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This article is about the episode. For the "Dungeons & Dragons" club, see the Hellfire Club.

"Chapter One: The Hellfire Club" is the premiere episode of the fourth season of Stranger Things and the twenty-sixth episode overall. It premiered on May 27, 2022, being the first episode of the first volume, and was directed by the Duffer Brothers.

Synopsis

El is bullied at school. Joyce opens a mysterious package. A scrappy player shakes up D&D night.

Plot

S4E1 - Brenner facing bloody Eleven

Martin Brenner facing a bloody Eleven

On September 8, 1979, Dr. Martin Brenner gets up and goes through a morning routine before preparing for work at Hawkins National Laboratory. At the lab, he entered the Rainbow Room, where a number of children were playing. He approached Ten, who was playing with a Magic 8 Ball, and asked if Ten was ready for more lessons. Ten shook the ball and showed Brenner "All signs point to yes."

In the hallway, they passed a woman named Dr. Ellis along with another test subject named Six. Brenner and Ten began their experiments. Brenner had Ten use his precognitive abilities to see what Brenner was drawing on his pad. Brenner then asked if they could do something more challenging by seeing what Dr. Ellis and Six were doing in the other room. Ten sees Dr. Ellis and Six doing an experiment, but he suddenly begins to hyperventilate, and says that something was wrong as all of a sudden, the lab's alarm goes off. Brenner uses the intercom to ask what was happening. Ten tells him that Six and Dr. Ellis were dead. Brenner slowly heads to the door of Ten's room as he hears screams and impacts outside the door. The door bursts off its hinges and hit Brenner, knocking him unconscious.

When Brenner awakes, he's horrified and upset to find Ten dead. As Brenner limps outside, he sees test subjects, security guards and fellow doctors dead and bloodied. In the Rainbow Room, he finds many more dead children. One child is standing in front of the broken mirror, breathing heavily. Brenner angrily asked the test subject what they had done. The child turns around slowly to face Brenner. It's a young Eleven, whose eyes, nose, and ears are dripping with blood.

S4E1 - Lenora Hills High Courtyard

Lenora Hills Courtyard

By March 21, 1986, five months after the Byers' departure from Hawkins, the family and Eleven - who now goes by "Jane Hopper" publicly - reside in the small town of Lenora Hills, California. Eleven writes to her boyfriend, Mike Wheeler, about how she and her newfound family are adjusting to life on the west coast; El has been assigned a school project to make a diorama of a hero, choosing her "late" father, Jim Hopper, and recreating the cabin they use to live together. Joyce Byers now works from home as a telemarketer selling encyclopedias. Joyce claims to "love the freedom", but she is secretly frustrated by how her customers constantly hang up on her. Will Byers has been painting a lot, particularly on a secret piece he won't show anyone. El hypothesizes that it's possibly for a girl that he likes, since he's been acting "weird". Jonathan Byers has also been acting odd, beginning to smoke "smelly plants" alongside his new best friend, Argyle, since he's been stressed waiting for his college acceptance letter for Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, where Nancy Wheeler, his girlfriend, has been accepted to. Since Jonathan's car has broken down, the Byers trio carpools to school in Argyle's van Surfer Boy Pizza delivery van. El continues to say she's doing great in school, making plenty of new friends and doing well in classes. This proves to be false as she is a victim of bullying from Angela, a popular mean girl, and her boyfriend Jake. El concludes her letter by saying she cannot wait to see Mike for their Spring Break, ending her letter with "Love, El".

Back in Hawkins, most of the crew has been preoccupied with events at Hawkins High School. Mike, Dustin Henderson, Lucas Sinclair, and Max Mayfield are now freshmen. Mike, Dustin, and Lucas have joined the school's D&D club, the Hellfire Club, which is often under scrutiny due to the rising Satanic panic across America. Though Mike and Dustin are endlessly devoted to the club, Lucas has become preoccupied with the school's basketball team. Dustin continues to date Suzie Bingham, who uses her hacking skills to change his poor grade in Latin through her computer, despite it going against her religious beliefs.

