Netflix and Disney Plus)

When we say "streaming wars," it often feels like hyperbole. But when Stranger Things season 4 and Obi-Wan Kenobi's show are actually debuting against each other a week from Friday (May 27), it's not hard to actually feel like two of the best streaming services are actually coming to blows. 

Yes, in the war for eyes and subscription dollars, Netflix is sending its best demogorgons and super-powered teens charging at Disney Plus, which is calling upon the force-powers of a true Jedi Master and his former Padawan. The good thing about this clash is that we can all win, provided we have accounts for both. You don't need to choose. Except when it comes to what you'll watch first.

I've already made my personal choice. Even though I'll likely be watching some of each show on screeners, I know that I'm far more excited to go back to Hawkins than I am that galaxy far, far away. So I figured I could explain why for anyone who is trying to prioritize the simultaneous launches.

Stranger Things season 4 is the beginning of the end

I've appreciated Stranger Things ever since it started, but even I had some fatigue going into the new season. Fatigue that was utterly erased in a couple of minutes. 

It's not just that Stranger Things season 4 feels more important because it's the penultimate season, but the stakes are finally going up. When Paul Reiser's Dr. Sam Owens told Eleven in the Stranger Things season 4 trailer that she was crucial for "winning this war," I got curious.

Being more hyped for Obi-Wan Kenobi sounds like Upside Down thinking.

But later in that trailer, I got the biggest reason to be hyped. That was when Vecna, a big bad scary beast said "you’ve broken everything. Your suffering is almost at an end." And this moment made me feel like Stranger Things is finally evolving in the right way.

In previous seasons, the kids, Hopper and Joyce have taken on beings from the Upside Down, but ones that weren't speaking. It almost felt like we were seeing a never-ending horde of cronies. And to use the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a point of comparison, I was getting tired of all the Chitauri and wondered when Thanos was coming. Or any villain that felt of merit. 

Vecna, as seen in the Stranger Things season 4 trailer

(Image credit: Netflix via YouTube)

And then I got much more reason to be excited. David Harbour (Hopper himself) confirmed Vecna's importance at the Stranger Things season 4 premiere, telling Variety "we've never seen something as calculatedly psychologically evil as [Vecna]. That's exciting because he is a true big bad that we've needed in the series."

But don't worry about a too-abrupt change of pace. Vecna is still a Stranger Things villain, as it's name stems from a Dungeons and Dragons character, a lich (an undead creature). So, the show I've followed for three seasons is evolving but keeping its roots? Count me in.

Obi-Wan Kenobi plays for nostalgia I don't have

The Obi-Wan Kenobi show feels like the last shot for the old Star Wars, at least for me. I'll admit it has a high degree of difficulty: Obi-Wan is positioned in that weird moment in Star Wars history, between Episode III — Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV — A New Hope. 

The Obi-Wan Kenobi show doesn't feel as important. There are no stakes. We know what happens next.

Highly connected to the not-exactly-beloved prequel trilogy, the Obi-Wan Series stars Ewan McGregor as Kenobi and Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader. And that was where I begin to feel the power of the force waning. I didn't really have a strong affinity for the prequel trilogy, as the original trilogy is my starting point with the series. I was in college when the prequel trilogy came out, and it just didn't click with me. 

Concept art for the forthcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney Plus series

(Image credit: Disney)

On top of that, I didn't watch The Clone Wars or Rebels, the animated series that have ties to the Obi-Wan series. Christiansen told EW that those shows "did a lot with [Obi-Wan and Anakin]," to "further explore the relationship." And so I hope the Obi-Wan show doesn't rely on those shows.

That said, I'm not made of the same reconstructed parts that Lord Vader's armor is. I got a little excited when I watched the Obi-Wan Kenobi trailer. The Grand Inquisitor's double-bladed weapon looks cool, and I'm curious how Obi-Wan vs Anakin II will go. Except, you know, we already know.

Both Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi survive this movie, and spoiler warning the former takes down the latter in A New Hope. And because we know that for certain, the Obi-Wan Kenobi show doesn't feel as important. There are no stakes. We know what happens next.

Outlook: Who should watch Obi-Wan first?

Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) yells as explosions appear behind her in the Stranger Things trailer

(Image credit: Netflix)

Stranger Things season 4 is also going to be released with a greater urgency: the first half of the season (comprised of five episodes) drops all at once. Obi-Wan Kenobi on the other hand, will have two episodes to start and then weekly released going forward. I prefer this weekly cycle, but that's neither here nor there. 

Obi-Wan Kenobi, since it doesn't have much ability to change Star Wars' canon, matters most in a meta sense. It's a potential moment of redemption for the prequels, their fans and Hayden Christiansen. I like that for the fans and for Christiansen. It reminds me of what Andrew Garfield's recently experienced. If you're having a hard time choosing what to watch first, I bet your opinion of the prequels — or the ability to be up to date on Obi-Wan after watching just two episodes and not five.

So, I enter Obi-Wan Kenobi feeling like it's not my top priority, I know others are (with good reason) exist on the opposite side of the remote. To me, though, being more hyped for Obi-Wan Kenobi sounds like Upside Down thinking.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.