The First ‘Stranger Thing 4’ Reviews Are Mostly Positive (But Man, Those Episode Runtimes…)

After three very long, pandemic-filled years, Stranger Things 4 is finally arriving on Netflix this week, and if the first reviews are anything to go by, the show is absolutely swinging for the fences as it prepares to bring its epic story in for a landing in Season 5. However, in The Duffer Brothers’ quest to deliver what they call they’re “Game of Thrones season,” the episodes in Stranger Things 4 are significantly longer than usual.

This time around, the average Season 4 episode runtime for Volume 1 is around 75 minutes, which stretches even further in Episode 7, the “midseason finale” if you will. That episode clocks in at 98 minutes, and things only get longer from there. When Stranger Things 4 returns for Volume 2, those final two episodes will be 85 minutes and 2 hours and 30 minutes, respectively.

The good news is that the reviews for the first batch of Stranger Things 4 episodes are mostly positive. That said, there are some notable concerns about the episode lengths and what they say about the creative direction of the series as a whole. While diehard Stranger Things fans probably won’t mind the extra runtime, others might be missing the tighter episodes of previous seasons, which generally clocked in around 50 minutes. It’ll be interesting to see the audience reaction when the highly anticipated season drops this Friday.

In the meantime, you can check out what the critics are saying about Stranger Things 4 below:

Amy Charles, BBC:

Three years is a long time to wait in the world of television. But, as with the new series of Stranger Things, the show about supernatural goings-on in the small American town of Hawkins, Indiana, there are some things that are definitely worth waiting for. … Throughout these first six episodes given out for review, threads and storylines from previous series are coming together, finally giving fans some answers to long-asked questions about just what on Earth is going on.

Charles Pulliam-Moore, The Verge:

In this fourth installment though, Stranger Things embraces a newfound sense of itself as something more than a stylized tribute to the creature features and coming-of-age classics that packed theaters decades ago. Stranger Things 4 is bigger, bloodier, and much more intense than the seasons that came before it, but it also feels like a natural evolution of the sprawling epic the Duffer Brothers have been telling from the very beginning.

Kristen Baldwin, Entertainment Weekly:

When season 4 volume 1 — seven episodes, all but one over 70 minutes long — dropped in my Netflix press account, I’ll admit that excitement was not my first emotion. What a pleasure it is to be wrong. Fresh locales, appealing new characters, and a rewarding expansion of the mythology give the new season of Stranger Things a jolt of joyful energy, just when the series needed it most.

Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter:

The fourth season of Stranger Things is the biggest, scariest, most ambitious Stranger Things season yet. It’s also the least charming, least funny and least inventive season yet, which doesn’t mean that those elements are wholly lacking, just that the effort to concentrate on moments of human relatability often gets overwhelmed by the attempts at scale.

Alex Stedman, IGN:

It’s incredibly ambitious – and are there a few moments where you can feel it struggling under the weight of that ambition? Sure. But for the most part, it very much works by leaning on a lot of what’s paid off in previous seasons while also taking some exciting new swings that prevent it from feeling like a greatest-hits rehash.

Caroline Framke, Variety:

After becoming Netflix’s first real behemoth of a pop culture hit, the Duffer Brothers’ increasingly ambitious series both echoed the rapid expansion of its network and clearly informed the way it moved forward with other projects that might scratch similar itches. … Season 4, given all the time and money it could want, represents just how exponentially “Stranger Things” has grown and how much it’s allowed to indulge its every instinct, so long as it keeps subscribers logged in just a few (hundred) minutes more.

Ben Travers, IndieWire:

Arguably, the scariest part of “Stranger Things 4” is how thoroughly it embodies the worst habits of the streaming era — with the only real competition being how much time it takes to fit them all in. Prolonged Season 4 episodes have been sold as an attribute when they’re anything but; splitting the season in two may “event-ize” Netflix’s blockbuster series, but — with only two super-sized episodes left for Part 2’s release in July — it’s no favor to fans.

Robert Brian Taylor, Collider:

For the first time since its breakthrough inaugural season, Stranger Things makes some big changes to its formula. The show expands its story to a number of locations outside of Hawkins and puts characters together in groups that remain segregated from each other throughout the season’s first seven episodes. It also cranks up the series’ more horror-based elements, giving us a central villain who is closer to Freddy Krueger than he is the Lovecraftian, beast-like monsters of the show’s earlier seasons. Stranger Things 4 actually feels like a real sequel and not just a slightly remixed version of what’s come before.

Stranger Things 4 Volume 1 premieres May 27.