Stranger Things season 4 volume 2 ending explained

A group of some of Stranger Things' main cast stare at something off screen in season 4 volume 1
Stranger Things season 4 part 2 was as heartbreaking and thrilling as we expected it to be. (Image credit: Tina Rowden/Netflix)

Full spoilers for Stranger Things season 4 volume 2 follow. You've been warned.

Stranger Things season 4 voume 2 has officially landed on Netflix – and, like you, we weren't prepared for what went down in the fourth season's final two episodes.

The wildly popular Netflix show was always bound to provide shocks aplenty. Well, once fans were able to load it up on Netflix, that is. However, even though the Stranger Things cast and crew warned us about what was about to happen, we don't think anyone was ready for what took place in episodes eight and nine. Did everybody else stress eat all of their Eggos and use up all of their tissues from crying, or was that just us?

Amid all of the surprises and crowd-pleasing moments, however, we imagine there are a couple of things you may have missed during the season finale. Below, we'll run you through what happened in Stranger Things' last episode, plus we'll cover who perished in the fight against Vecna.

Obvious as it is to say, we'll be diving into full spoiler territory for Stranger Things season 4 volume 2 from this point on. If you haven't caught the last two episodes for this season, we implore you to turn back now or you will have its ending ruined for you. Be sure to bookmark this page, though, and reopen it once you've sat through the final two episodes. 

We repeat: do not read past this point if you're not caught up with Stranger Things season 4 episodes 8 and 9. If you have seen them, though, feel free to press on.

Stranger Things season 4 volume 2 ending explained: who died?

Max and Lucas sit solemnly in the dark next to a blue light in Stranger Things season 4

Who didn't make it out alive from Stranger Things 4's finale? (Image credit: Netflix)

When it came to potential character deaths, we'd been told to prepare for the worst by the show's cast and crew. Stranger Things' fourth season has been the series' darkest entry yet, so it was inevitable that one or two characters wouldn't make it out alive.

In our view, the biggest surprise of all was who didn't die. Many fans had installed Steve and Max as joint favorites to perish in the fourth season's ninth episode, but both survived.

So, who did perish? Firstly, Doctor Brenner. He was shot three times by one of Lieutenant Colonel Sullivan's men when he was trying to escape with Eleven in episode 8. Hey, very few people take three sniper bullets and live to tell the tale. Besides, Eleven needed some closure after what he'd put her through before and during the series, so Brenner had to die to deliver on that front.

In episode 9, secondary antagonist Jason was also disposed of. Given everything else that happened during the finale – more on this soon – some fans may have missed the fact that Jason died. After he was knocked unconscious by Lucas in the attic of Creel House, Jason's body is ripped in half when the Upside Down begins to merge with the real world. That occurred after Max's apparent death led to the opening of four major gateways, which allowed the Upside Down to collide with Earth.

Wait – Max didn't die?! As it turns out, no. Initially, it looked like she succumbed to the injuries inflicted on her by Vecna. You know, before Mike's pep talk helped Eleven to turn the tables on Vecna and save the day once again (well, albeit temporarily, but we'll get to that in a bit).

However, it seems that Eleven had enough energy in reserve to stop Max from dying. Using her powers, she somehow kept Max alive by showing him multiple memories of the pair enjoying happier times. Instead of dying, Max is holed up in Hawkins hospital in a medically-induced coma. It's unclear if she'll ever wake up, mind you.

Perhaps the most tear jerking death of season 4, though, was Eddie Munson's. Unlike Max, Eddie surrendered to his injuries – inflicted by the swarm of demobats – in the Upside Down as he sacrificed himself to buy Eleven, Max, and the rest of our heroes more time to defeat Vecna. He may have only been around for a solitary season, but Joseph Quinn's stunning performance ensured that Eddie's unexpected death hit all the harder when it happened. We suspect there were plenty of tears shed when that scene played out on screens across the globe.

Stranger Things season 4 volume 2 ending explained: let's recap what happened

Eleven stands stoically in a hallway of the Nina Project in Stranger Things season 4

What went down in Stranger Things season 4 episode 9? (Image credit: Netflix)

Given its two hour 20 minute runtime, Stranger Things season 4's finale was a long episode. Understandably, then, there's plenty that went down during episode 9. So let's recap what happened.

After reuniting with Eleven in Nevada, Mike, Will, Jonathan, and Argyle try and fail to secure a plane ticket for Eleven so she can fly back to Hawkins and help the others. However, after she remembers her training, Eleven concocts a plan that will allow her to reach her friends without leaving Texas. Dubbing it the 'Piggyback Plan', Eleven tells the quartet that she can enter Max's mind, enabling her to help Max in her fight against Vecna. The only problem is that Eleven needs a sensory deprivation tank to allow her to do so – cue Argyle telling the gang that he knows where they can find the ingredients necessary to make a temporary tank for Eleven to work her magic in.

