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Everything to Remember Ahead of ‘Stranger Things 4’

It's been years since fans have been back in Hawkins. Here's a refresher.

Close up on three teens looking shocked and confused; still from "Stranger Things 4" on Netflix.

“Stranger Things 4”

Courtesy of Netflix

It’s been three whole years since “Stranger Things 3” premiered on Netflix, the third installation in the Duffer brothers’ sci-fi drama laced with ‘80s nostalgia. The series returns to Netflix on May 27, with a new season set six months after the events of “Stranger Things 3.” Since it’s been a lot longer than that for those outside Hawkins, here’s a little refresher on what’s going on with the Upside Down, the Mind Flayer, and that girl with superpowers.

1. What’s Going on with The Upside Down?

 Once described as “home, but it’s so dark,” the nefarious parallel dimension that haunts Hawkins is still at large and seeping into our world. When the Mind Flayer took hold of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) in Season 2, it was eventually banished from Will’s body, while Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) used all her strength to close the gate between worlds. But when Hawkins residents start acting strangely in Season 3, Will senses the Mind Flayer’s presence and realizes they didn’t banish him at all, but trapped him in the outside world. The creature chooses Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) as its human host, and Billy is then tasked with recruiting (abducting) more people to dedicate their lives to the cause of becoming melted, murderous goo.

In the “Stranger Things 4” trailer, an exceedingly creepy mansion appears to be the new epicenter of Upside Down activity — but only for the Hawkins crew. Will, Joyce (Winona Ryder), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and Eleven are no longer living in town, and their friends are going to need all the help they can get for this fight.

2. Does Eleven Have Her Powers? 

Courtesy of Netflix

“Stranger Things” has never fully explained the link between superpowered El and the Upside Down, but the two are inextricably linked thanks to the sinister Hawkins Lab. Baby Jane was taken from her mother at birth and subjected to constant experiments and conditioning of her telekinetic ability. She also has telepathic abilities that allow her to track and observe people in different locations through her mind.

At the end of “Stranger Things 3,” we saw El’s powers wane after the immense effort it took to fight the Mind Flayer, and in the Season 4 trailer she explicitly states that they’re gone. Though they’re sure to return, there’s something deeply chilling about an endangered Hawkins without its most powerful protector.

3. What’s the Deal with the Russians? 

“Stranger Things 3” opens with our new antagonists, a group of Russian scientists who have set up base below Hawkins’ Starcourt Mall. Steve (Joe Keery), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Robin (Maya Hawke) intercept their transmission and find the facility, where Steve is beaten and interrogated before they escape. Hopper (David Harbour), Joyce, and private detective Bauman (Brett Gelman) end up kidnapping one of these operatives to learn what’s going on, and it turns out they’re trying to open the “doorway between worlds” that Eleven worked so hard to seal. The season ended at a prison facility in Russia, where the guards unleash a demogorgon upon one of the inmates.

4. What Happened to Billy?

Billy Hargrove arrived on the scene in “Stranger Things 2,” when he was what one could aptly describe as a piece of shit. Belligerent, competitive, and almost definitely racist, Billy immediately made an enemy of the beloved Steve Harrington when not intimidating sister Max (Sadie Sink) or nearly running over the D&D party on their way to trick-or-treating.

Season 3 embraced Billy the villain, but not as his original character: He becomes Patient Zero for the Mind Flayer, who eventually corrupts and kills 30 Hawkins residents that morph into a giant fleshy monster. Max visits her brother’s grave in the “Stranger Things 4” trailer, choosing not to fixate on his abusive history but instead his untimely death (much like the show itself).

5. Where’s Hopper?

Close up on a man with shorn hair in a high-necked black coat; still of David Harbour in "Stranger Things 4."

“Stranger Things 4”

Courtesy of Netflix

After spending a little too much of Season 3 in a fitful rage over teenage hormones, Jim Hopper ostensibly gave his life to save his loved ones from the Mind Flayer in the Season 3 finale. It’s a devastating goodbye, especially when Eleven finds the heartfelt speech he meant to give her earlier in the season, and because Hopper and Joyce were about to go on their first date.

That said, there could be no “Stranger Things” without Hopper, so of course he turned up in early teasers for Season 4. He’s in a Russian prison not unlike the one in the Season 3 stinger, and probably the same one judging by the casual pet Demogorgon launching itself at people in the yard.

6. What’s Up, Doc? 

Paul Reiser’s Upside Down scientist Dr. Owens hasn’t been since Season 2 — at least not until his voice appeared in the “Stranger Things 4” trailer, revealing him and El speaking at a diner. “Without you, we can’t win this war,” he tells her. The might of Owens’ “we” has yet to reveal itself, but he’s at least a known ally to the Hawkins crew after helping them escape the lab in “Stranger Things 2.”

7. Who’s Dating Whom?

“Stranger Things” is more of an action/sci-fi/horror/drama than a high school comedy, but the moments of levity and inevitable teen romance are always a welcome break. When fans left off, Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven had declared their love for each other, Max and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) were together, Steve found a steadfast new friend in Robin, and Dustin surprised everyone when his long-distance girlfriend from camp turned out to be real. Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan are possibly long-distance thanks to the Byers moving out of Hawkins, and it looks like Joyce is receiving care packages from her crush in Russian prison.

8. When Does “Stranger Things” Premiere?

“Stranger Things 4 – Volume 1” hits Netflix on May 27 with seven episodes, followed by the two-episode “Volume 2” premiering July 1. The final three episodes are movie-length, with the finale clocking in at two-and-a-half hours. “Stranger Things 5” (no release date) will close out the series.

A previous version of this post misidentified Reiser’s character. 

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