Stranger Things season 4 is less than a week from being released – and fans of the wildly popular Netflix series can’t wait to return to Hawkins or the Upside Down.

After a near three-year gap between Stranger Things 4 and its predecessor, plus the hype surrounding the hit Netflix show‘s return, there was a risk that the sci-fi supernatural horror series might crumble under the weight of expectation.

Thankfully, that isn’t the case. With the Stranger Things season 4 review embargo having lifted, critics have been delivering their verdicts on the latest instalment in the Duffer brothers’ acclaimed franchise. And those who have seen the first six episodes of its fourth season – us included – have mostly good things to say about it.

Kicking things off is Variety’s Caroline Framke, who says Stranger Things season 4 “is the show at its biggest, broadest and most emblematic of Netflix’s evolution”:

‘Stranger Things’ Season 4 Is the Show at Its Biggest, Broadest and Most Emblematic of Netflix’s Evolution: TV Review 23, 2022

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Inverse’s entertainment team lauded Stranger Things season 4 as “remarkably plotted and well-paced”, adding that it was a stellar return to form after the well-received but somewhat problematic nature of season 3:

Season 4 of ‘Stranger Things’ is a return to form for the show. Remarkably plotted and well-paced, everything has matured in both abstract and literal ways.Our review: 23, 2022

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Entertainment Weekly’s Kristen Baldwin praised the forthcoming season for “working harder and smarter” than its predecessors, although Baldwin was less enthusiastic about the “kooky and unnecessary side capers”:

Season 4 Volume 1 of ‘Stranger Things’ delivers fresh locales, new characters, and some big answers about the Upside Down. Read our review. 23, 2022

See more’s Patrick Cavanaugh shared similar sentiments, stating that Stranger Things 4 “amps up the terror” and eventually walks a captivating, narrative-driven path after initially stumbling through its opening episodes: 

[email protected] says #StrangerThings Season 4 amps up the terror, and despite initial stumbles, eventually finds its stride. Full review here: 23, 2022

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Metro UK’s Sabrina Barr, meanwhile, hailed the show’s next entry as “an incredibly strong beginning of the end”, hailing the cast’s “powerhouse performances” that are truly heartfelt: 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2 | Stranger Things season 4, volume 1 #StrangerThings new episodes mark an incredibly strong beginning of the end, with powerhouse performances that are heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure. 23, 2022

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A common criticism of Stranger Things season 4, however, has been the sheer length of its episodes. With each entry – in volume 1, at least – clocking in at over one hour 10 minutes each, Stranger Things’ next season can feel like a big of a slog. Volume 2’s, well, two entries will be even longer, too, so you may want to treat volume 1 as a primer for what’s to come when volume 2 arrives on July 1.

And that’s something that was a black mark in Daniel Feinberg’s review for The Hollywood Reporter. Despite calling season 4 “the biggest, scariest and most ambitious” entry yet, Feinberg lamented that it was also the “least charming, funny, and inventive” one yet. Add in Feinberg’s clear dislike for season 4’s feature-length episodes – calling them “a little exhausting” to sit through – and there are clearly elements that rankle with some critics:

Netflix’s ‘Stranger Things’ Season 4: TV Review 23, 2022

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The Telegraph’s Chris Ashworth-Bennion also picked up on the sheer length of season 4, as well as calling it “a bit too knowing for its own good”. Unlike Feinberg, though, Ashworth-Bennion doesn’t believe that the long episodic nature of Stranger Things 4 is to its detriment: 

It’s back, it’s *long*, it’s…. really good! Spoiler-free Stranger Things season 4 review here (no paywall) #StrangerThings4 23, 2022

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Finally, TechRadar’s very own entertainment reporter Tom Power called season 4 “a triumphant, gripping, and horror-fuelled return for the wildly popular Netflix show”, though he also noted the slight plot and episode length missteps along the way:

#StrangerThings4 is a hugely ambitious gamble that may have backfired. A few plot missteps aside, though, it’s a triumphant, gripping, and horror-fuelled return to form for the wildly popular Netflix show: 23, 2022

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If you’re after more Stranger Things season 4 content ahead of its release, check out our spoiler-free review of its first six episodes. After you’ve read that, learn more about how much season 4 cost, as well as what we can expect to see from Stranger Things season 4 volume 2 at Netflix Geeked Week, which begins on June 6.

Here are 11 things we want to see from Stranger Things season 4

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