Travelling to a nearby Surfer Boy Pizza restaurant – the fast food chain that Argyle works at – the gang persuade the restaurant's late night shift employee to leave the premises by trading him one of Argyle's last cannabis joints. The group work quickly to put their plan into action, and it isn't long before Eleven is submerged in her temporary dwelling and begins looking for Max.

Unfortunately for Eleven and company, they may be too late. That's because the Hawkins gang – Steve, Nancy, Robin, Dustin, Eddie, Lucas, Max, and Erica – have already put their own plan into action. The latter trio are already holed up in Creel House, goading Vecna to come and kill Max, thus making him think that he can complete the final phase of his masterplan. Meanwhile, Dustin and Eddie have travelled to the Upside Down to create a diversion to distract Vecna's swan of demobats and lead them away from the Upside Down's version of Creel House. Once that's done, the remaining three group members will break into Creel House and destroy Vecna once and for all.

The Hawkins gang make a plan to stop Vecna in Stranger Things season 4 volume 2

The Hawkins gang's plan doesn't exactly work out... (Image credit: Netflix)

However, numerous problems rear their ugly heads. For one, Jason and his basketball crew are informed of the group's activity near Creel House. Determined to get revenge on Eddie, Dustin, and Lucas for his ex-girlfriend Chrissy's death – Jason thinks the Hellfire Club, which the trio are members of, killed Chrissy – Jason and his posse rock up at Creel House. One pins Erica down, while Jason makes his way to the attic and holds Lucas at gunpoint.

By the time Jason and his gang arrive, Vecna is pursuing Max – and, despite her best efforts to use her happiest memories to evade his clutches, Vecna won't be deterred. He breaks through Max's mental shield and is on the verge of killing her. That is, until Eleven – who has traversed the Void using the sensory deprivation tank to find Max – shows up and rescues her friend.

Or so she thinks. After a bruising contest with Vecna, Eleven winds up losing. Vecna transports her and an unconscious Max to his mind lair, holding both hostage using the Upside Down's vines – and prepares to kill Max.

Over in Russia, Hopper, Joyce, Murray, Dmitri and Yuri – having escaped Kamchatka prison – try to find a way back to the US to help the former duo's kids. When the slimy Yuri refuses to play ball, though, Hopper, Joyce, and Murray head back to the prison to bide their kids time in their fight against Vecna. The trio devise a plan to lure the prison's demogorgons and demogogs into the fighting pit and kill them with the flamethrower they found earlier, thus causing the Upside Down's overlord – dubbed The Shadow – and Vecna serious harm. After all, everything that lives in the Upside Down is part of The Shadow's hive mind, so every organism that lives there feels pain if even one of them is maimed or killed.

Initially, the plan seems to work. Hopper finds a demodog to lure to the pit, which leads the other Upside Down monsters to head the same way. However, the demodog catches up with Hopper, knocks him to the ground, and prepares to deliver the telling blow.

Similar scenarios play out in the Upside Down, too. After distracting the demobats with a rendition of Metallica's iconic Master of Puppets track, Eddie and Dustin barricade themselves in a trailer home, only for the demobats to find multiple ways in. The pair decide to retreat to the real world but, while Dustin heads back, Eddie stays behind and lures the demobats away, much to the shock of his friend, who winds up heading back into the Upside Down to rescue Eddie (and injuring himself in the process). Although Eddie tries to outrun the demobats, he's quickly surrounded. He makes a last stand against his foes and, despite initially holding them off, they soon overwhelm him. 

Meanwhile, over at the Upside Down's version of Creel House, Steve, Robin, and Nancy slowly navigate the building's vine-covered floors and stairs. As they approach Vecna's hiding spot, though, a powerful earthquake knocks them off their feet, causing the vines to realize the trio are there. Quickly ensnared by the vines, the threesome are pinned to Creel House's walls, where they're slowly suffocated by their captors.

All hope appears to be lost. Eleven tries to reason with Vecna, telling him that it was Doctor Brenner who turned them into monsters. Vecna partly agrees, but he chastises Eleven, telling her that she's the real culprit for turning him into a villain. He explains that he originally thought Eleven had sent him to purgatory to await his fate but, after realizing he had been transported to another dimension, he began exploring it with the aim of using its monsters to conquer the Earth one day. It's in this realm that Vecna (who was still Henry Creel at the time) encounters The Shadow – i.e. the Mind Flayer – and joins forces with it so they can conquer Earth together.

