After the downpour in Season 3 Episode 3 of ‘Stranger Things’, Episode 4 of the Netflix show takes us back into the sun. However, this is not as much of a relief as it is more of a light shining on the rotten core of this idyllic town, that was only hinted at for so long.
For those unaware, this season has eight episodes, so this episode is smack dab in the middle. Accordingly, the Duffer brothers have already brought in a change of pace, from a casual introduction of characters and general unraveling of threats to the third episode, where they put a lot of narratives in motion, from secret Russians at the Starcourt Mall, to mysterious dropping of magnets and diseased rats, to the secret army Billy seems to be forming. Episode 4, titled ‘The Sauna Test’, is like a shot of adrenaline to the already pacy plot and we can anticipate that things will reach a crescendo in the next few episodes to come.
In the last episode, amidst all the things that happened, Will also realized that his goosebump-inducing chills were a sign that the Shadow Monster from Upside Down was back. Think of Will’s feeling as similar to Harry Potter’s scar acting up every time Voldemort is around. All differences are put aside as the squad gets back together to deal with Will’s problem and what it means. Well, all of the squad except Dustin, who is still tangled up in the Russian spy mystery at Starcourt Mall. Anyhow, our Hawkins group decides that the Shadow Monster must somehow still be trapped in our world instead of the Upside Down, and this creature must have found a new host. This host is none other than Billy, and following Will’s instructions and Mike’s ideas, the group devises a plan to trap and test Billy for being possessed by this monster.
In the meanwhile, Hopper, who received a beatdown from the unknown assailant in the last episode doles out some punches of his own, and the slithery Mayor Kline is at the receiving end of it. The sheriff makes the connection that he had seen the biker at the mayor’s office and is not afraid to get rough to get some answers, including the creative but sadistic use of a cigar cutting machine. Nancy and Jonathan’s rat investigation is stymied by their boss, and they get fired. We are not sure yet, but it seems as though they are also taking a break from their relationship since Nancy feels that Jonathan cannot understand his male privilege, and Jonathan feels Nancy cannot understand her financial privilege. This mystery takes the backseat for now, but the Starcourt mystery heats up and is one of the best parts of this episode.
The Starcourt squad (that’s what we are calling it) find a new member in Erica (the girl who kept asking for free ice cream samples). They use her to access the air ducts and enter the room guarded by the Russians. However, this exercise proves to raise more questions than answers since they discover some green stuff in protected test tubes and casings inside the room. What the green stuff is, is anybody’s guess but the room actually turns out to be an elevator leading somewhere underground. Where they are headed, is something that the next episode will unravel.