Steve Harrington carpools Robin Buckley to school for the basketball pep rally, discussing their lack of love lives. Steve complains of his struggles to find the right girl for him since most of them don't go past anything sexual. Robin, meanwhile, has become infatuated with a fellow bandmate of hers, Vickie, but is afraid that professing said feelings will result in her being ostracized. Steve tells her she should take her own advice on being confident since it's working great for him, while also telling her that Vickie "definitely likes boobies".

At school, Max is told by the new guidance counselor, Ms. Kelley, to see her after the pep rally. As Mike, Dustin, and Max sit together, they watch as Lucas trots in alongside the basketball team and their captain, popular jock Jason Carver.

Hellfire Club Still

Hellfire Club meet during lunch.

Jason gives a eulogy speech for the lives that were lost during the "Starcourt Mall's fire" including Heather Holloway, Jim Hopper and Billy Hargrove. He uses it as momentum to inspire his players to win the championship basketball game which will take place that night. Surprised to hear the game will take place that night, Mike and Dustin attempt to persuade Lucas to join Eddie's campaign which takes place at the same time. However, Lucas insists that he can't miss the championship game and asks them to tell Eddie to move the campaign to the next night and come to his game instead. Although annoyed with their friend, Mike and Dustin reluctantly agree.

In California, Joyce receives a package from Russia and opens it to discover that it contains a doll. Fearing that the KGB might be targeting her for closing the Gate, Joyce contacts Murray Bauman and asks for help. Inspecting the doll closer, Joyce finds cracks that have been seemingly glued shut. Murray fears that it may contain a bomb and tells Joyce to smash the doll using rope and a heavy object as a safety precaution. Having successfully smashes the doll outside, Joyce becomes shocked and ecstatic to find a note stating that Hopper is alive.

At Lenora Hills High School, Eleven is called up to present her visual aid, with Will attempting to be her supporter. A girl next to Will attempts to play footsie with him, but he uncomfortably recoils. El's presentation is mocked by Jake and the class while Angela raises her hand and purposely critiques that the project was about someone historical, and her father being in the "local paper" didn't count. Eleven, fighting back tears, said that her father died saving people in a mall fire and was a hero to her, causing the class to become uncomfortable and Angela, to save face, apologize and say she just wanted clarification for the assignment's rules. After class, El leaves in tears as Will fails to comfort her. At woodshop class, Argyle attempts to cheer up a mopey Jonathan since Nancy is unavailable to visit him during their Spring Break due to her working for the school's newspaper.

Meanwhile, Nancy is pestered by her confidant, Fred Benson, on why Jonathan isn't visiting since he has to take care of his family while also waiting for his acceptance letter. Argyle pokes holes in Jonathan's points since getting accepted would put him huge financial debt and is also not what he wants, while Fred pokes holes in Nancy's points since Jonathan isn't very communicative with her. Jonathan and Nancy defend each other, saying that their relationship is perfect and that they love each other.

At the end of the day, El walks across campus but is tripped by Angela, making her drop her diorama. Will, walking outside, watches in shock as the bullies purposely taunt El as they step on her diorama. El, enraged, calls out to Angela and screams as she attempts to use her powers, but it fails. Angela and the bullies laugh at how ridiculous she looks as the crowd that circled around her join in. Ms. Gracey, El's teacher, stops everything and asks El if someone ruined her project.

S04E01 Official Image

Eleven tries to use her powers.

El lies and says she tripped, but an annoyed Ms. Gracey sees Angela and her cronies avoiding eye contact. Ms. Gracey then takes Angela to the principal's office, causing Angela to lie and ask El to say she wasn't responsible, but El is too upset to speak. As the crowd dissolves, Will rushes in and tells El they can fix the project, but El only sits in tears as she picks up a figure of Hopper that has been broken in half.

On her way to the Hawkins school counselor's office, Max notices Chrissy Cunningham leaving the room, seemingly distressed. In her office, Max has been revealed to be suffering from low grades, as a result of changes in her life both familial and mentally. Her stepdad has left her and Max's mother following Billy's death, leaving them with little money. As a result, Susan and Max have moved into the Forest Hills Trailer Park, where Susan has picked up two jobs and has began to drink heavily. Max, meanwhile, has been suffering from headaches and nightmares featuring Billy's gruesome death. Max, however, refuses to open up to Ms. Kelley about her trauma, saying that she's getting better.

