Every Time Stranger Things 4 Volume 2 Broke Our Hearts

Read with caution: There are major spoilers for "Stranger Things" season 4, volume 2 below!

Hopefully, you remembered to break out the Kleenex before settling in for your four-hour binge of "Stranger Things" season 4, volume 2. Unfortunately for the residents of this small Indiana town, tragedy is a staple element of the Hawkins experience — which is probably why the season ends with two dozen cars leaving the cursed town in the rear-view mirror. 

It turns out that combining corrupt scientists, a government conspiracy, a telekinetic little girl, and a group of courageous nerds can have a massive impact. Sometimes it's the fun kind: epic sci-fi hijinks, memorable needle drops, and the reliable fun of watching kids save the world. Other times, you'll find yourself sobbing into your sleeve to the track of your new favorite Kate Bush song. Volume 2 is one of those times.

Call me crazy, but I think that we saw this sadness coming: maybe it's the fact that we're approaching the endgame of "Stranger Things," with just one more season to go — or maybe it's the hideous, soul-sucking monster invading people's minds, breaking their bones, and gouging out their eyes. Yeah, it's probably that one. 

The point is, this season's finale delivered. The final two supersized episodes of the series' penultimate season see emotions running high. While the show never fails to deliver on heart-pumping, euphoric, and epic action-packed moments, there's no shortage of heartbreak either, and these scenes in particular had us mopping up tears.

Will's confession

In more ways than one, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has been through hell. He's been tortured, possessed, experimented on, and forced to survive the monster-infested trenches of the Upside Down. And all of that is combined with the everyday struggles of growing up — divorced parents, constant bullying, a friend group that seems to be moving forward without him, and unrequited feelings for his best friend, Mike (Finn Wolfhard). His feelings for Mike have been long suspected by fans and are all but verbally confirmed in the latest chapter of "Stranger Things."

One of the first moments to strike an emotional chord comes early in the penultimate episode of the season, when Will finally reveals the painting he's been clinging to: a portrait of their Dungeons & Dragons party, with Mike leading the charge. He uses it to comfort Mike, convincing him that Eleven still needs him (which is crazy, because of course she doesn't) but it quickly becomes clear that Will's words have a double meaning. "These past few months she's been so lost without you," Will tells Mike. "It's just, she's so different from other people, and ... when you're ... when you're different, sometimes ... you feel like a mistake."

Hiding behind the shield of El's feelings is the closest Will can get to talking about his own. Mike (who has a one-track mind trapped in an endless loop of thinking about El) has no idea of the true meaning behind Will's words. He just takes in the confidence boost while Will turns away to hide his tears. Thankfully, there's at least one person in Will's life who can stop worrying about their girlfriend long enough to notice someone else's feelings, and later, the Byers brothers will share a touching moment. But first, we're forced to sit with Will's anguish.

El discovers the monster

Speaking of people that can't catch a break, El (Millie Bobby Brown) also goes through the wringer this season when she's reunited with Dr. Brenner, aka Papa (Matthew Modine). The only reason she willingly stuck out his experiments was because she desperately wanted to understand exactly what went down in her past. But when he tries to keep her from rescuing her friends back in Hawkins, El has an epiphany of sorts.

She reflects on all the people lost to the monsters of the Upside Down — complete with a supercut of lots of painful scenes from seasons past — and realizes that Brenner has always been to blame. He pushed Henry too far, then did the same to her. "You are the monster," she tells him. A couple of scenes later, Brenner bites the dust in what's presumably meant to be an emotional moment, but it rings hollow. He tells El that everything he did was for her, but after painfully coming to terms with all that he's done, El can see past his words.

The calm before the storm

Nothing tragic actually befalls the Hawkins crew as they gather on a hillside, sharpening their spears (literal AND metaphorical!), but there's something inherently heartbreaking about moments like these. Death is ominously looming over them, just by virtue of their insane, exceedingly dangerous plan. Going into the Upside Down? Distracting the demobats? Baiting Vecna?! 

Making matters a million times worse, they have the audacity to share sweet moments of the "famous last words" variety. After wrestling in the grass, Eddie (Joseph Quinn) tells Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) to "never change," and the kid's face seems to gleam with admiration. Elsewhere, Erica (Priah Ferguson) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) share a sweet sibling moment ("you're still my brother") as they prepare to charge into battle.

Continuing to be the absolute best, Steve (Joe Kerry) and Robin (Maya Hawke) share some silly banter before bringing us back down to earth. "Not everything has a happy ending," Robin says, taking a serious moment to brush aside all the romantic turmoil that continuously runs through the show. The stakes are so much higher than unrequited love. "I have this terrible, gnawing feeling that it might not work out for us this time." Oh, Robin, you have no idea.

Despite the very legitimate fear that a bunch of teens won't stand a chance against an interdimensional monster with a pretty sizable body count, Robin points out that if they don't try to defeat Vecna, no one will. While she speaks, the camera pans over to where everyone is running through the field, engaged with target practice and slashing their homemade spears. They're so crushingly vulnerable, but she's right: these kids are, once again, the only ones who can save the world.

Steve's confession

Nothing telegraphs a character's death quite like talking about the future! In the end, Steve (Joe Kerry) actually makes it through this season of "Stranger Things," so in retrospect, this scene might not be so sad after all. But in the moment, Steve's confession to loving Nancy (Natalia Dyer) tugs real hard on those ol' heartstrings. It hits like he's trying to get out his feelings before losing his shot forever. 

