The poorly chosen, cartoonish Terminator parody from season three seems even more out of place in comparison to the fully out Russian antagonists of Stranger Things season 4.
Even if the Terminator parody/homage from Stranger Things season 3 was awkward and out of place, Stranger Things season 4 with its stronger, more complex Russian antagonists further worsened the meaningless subplot. Even though Stranger Things season 3 had numerous flaws, the antagonists were some of the most serious ones. For starters, there were way too many of them. The body-snatched Billy served as the season’s main antagonist, and his supporters made up another significant villainous group. The Russians living beneath the mall came in third, and the misogynistic Hawkins Post staff, the dishonest mayor of Hawkins played by Cary Elwes, and the constant threat posed by Hawkins Lab completed the overstuffed episode.
The antagonists from Stranger Things season 3 had other problems as well, which Stranger Things season 4 seemed to try to avoid. The way the Netflix series portrayed Soviet characters reeked of Russophobia and recycled several anti-Communist clichés from the 1980s. Scenes like Erica praising capitalism and Hopper slaughtering nameless Russian guards felt out of place in the more sober setting of Stranger Things, just as the season’s parody of James Cameron’s classic original Terminator film.
Given that The Terminator is a renowned 80s sci-fi horror film, it seemed only fitting for the television series Stranger Things to make a reference to it. However, one of Stranger Things season 3’s worst new characters was Grigori the assassin, who served as a sort of Terminator pastiche. This was mostly because his persona was both too ridiculous to be taken seriously and too serious to be parodied.
He largely came off as a racist caricature and a poorly written mash-up of the T-850 and Ivan Drago. Stranger Things season 4’s cast of Russian characters made it much more difficult to forgive him. Murray respected the Soviet troops guarding the jail for their steadfast adherence to their philosophy in addition to the heroic Enzo and ethically gray Yuri, which made the cartoonish villain from season 3 seem all the more out of place.
Why Grigori’s Russian Villains in Stranger Things 4 Worked Better Than They Should
It seemed probable that the fourth season of Stranger Things, which places David Harbour’s Hopper in a Russian prison camp, would repeat the Grigori error and make every Soviet character the hero came into contact with into a ridiculous, one-dimensional evil. As opposed to this, Stranger Things season 4 gave even minor characters depth by showing Russian generals laughing and joking with Yuri (who was actually Murray in disguise) and by showing Hopper opening up to his cellmate Enzo after their foiled breakout attempt.
Stranger Things acknowledged that the Cold War was more complex than its more cartoonish take from season 3 with Hopper’s revelation that he was responsible for the Agent Orange assaults in Vietnam (a real-life war crime committed by the US during the decades-long invasion).
As a result, among the expanding cast of Stranger Things baddies, Girgori the hitman and walking Terminator allusion sticks out like a sore thumb. All of the antagonists in Stranger Things are real people with plausible motivations, whether it be Max’s sad brother Billy, the scary Vecna, the deranged Dr. Brenner, or even the dishonest Mayor of Hawkins (or, at least, they once were before their horrifying transformations). The weak link in an otherwise strong cast of Stranger Things enemies is Grigori, a cartoonish Terminator parody who doesn’t fit in with his season 4 cohorts.