S4E1 - Max takes notice of ill Chrissy

Max Mayfield takes notice of ill Chrissy Cunningham

Lucas catches Max in the hall afterwards and attempts to help her open up by inviting her to his basketball game. Max states that just because she broke up with him, doesn't mean anything's wrong. He comments on how she doesn't even seem to be present anymore, stating she acts like a ghost. Hurt, Max rejects his offer and coldly tells Lucas that people just change. She enters the girl's restroom and notices a seemingly sick Chrissy in one of the stalls. She offers to help, but Chrissy refuses aid. After Max leaves her alone in the restroom, Chrissy sees a horrific hallucination involving her mother screaming and trying to enter the toilet stall. As she watches, monstrous feet appear under the stall's door. Suddenly, the hallucination ends, and Chrissy runs out of the restroom.

In the cafeteria, Mike and Dustin inform Eddie of Lucas' inability to play Dungeons and Dragons that night. They ask him to postpone the game, but Eddie insists the game will be played and tells Mike and Dustin to find a substitute. The pair scouts the high school for a substitute but fail to find one. Dustin realizes that they do not have to restrict their search to the high school, and instead go to Erica at Hawkins Middle School, who agrees to play. Meanwhile, Chrissy walks across the school football field and into the woods behind the school.

While walking, Christie sees a grandfather clock seemingly appear within a tree-trunk and is horrified when black widow spiders pour from the face of the clock. The vision vanishes, however, when Eddie arrives. Chrissy meets with the young drug dealer, and their conversation turns to their history in middle school. Eddie offers to sell Chrissy marijuana, but Chrissy asks for something stronger.

At the championship game, Lucas takes notice of Max's absence and is disappointed by the outcome, with Hawkins Tigers gaining score steadily against their opponent. During the game, the team's opponent intentionally injures one of their players, which causes a benched Lucas to replace his position. Fearing they will lose the victory; Jason becomes determined to score them a point but misses the hoop. However, Lucas takes the ball and scores the winning shot during a buzzer beater, securing their team the win.

Erica and the Club

Erica Sinclair with the Hellfire Club

At the same time, Mike, Dustin and Erica arrives for the campaign with Eddie expressing skepticism regarding Erica's ability to play Dungeons & Dragons but is swayed over by her skills and charm and welcomes her to Hellfire. In the middle of the campaign, the group faces off against Vecna who is thought to have died from Kas's killing attempt. They are met with difficulties over the choice of either retreating or standing their ground and fighting. The group ultimately decides on the latter.

Eddie at Hellfire

Eddie's campaign

At the climax of the campaign, Dustin and Erica are the only 2 players left alive with the group considering retreating option once more, but the 2 players are determined to kill Vecna. Dustin attempts to attack and misses the shot, but Erica successfully vanquished the boss with a critical hit. Both teams relish the joy of winning their respective games, but Lucas takes notice of his sister Erica celebrating their victory with other members of the Hellfire Club and is saddened at this fact.

Max is in her trailer with her mother, who is asleep and apparently drunk. Max hears the dog barking for food, gathers the leftovers and goes to his pen to feed him. She sees Eddie and Chrissy going into Eddie's trailer. In the Munson trailer, Eddie searches for a drug known as "Special K" to sell to Chrissy.

Levitating Chrissy

Eddie Munson witnessing Chrissy levitating

While Chrissy is waiting, she hears the distorted chimes of the grandfather clock, and goes to look for Eddie. Chrissy opens a door and sees her mother's distorted image. Chrissy appears to be reliving her traumatic memories and to be in her own home, and not in Eddie's trailer. She sees her father with eyes and mouth sewn shut. Back at the trailer park, Eddie finds the drug, but is surprised to find Chrissy standing motionless and unresponsive, in a trance like state. The lights start flickering as a panicked Eddie attempts to wake Chrissy up. In her trance, Chrissy is being chased by an unknown entity who beckons for her. She is cornered by the entity.

Back in the trailer, Eddie is left to watch in horror as Chrissy's body begins to levitate before slamming up against the ceiling. As her joints bend in horrifying angles, her jaw cracks sideways, and her eyes gouge out, Eddie screams as the episode ends.

