Stranger Things’ Season 4 finale, “The Piggyback,” is an emotionally packed episode for many reasons, but particularly for how it portrays the fears and heartaches that follow grief. “I kept it open. I kept the door open three inches,” Eleven says, crying in the hands of the father she didn’t expect to see ever again.
It’s heartfelt and poignant, allowing Millie Bobby Brown to bring some of her best performances to our screens, but it’s also what it exhibits for those of us who’ve lost someone. I imagine that those who’ve lost have similar things they’d like to say to their loved ones who’ve passed. Whether they’ve told us to do something specific or, like me, your father inspired you to be the writer that you are, we all hope for reunions in Heaven, don’t we? Or, perhaps it’s a simple yet achingly profound “I miss you”—or even an “I love you.” Whatever those words, they’re personal and matter tremendously just as much as Eleven’s does.
Hopper was never really dead, but still, Eleven mourned him. She grieved him, and if he didn’t return, she’d miss him for the rest of her life. He was the hero she carried everywhere she went for the last eight months, knowing what it was like to love and lose someone. And when you miss someone, you do things you know would make them proud. It looks different for all of us. Maybe for you, it’s putting a specific jewelry item on, ordering a meal the same way, or perhaps even doing something completely new that you know they’d be proud of.
No matter how much time passes, the grieving cycle never ends. The routines we create become such an integral part of us that we don’t even notice it until a moment as colossal as this propels us to realize what we’re doing. I’ve always written to honor my late father, but I discovered recently that I’d been more drawn to sunflowers than ever before, but it didn’t hit me until a few months ago that it’s because they remind me of my late grandmother. Eleven kept the door open three inches because she hoped to keep Hopper with her. She states that she never stopped believing because perhaps somewhere deep down, she knew he wasn’t truly dead. Stranger Things’ “The Piggyback” continually reflects on the losses through reunion, making this scene a sign of her immense adoration and respect for Hopper, as well as an exhibition of her pain.
In a relatively brief and happy scene, the heart is indescribable. David Harbour and Millie Bobby Brown play off one another with such sincerity that nothing is more apparent than how profoundly the two have affected one another since their initial meeting. They saved one another, and their belief in the other kept them going in trying times.
Stranger Things’ “The Piggyback” makes it clear that these quiet moments reflect wanting to do right by those we care for. It appears to be a simple statement, but it’s one with immense meaning. It’s a showcase of gratitude and love, and it’s one of the most wholesome, meaningful moments throughout the show.
Hopper became a better man after adopting Eleven, and his love for her gave her the courage necessary to fight through the demons from her past, along with the abuse brought on by Papa. Whatever she stops believing in, this moment beautifully tells us that Hopper’s love will never be one of those things. Plus, it’s this very belief that he likely carried with him and will continue to as challenges arise. Children can inspire their parents as much as their parents could inspire them, and this is something we should see more of on our TV screens.
Stranger Things Season 4 is now streaming on Netflix.
Gissane (pronounced Geese-enny) — or, as people often call her, "Goose" — is a romance aficionado who's taken her Master's in English and love for essays into writing lengthy analyses about pop culture. She's the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Marvelous Geeks Media and the co-host of Lady Geeks Podcast. She drinks too much coffee, wants to live in a forest, and cries a lot because of her favorite characters.