Stranger Things season 4 ending explained: Is Vecna really dead? Is Max still alive? Is there any justice for Eddie? And is the Upside Down taking over Hawkins?

Stranger Things season 4 volume 2 had heartbreaking deaths, heart-swelling heroes, and lots of questions for season 5. Here's what happened - and a few moments you might have missed.

By Alex Fletcher Updated: 1 July 2022 - 2.22pm
Netflix Millie Bobby Brown's Eleven in the Stranger Things season 4 finale

The final two episodes in Stranger Thing's season 4 were the most bitchin’ in the show’s history.

Clocking in at nearly four hours, the epic finale managed to tie together dramatic showdowns in Russia, Hawkins and a Surfer Boy Pizza parlour(!?) as all our heroes came together to battle Vecna, Demo-dogs, Demogorgons, Demo-Bats, Upside Down spooky shadows and even some irritating high school jocks.

In the end, the good guys won… for now. But we lost some heroes along the way and others were left injured and fighting for their lives.

The two-and-a-half-hour final episode Piggyback along had metal guitar thrashing, brutal fights and heartbreak as it left us a blubbering mess on at least three occasions.

But if you were left confused or have questions about the ending, here's what you need to know about season 4 and how it leaves the door (three inches) open for season 5.

*WARNING: Season 4 Spoilers ahead*

Stranger Things season 4 review

Stranger Things season 4: Meet the cast

Who died in the Stranger Things season 4 finale?

Eddie Munson in Stranger Things season 4 Netflix

Eddie. Not Eddie!

Most fans had predicted Hellfire’s Eddie Munson wouldn’t make it out of season 4 alive, following on the show’s tradition of bumping off a guest star (Barb! Bob! Alexi!) every season. But after falling in love with the goofy, D&D-loving metalhead in Volume 1, we all prayed and hoped that we were wrong.

After spending most of Volume 1 on the run and hiding out from the Hawkins jocks, Eddie decided it was time for him to play the hero.

Steve warned Eddie and Dustin to look after themselves, but after the most awesome guitar-shredding action in the Upside Down, Eddie decided it was his time to stand up and fight.

Eddie slayed Metallica classic Master of Puppets to attract the attention of the Demo-bats and give the others enough time to destroy Vecna. And rather than escape with Dustin back into Hawkins, Eddie continued the fight with the Demo-bats until he was ultimately killed.

Our hearts broke for Eddie. Our hearts broke for Dustin. And in one of the final scenes, our hearts broke for Eddie’s uncle, who wept as Dustin handed him Eddie's necklace.

And worst of all, in Hawkins, Eddie is still being blamed for the deaths of Chrissy and the Hawkins teenagers. Justice for Eddie!

Matthew Modine as the mysterious Dr Brenner in Stranger Things season 4 talking to the Hawkins Lab subjects Netflix

He wasn’t the only character to fall in Volume 2. Matthew Modine’s Dr Brenner, who has been like a cat with nine lives, finally ran out of luck when he was shot down by the military as he tried to escape with Eleven.

Eleven couldn’t forgive ‘Papa’ for what he did to her in Hawkins Labs and said that she now realised that he was the monster, not her. The writers didn’t make Brenner an outright villain of the piece, but the flickers in his eyes as he rewatched her take down 001 and his unwillingness to let Eleven go, showed that he was a man who had become obsessed with the power and potential of the people he experimented on.

And Jason the basketball jock also got killed by the Upside Down ripping into Hawkins. But we don’t care about him after that epic brawl with Lucas.

How did Eleven save Max?

Sadie Sink as Max in Stranger Things Netflix

There wasn’t any way for Eleven and the California gang to get to Hawkins in time to stop Max offering herself up as bait to Vecna. So instead she used her powers to move into the mind of Max and fight Vecna within her friend’s memories.

All she needed to do that was a pizza freezer and a ton of salt. Time to stand up, Argyle! And if the Duffer brothers even dare to try killing off our favourite West Coast stoner in season 5, we’ll be having serious words.

When she ‘piggybacked’ into Max’s mind, Eleven was able to take on Vecna and initially had the upper hand over her nemesis. But 001 appeared more than happy to be reunited with his old enemy and pinned Eleven up to watch as he killed off all her friends.

Only when Mike began to communicate with Eleven about his true feelings was Eleven strong enough to break free and battle Vecna. At the same moment, Hopper and Murray were frying up the Demo-dogs, shadows and demogorgons in Russia, which weakened Vecna and allowed Robin, Steve and Nancy to get a shot at Vecna in the Upside Down.

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Is Max still alive?

Before Eleven could rescue Max, she began to suffer the same fate as Vecna’s other victims as her limbs were broken and her eyes rolled backwards.

After Eleven, Nancy, Steve and Robin fought off Vecna, Lucas was left cradling a blind and injured Max. But she wasn’t dead and Eleven attempted to use her powers to heal her friend.

When we next see Max in the hospital, Lucas reveals how Max was clinically dead, before miraculously coming back to life minutes later. It suggests that Eleven was successful in using her powers to bring Max back.

However, she’s still currently bandaged up and in a coma. It looks like she’ll need more than a Kate Bush record to bring her back to good health.

Is Vecna really dead?

Jamie Campbell Bower as Vecna in the Upside Down Netflix

Vecna looked pretty frazzled and burnt up after his battle with Eleven in Max’s mind and back in the Upside Down against Steve, Robin and Nancy. But can you ever really fully defeat a mind-stalking, super-powered, nightmarish Freddy Krueger monster?

When he returned to Hawkins, Will suddenly started getting his old Mind Flayer tingles in his neck and his old connections with the Upside Down resurfaced.

The youngster appears to have a connection with Vecna because of his experiences in season 1 and he’s confident that the monster is still alive. Uh-oh.

Metallica’s Master of Puppets – the new Kate Bush?

If Max’s escape for Vecna in Volume 1 was enough to send Kate Bush soaring to number one in the charts with Running Up That Hill, surely Eddie’s final metal-tastic battle deserves the same reward.

Soundtracked by Metallica’s thrash metal classic Master of Puppets, Joseph Quinn showcased his real-life guitar skills as he smashed out the old school 80s rock classic.

5 epic musical moments from the Stranger Things season 4 soundtrack

What book is Lucas reading to Max in her coma?

In a neat little Easter Egg, we heard Lucas reading a paragraph of Stephen King and Pete Straub classic The Talisman, which was released in 1984.

Stranger Things creators the Duffers are working on a TV series adaptation of The Talisman with Steven Spielberg for Netflix, so this felt like a cheeky nod to their next big project.

The book also has some relevance to Stranger Things as it’s about a young boy’s quest to save his mother’s life, which takes him into a parallel universe. Perhaps a quick reading of The Talisman might offer some clues about what lays ahead in season 5…

How did Stranger Things season 4 end?

Priah Ferguson as Erica Sinclair in Stranger Things season 5 Netflix

Dr Brenner had warned Eleven that she wasn’t ready for her battle with Vecna, but he seems to have underestimated her strength. However, he did also predict that the cracks Vecna was opening up between the Upside Down and Hawkins would eventually create a snap between the two worlds.

This snap came about after Vecna was ‘killed’, ripping a gigantic hole between the Upside Down and Hawkins.

Local news is describing the events as a surprising Earthquake, but our heroes know what is coming. As the snow-like dust begins to spill from the Upside Down into Hawkins, we’re heading into the show’s endgame in season 5.

Stranger Things season 1-4 are streaming now on Netflix.

Stranger Things season 5: Everything you need to know