Cast

Starring

Also Starring

Co-Starring

Music

Soundtrack

  • "California Dreamin'" by The Beach Boys - Eleven's letter to Mike narrates life for her, Joyce, Will, and Jonathan in Lenora Hills, California.
  • "Object of My Desire" by Starpoint - Steve and Robin drive to Hawkins High School while discussing Vickie.
  • "The Red Army Is The Strongest" by The Red Army Choir - Joyce receives a package from Russia containing a doll.
  • ""Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)”" by Kate Bush - El leaves class in tears, transitioning to Max heading to Ms. Kelly's office after the pep rally.
  • "I Was a Teenage Werewolf/Fever" by The Cramps - Eddie reads an anti-D&D magazine out loud to the Hellfire Club during lunch.
  • "Play With Me" by Extreme - Dustin and Mike attempt to find a substitute for Lucas for the Hellfire campaign (this song was not released until 1989, while the season takes place during 1986).
  • "Chica Mejicanita" by Andrea and Ervin Litkei - Murray and Joyce talk on the phone about the package Joyce received.
  • "Detroit Rock City" by KISS - The Hawkins High basketball game plays strong while the Hellfire Club's campaign gets more intense.
  • "Got Your Number" by The Lloyd Langton Group - Eddie and Chrissy drive up to Eddie's trailer.

Original score

  • "Hawkins National Lab" - Brenner arrives in the Rainbow Room in September of 1979.
  • "Teens" - Mike and Nancy leave for school; Suzie hacks into Hawkins High's system and helps Dustin change his poor Latin grade.
  • "Not Kids Anymore" - Lucas begs Mike and Dustin to come to his game and find a way to change the date of Eddie's campaign.
  • "Mr. Fibbly" - Eleven presents her diorama of Hopper's cabin, only for Angela to cruelly interrupt and ridicule her.
  • "Journalistic Instinct" - Jonathan and Nancy defend not being with each other for Spring Break and their love for one another to Argyle and Fred.
  • "I wouldn’t remember me either." - Eddie and Chrissy reconnect in the woods.
  • "Sauna Test" - Angela trips El, while her cronies purposely step on El's diorama; El attempts to use her powers again, only to embarrass herself.
  • "Crib" - Ms. Gracey takes Angela to the principal's office, while Will helps an overwhelmed El pick up her damaged diorama.
  • "Run" - Joyce happily discovers the note in the Russian doll that Hopper is alive.
  • "Hail Lord Vecna" - The Hellfire Club plays D&D and are caught off guard by the return of Vecna.
  • "What's the Internet?" - Erica defeats Vecna in the Hellfire Club's campaign; Lucas scores for the basketball team, breaking Hawkins High's twenty-year loss streak.
  • "Happy Screams" - Max watches Eddie and Chrissy pull up the Munson trailer.
  • "A Realm Unspoiled by Mankind" - Credits roll.

