Spoilers for Stranger Things season 4, volume 2 below.
At the top of the Stranger Things season 4 finale, it’s frustratingly unclear just how dead Max actually is. Or isn’t. The last we see of her, she’s within the hospital, severely maimed and comatose after her final encounter with Vecna. Nobody knows when she’ll come back, if in any respect.
Max has had a troublesome go of it recently. Wavering between guilt, grief and relief over her stepbrother Billy’s death, in season 4 she becomes a primary goal for Vecna, the massive bad from the Upside Down who preys on kids haunted by past traumas, infiltrating their minds via their distressing thoughts before killing them in gruesome fashion. Feeling fragile and standoffish (it also didn’t help that she and Lucas broke up or that her best friend, Eleven, moved across the country), Max was marked by Vecna early on. But with the assistance of the Kate Bush song now stuck in your head for, let’s consider, without end—“Running Up That Hill (Take care of God)”—she managed to exercise the villain from her head.
But that Kate Bush cassette could only loop for thus long. Within the season’s final two episodes, Max and her buddies in Hawkins devise a plan: In a ploy to kill Vecna, she’ll ditch the headphones and invite him into her mind, luring him in together with her darkest thoughts. (That way, her friends could kill Vecna within the Upside Down while he was distracted.) Lucas isn’t an enormous fan of this plan—Vecna isn’t known for displays of mercy—but, collectively, they resolve it’s the perfect move. While inside Vecna’s clutches, Max gets a surprise assist from Eleven, who enters Max’s mind using her psychic powers in a makeshift sensory deprivation tank. Though El is all the way in which in Nevada, she’s in a position to face Vecna in one among Max’s memories, all in hopes of saving each her friend and the world.
But even the Hawkins crew’s four-phase plan of attack and Eleven’s revived telekinetic blasts aren’t enough. Vecna holds off Eleven long enough to brutally attack Max in his signature style—she levitates, her eyes go white and bleed, and he snaps her limbs. Eleven regains her strength and pushes Vecna off before he can complete the job, however the damage is already done. In the true world, Max collapses in Lucas’s arms (poor baby was watching this the entire time while fist-fighting a college bully), still conscious and begging to not die. “I’m not ready,” she tells Lucas. Neither are we! Despite Lucas’s pleas for Max to “stick with me,” she goes still. The grandfather clock within the Creel house chimes 4 times, signaling Vecna’s job is completed, and the 4 gates to the Upside Down he’s opened—one for every murder—split open, carving fault lines through Hawkins.
Eleven, nonetheless, won’t allow her friend to die. “No,” she says. “You are not going.” Reaching Max via the sensory deprivation tank (this dark, watery mental realm can also be often known as the Void), Eleven puts a hand on Max’s chest and recalls their happiest moments together. Two days later, Max is within the hospital, in a coma.
So, did Max die?
Technically, she did—if just for a moment. In keeping with Lucas, the doctors said Max’s heart stopped for over a minute, but then she got here back to life. Eleven doesn’t say that she’s answerable for Max’s survival, but Will and Mike flash one another a knowing look to say they’ve figured it out. But what, exactly, did Eleven do? Did she develop latest resurrection powers? Did she jump-start Max’s heart together with her psychic abilities? Did channeling Max’s joyful memories by some means bring her back to life? The theories are certain to be limitless. But one thing is for certain: Simply because Max survived, that doesn’t mean she’s protected. It’s unclear when she’ll wake from her coma. “They are saying she won’t,” Lucas says. And even when she does wake, there’s no guarantee she’ll be the identical Max.
Sadie Sink as Max in Stranger Things season 4.
Courtesy of Netflix
Where is Max now?
Physically, she’s in a hospital bed in a coma, with each her legs and arms in casts. But mentally? Well, that’s a unique story. When Eleven hops back into the Void to search for Max at the top of the finale, she will be able to’t find her anymore. She screams her name, however the Void is empty. Does that mean Max has died for real this time? Or that her mind has gone completely blank?
Remember, Eleven has used the Void to locate people previously, each alive (Will) and dead (Barb, RIP). What does it mean if the person she’s looking for is missing from the Void entirely?
These, after all, are big inquiries to hopefully be answered in season 5, which will likely be Stranger Things’ last. Along with Max’s fate, we’re also concerned about Vecna’s whereabouts—he didn’t die in that final standoff when the children set him on fire. And, considering the closing shot of the finale, the gang will now need to take care of an apocalyptic merge between the Upside Down and real-life Hawkins.
Whether Max makes it to the following season or not (though we actually, really hope she does), actress Sadie Sink is content with Max’s season 4 journey. She told ELLE.com back in December, “I’m really joyful with where Max’s storyline went for season 4. I believe you see a unique side of her that I’m really excited to share with everyone.”
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