Plus, this comes while Robin's words are still ringing in our ears. She argued that the stakes of their love lives are low in comparison to everything else, but apparently Steve doesn't agree. Being beside Nancy, even in the Upside Down, is just a sharp reminder of how far he's come and while he still has the breath to say it, he decides to tell her how he feels. The Duffer Brothers aren't cruel enough to take this idiot away from us, right? 

...Who am I kidding, he's doomed.

Max summons Vecna

To save her friends and, ultimately, the entire world, Max must once again confront her inner demons. The last time she faced off against Vecna, Max had Kate Bush on her side and was actively fighting to escape his grasp and get back to her body. This time, she has to linger in her mind long enough to be a distraction. So she sets the headphones down and lets Vecna in while the Upside Down crew waits to attack with grit and Molotov's. And how does she get Vecna's attention? By letting him into the darkest corners of her mind.

In a heart-wrenching monologue, Max gives voice to the dark thoughts that have been plaguing her since Billy's death. "When I lie in bed at night, I pray that something will happen to me," she admits. "That something terrible will happen to me." Not only does Vecna seize on this, but once again he turns her mind against her, wearing Lucas' first to attack her. Big surprise, the plan that involves willfully subjecting herself to trauma hurts, and Max is once again trapped in her mind.

Eleven confronts One

Prepare for layers of sadness! In a moment of desperation, when the tides of their confrontation begin to shift in Vecna's favor, El tries to connect with One on a human level. After all, they once knew each other as people and though he had ulterior motives, he felt a kinship with her. But when she brings up their past, One doesn't waver. He dismisses her attempt to blame Papa and puts all that he's done on El instead: "He did not make me into this. You did." Worst of all, he doesn't stop his attack. He tells her that her friends have lost and now, Hawkins will fall.

Sure enough, we get flashes of where everyone stands: Lucas is getting pummeled by Jason, Eddie is faltering in his battle against the demobats, the Upside Down crew are losing air to Vecna's vines, and Hopper is on the verge of being eaten by a Demogorgon. Then Vecna turns to Max, and with no Kate Bush to save her, she can't fend him off. For a very real and devastating moment, we have indeed lost.

Eddie says goodbye

Has anyone else noticed that this show loves to introduce a character and slowly make us fall in love with them before promptly killing them off by the end of their debut season? RIP Bob, Alexei, Chrissy, and *sobs* Eddie the Banished.

Eddie must've missed the "don't be a hero" speech that Steve tried hammering into his head, or perhaps he wilfully ignored it. Hawkins needed a hero and Eddie rose to the occasion, despite the fact that the town never accepted him. He meets his grisly end at the hands (or fangs) of the demobats, choosing to hold them off longer and buy more time for the others instead of running back to shelter. Still haunted by how he ran away when Chrissy died, Eddie fights back in a truly epic, metalhead fashion. With thunder crackling, he stands his ground for as long as he possibly can.

As if it's not heartbreaking enough to see Eddie go, Dustin catches up just in time for his Hellfire Club mentor to die in his arms. As Dustin will later point out, Eddie never stops being himself in these moments — smiling through it all with his roguish charm and chaotic energy. His dying breaths are used to tell Dustin to take care of "those little sheep," and if your heart doesn't shatter when he mentions the graduation he'll never have, then maybe you just don't have one. 

Additional pain follows as Dustin mourns him and proceeds to be the ONLY ONE thinking about Eddie throughout the finale. He even shares a moment with Eddie's uncle, vaguely explaining how he died to save the town despite everyone's hatred. Hawkins won't remember Eddie fondly, but everyone who truly knew him will always consider him a hero.

Vecna takes Max

Seconds after losing Eddie, we learn that this battle has more than one casualty. Vecna took the bait a lot more effectively than the squad planned and while El came to the rescue, she was a little too late. When the dust settles, Max is in bad shape with her broken limbs and bleeding eyes. She reveals that she can't feel or see anything, while Lucas screams for Erica to get help. Her final moments are filled with terror, telling Lucas she isn't ready to die. El looks on from her mind space, crying along with Lucas and unable to help as Max dies in his arms.

It's a sobering, devastating moment that only gets worse when you consider all that Vecna represents: Max's depression and grief overtake her, isolating her from her friends despite how desperately she clung to her happier memories. Yes, El manages to salvage her life with love and friendship, but even that doesn't erase the horror of her momentary death.

The Upside Down comes to Hawkins

In typical "Stranger Things" fashion, the season ends on a bittersweet note — but this one is a lot darker than in seasons past. Usually, there's a victory to celebrate, a Snow Ball to attend, or some normalcy to look forward to. But this time around, the Hawkins gang are nursing their wounds and mourning a loss. The sweetness comes in the form of a reunion: the pizza van crew finally arrives, El discovers that Hopper is alive, and everyone hugs. But Max is still trapped in a coma, so deep in her mind that even Eleven can't reach her. Plus, Will reveals that he can still feel Vecna alive; he's weakened, but they haven't defeated him yet. A bigger battle looms on the horizon and El's confidence is shot after losing in such a painful way.

Worst of all is the ominous final moments of the season: having succeeded with his four kills to open four gates, Vecna has brought the Upside Down to Hawkins. What some mistake for a massive earthquake is Vecna's plan coming to fruition. Even the spores are no longer contained, and the crew comes to the crushing realization that the two worlds are bleeding together.