Influences and references

See also: Influences & references

Films

  • Bambi (1942)
    • El has a Bambi figurine on the table next to her desk.
  • Beetlejuice (1988)
    • In El and Will's history class, a student dressed in yellow has a large black hat that is similar to the wardrobe of Lydia Deetz, coincidentally portrayed by Winona Ryder.
  • Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
    • The setting of San Dimas, California, inspired Lenora Hills, California.
    • The friendship of Jonathan and Argyle were based on Bill and Ted.
    • The song "Play with Me" by Extreme, originally gaining popularity being used in the film, was used in the show.
  • Conan the Barbarian (1982)
    • Mike has a poster of the film in his bedroom.
  • The Dark Crystal (1982)
    • Mike has a poster of the film in his bedroom.
  • Die Hard (1988)
    • Argyle's namesake and character is derived from the character of the same name in the film; both are oblivious yet sweet allies to the protagonists that serve as modes of transportation.
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
    • The town of Lenora Hills, California, was based on the California setting of the film.
    • The Byers family mirrors the Taylor family incredibly - Joyce mirrors Mary, a single working mother, and El, Will, and Jonathan mirror the Taylor siblings, Gertie, Elliott, and Michael.
    • Eleven's character mirrors E.T., as both are viewed as outsiders in a new environment and struggle to adapt.
    • When Dustin calls Steve at Family Video on the high school pay phone, the words 'E.T. Phone Home' are etched into the machine.
  • Edward Scissorhands (1990)
    • The conflict between Eddie and Jason with Chrissy being stuck between them mirrors the conflict between Edward Scissorhands, Jim, and Kim Boggs, coincidentally portrayed by Winona Ryder.
    • Eddie and Edward are similar in that their extreme and unruly appearance contradicts their innocent and sweet personality.
  • The Evil Dead (1981)
    • Jonathan has a poster of the film in his bedroom.
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
    • The film's California setting inspired Lenora Hills
    • The character of Jeff Spicolli, a fun-loving stoner, inspired Argyle's personality.
    • Steve tells Robin how Vickie returned Fast Times to Family Video paused specifically when Phoebe Cate's character infamously removes her top, citing it as his reasoning that Vickie "likes boobies".
  • For the Love of Benji (1977)
    • El has a poster of the film in her bedroom.
  • Jaws (1975)
    • Chrissy's namesake and character appears to be derived from Chrissie Watkins, as their both the infamous first victim of a brutal killing spree by a monster.
  • The Lost Boys (1987)
    • The setting of Lenora Hills, California, was based on Santa Carla, California.
    • The film itself mirrors the Byers family, as it features a recently single mother, Lucy Emerson, taking her sons, teen Michael and preteen Sam, to live in the town, only to find themselves fighting off other-worldly monsters.
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
    • Suzie has a small Tigger figurine on her computer desk.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
    • A cut-out of Freddy Krueger is seen in Family Video.
    • Eddie witnessing the brutal telepathic killing of Chrissy is a direct homage to the film where Rod witnesses the death of his girlfriend, Tina, after her insides are ripped apart telepathically by an unseen force, causing Rod to be a suspect in her murder, much like Eddie.
  • WarGames (1983)
    • The scene were Suzie changes Dustin's grade mirrors how David Lightman changes his and his friend, Jennifer's grades in the movie.

Television

  • Misfits of Science (1985-1986)
    • When Max cleans up her home while her mother sleeps, the television's audio from the series says, "I'm trying to be normal, Billy!", signifying Max's struggle to return to normalcy despite Billy's death blocking that from happening.

Music

People

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic
    • Eddie recalls how when he first met Dustin, he was wearing a Weird Al T-Shirt, which Eddie deemed "very brave" of Dustin.

Gallery

View Gallery For this subject's gallery, see The Hellfire Club (episode)/Gallery.


Notes

  • The title of the episode was revealed on November 6, 2021, on the occasion of Stranger Things Day.
  • In "The Vanishing of Will Byers", during Will and Dustin's bike race home, Will says he'll "take his X-Men #134", in which the X-Men retaliate against The Hellfire Club with the Phoenix.
  • This is the first season premiere to not have a character's name in the title.
  • This is the first episode of the series not to feature Hopper, though his name does appear on the letter and he is made into a clay figurine made by Eleven.
  • The opening title for the season has been redone from previous seasons:
  • When Brenner does his crossword puzzle, he writes "Kali" as an answer to "The wife of Shiva", referencing to Kali Prasad, on the production team's part.
  • The Byers' new home in California is a real house the production crew found in New Mexico, complete with original period-specific fixtures. The house is now used as an Airbnb.[1]
  • El keeping her bedroom door open "three inches" while working on her project is a reference to Hopper's letter from "The Battle of Starcourt".
  • El's diorama is built inside a Reebok shoe box. The prop department deliberately chose this since Joyce's signature shoe brand is Reebok sneakers.[1]
  • Will's project is about influential British scientist and mathematician Dr. Alan Turing, who was convicted for "gross indecency" on account of him being in a gay relationship. This is almost certainly meant to hint towards Will's sexuality.
  • Caleb McLaughlin had Lucas' jersey be #8 in honor of late basketball legend, Kobe Bryant.[1]
  • Vecna's iconic clock wasn't made for the show - set decorator Jess Royal found it at an estate sale. The team modified the clock and made copies of it, explaining how it can turn up in "so many creepy places".[1]
  • This is the first premiere episode not to have the show's theme play in the credits.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "The ULTIMATE Stranger Things Quiz" The Still Watching Netflix YouTube channel. June 12, 2022.
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