Appearing to give up, Eleven can only watch as Vecna begins to kill Max. However, Mike – who is keeping watch over Eleven in the real world – delivers a powerful, emotion-laden speech to Eleven (which she hears through the Void) to fight back. Buoyed by Mike telling her that he loves her, Eleven breaks free of her vines and uses her powers to stop Vecna from hurting Max.

With Vecna immobilized, the other groups rally and fight back, too. Joyce saves Hopper from the demodog; the pair then leading the other monsters to the prison's fighting pit where Murray roasts the demogorgons and demodogs with the flamethrower. Hopper kills the final demogorgon with a sword, slicing its arms off before beheading it. Lucas, who gains a second wind to fight when he sees Max's body start to get mutilated by Vecna, knocks Jason unconscious and catches Max as she falls back to the ground. Erica fights off her pursuer and races to help Lucas and Max.

Dustin prepares to attack the demobats, but the swarm dies when Eleven attacks Vecna. He attempts to convince Eddie to return to the real world where a doctor can tend to his wounds, but Eddie's injuries are too severe and he dies. Finally, Steve, Nancy, and Robin break free of their vines. The trio make their way to Creel House's attic where they find Vecna's mortal body (the Vecna fighting Eleven and Max is merely his consciousness). They attack him with molotov cocktails, severely injuring him, before Nancy deals four punishing blasts with her shotgun, sending Vecna careering out of the attic window to the ground below.

It seems, then, that our heroes have won the day again. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Max, whose injuries are significant, appears to die from her wounds. And, just as it was revealed in episode eight, her death becomes the fourth and most important one that allows Vecna's plan to come to fruition.

Four gateways to the Upside Down open in the real world, causing giant fissures to erupt from the Earth's surface that converge in the center of Hawkins. In the Void, Eleven mourns for Max, but quickly realizes that she may be able to save her. She uses her powers to cycle through Max's happiest memories in a last-ditch bid to resuscitate her... but the screen fades to black before we find out if it worked.

Max levitating in Stranger Things season 4

Did Max die in Stranger Things season 4 episode 9? (Image credit: Netflix)

Thankfully, it's merely seconds before we find out if Max lived or died. When we're reunited with our heroes, two days have passed, and the Hellfire Club are still being blamed by the media for the satanic-style events that have occurred.

Still, the show's main cast of characters know what really happened. With Vecna seemingly defeated, the various groups reconvene in Hawkins, with plenty of emotional and heart-wrenching reunions taking place. That is, everyone except Max – still alive despite her encounter with Vecna – who is in a drug-induced coma in hospital. Technically, she did die, with Lucas revealing her heart stopped for a minute. However, she was revived by an unknown force, causing doctors to say her resuscitation was a miracle. But we all know what really happened here, don't we?

This being Stranger Things, though, things don't stay peachy for too long. While Eleven is reunited with Hopper and Joyce at the former's forest-based cabin, Will tells Mike that Vecna is still alive somewhere. Will knows this because of his connection to the Upside Down, which dates back to his time in that realm in season 1, plus the after-effects he suffered in season 2.

Unsurprisingly, the gang's happiness is short lived. The hairs on the back of Will's neck suddenly stand on end. And, as the group look to the sky, a black cloud appears overhead, raining down dust particles that they all recognize from one specific location: yep, the Upside Down.

Eleven, Mike, Will, Hopper, Joyce, Jonathan, and Nancy walk out of the forest and onto a hill overlooking Hawkins – and, to their shock, half of the surrounding glass and flowers have decayed. The group look out onto the center of Hawkins, where the four fissures collided 48 hours earlier. Giant, black clouds of smoke erupt from the ground, creating red lightning storms as they run into one another. The camera zooms in on a determined-looking Eleven before the screen turns to black and the credits roll.

Stranger Things season 4 volume 2 ending explained: is there a post-credits scene?

Vecna in Stranger Things season 4

Vecna isn't done with the Hawkins gang yet. (Image credit: Netflix)

No, there isn't a post-credits scene once Stranger Things season 4 ends. That's something of a disappointment but, given that there wasn't a similar scenario at the end of season 4 volume 1, it's not entirely surprising.

Okay, volume 1 ended with an end credits scene of sorts, but it was only a 30-second teaser for what was to come in volume 2. In our minds, then, that doesn't count as a post-credits scene.

It would've been intriguing to see an end credits scene, but we can understand why the Duffer brothers – Stranger Things' co-creators – opted not to include one. Season 4's near 11-hour runtime is long enough and, honestly, we wouldn't expect the Duffer brothers to tease what's to come in the show's fifth and final season just yet. Hopefully, we won't have to wait two years for the series' final entry to land on Netflix and provide us with a fitting end to the pop culture behemoth that is Stranger Things.

For more Stranger Things-based content, find out why we think the series needs to switch up its release schedule formula for its fifth and final outing.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

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