Max really goes through it this season -- and Sink breaks down what happens.
Ahead of Stranger Things’ long-awaited return with season 4, Natalia Dyer teased to ET that everyone was in “real, real danger.” And now that episodes are streaming on Netflix, we know that she wasn’t lying.
While the gang is facing peril on multiple fronts, back in Hawkins, Indiana, Max (Sadie Sink) is still reeling from the death of her stepbrother Billy (Dacre Montgomery) and suddenly finds herself a target of the Upside Down. And for Max, things come to a head in episode four, “Chapter Four: Dear Billy,” when she finds herself facing the last days of her life.
“Max’s journey this season really is just a lot because she is in a lot of pain and she’s grieving,” Sink says, referring to the fact that from episode one, Max has grown despondent in the wake of Billy’s death at the Starcourt mall.
As a result, she’s become what Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) calls a “ghost” and has isolated herself from her group of friends. The one solace she does seem to have is Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” a song she listens to on repeat on her headphones.
“She’s having all these really dark thoughts that she doesn’t want anyone to find out about,” Sink says. “And then all of a sudden, the very thing she wants to hide the most is what this villain is feeding off of.”
That villain she’s referring to is Vecna, aka the “Undying King,” which has been haunting residents of Hawkins all season, first killing off Chrissy (Grace Van Dien) and then Fred (Logan Riley Bruner).
After realizing both Chrissy and Fred were cursed by Vecna and started having visions before they died, Max realizes it’s only a matter of time before the same happens to her. Unwilling to sit around and wait for Vecna to come after her, she writes a bunch of letters to her family, gives a heartfelt goodbye to her mom and visits Billy’s grave one last time.
“So much has happened since you left. Your dad was a total mess. He and my mom started getting into fights. Bad fights. I don’t think he could stand being here with you. So, he left. And he didn’t leave mom much. She’s taken an extra job, and we moved to that lovely trailer park of Kerley. Basically, ever since you left, everything’s been a total disaster. And the worst part is, I can’t tell anyone what’s going on,” Max says aloud, as she reads the letter she wrote her stepbrother.
“I can’t tell them that you saved El’s life. That you saved my life. I play that moment back in my head all the time. And sometimes I imagine myself running to you, pulling you away. I imagine if I had, that you would still be here. And everything would be right again,” she continues, growing more and more emotional.
“I imagine that we could’ve become friends. Good friends, like a real brother and sister. And I know that’s stupid. You hated me. I hated you. But I thought maybe we could try again. But that’s not what happened. I just stood there and I watched,” she says. “For a while, I tried to be happy. Normal. But I think maybe a part of me died that day too. And I haven’t told anyone this. I just can’t. But I had to tell you. Before it’s too late. If you can even hear this, I really hope that you can, I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry, Billy. Love your shi**y little sister.”
As soon as she finishes, Vecna makes its move and pulls her into the Upside Down. However, all Caleb, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Steve (Joe Keery) can see is her possessed body being lifted into the air. With Billy’s ghost trying to suck her deeper into the Upside Down, her three friends try desperately to pull her back into the world of the living. And that’s when Dusin comes up with the idea to play “Running Up That Hill” until she’s able to find her way back.
“Her life gets saved by Kate Bush,” Sink says, noting that Max is now “in a very vulnerable position.”
Despite escaping Vecna that one time, she’s still very haunted by his presence -- and continues to turn to Bush’s 1985 single to keep her safe. At least until the gang figures out how to vanquish Vecna once and for all.
“There’s a lot of supernatural, crazy elements going on,” Hawke previously told ET about the increased dangers in Hawkins. But none of that takes away from “their relationships, their actual lives and feelings and emotions,” with what Max is going through as an example of how the series keeps each characters’ journey grounded.
Also making season 4 feel even bigger is the fact that with everything going on with Max back in Hawkins, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Will (Noah Schnapp), Mike (Finn Wolfhard) are in California fending off their own dangers while Joyce (Winona Ryder) treks to Russia to save Jim (David Harbour).
“Just having these very different locations to follow throughout the season, it’s never something we’ve done before,” says Sink, who feels that the early episodes all feel different thanks to “the distance between everyone.”
She adds, “I think it makes it all the more exciting.”