The trajectory of Netflix and stranger things will always feel inextricably linked to each other. Although the streaming service had other significant word-of-mouth successes before the launch of strange things, the series created and directed by Duffer Brothers has become a mass marketable franchise, with spoiler-filled toys, merchandise and board games. But the reality of the streamer’s business model has all but turned Netflix upside down, well, the premiere of the hit series’ insanely expensive fourth season comes at a critical time.

stranger things 4 opens in 1986, about a year or so after the Battle of Starcourt, with vast swathes of characters scattered to the wind, Return of the Jedi style. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) struggles to fit in among the brattie high school girls while living with the rest of the Byers clan – Joyce (Winona Ryder), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and Will (Noah Schnapp). Those who remain in Hawkins have their own challenges; Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) feel left behind after Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) joins Hawkins High’s basketball team, but are captivated by Dungeons & Dragons boss Eddie (new addition inspired, Joseph Quinn) and the theatrics he brings as a dungeon master.

Nancy’s (Natalia Dyer) natural investigative instinct has earned her a spot on the Hawkins High School newspaper, while Robin (Maya Hawke) and Steve (Joe Kerry) continue their great relationship at the local video store. Max (Sadie Sink) is doing less well, who is still mourning the loss of her brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery), and has distanced herself significantly from the rest of the group as she processes her grief. Meanwhile, the supposedly dead Hopper wanders off to a prison camp behind the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain, seeking a great escape. stranger things being stranger thingsit’s only a matter of time before a new threat emerges from the Upside Down to terrorize Hawkins, forcing everyone to come together once again.