But even more than his awkward appearances (save for the perpetually charismatic Joe Keery), his hideous haircuts, his disappointing mythological reconninghis somber romances and his overarching narrative expansion– culminating in a finale where the tension dies down through a thousand bits – there’s a low point for this super-sized outing of the Duffer Brothers’ Netflix hit, and it involves an excruciating new character, an 80s rock classic and a scene that will live forever in heavy-metal poseurdom infamy.
I’m talking, of course, about Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn), season four’s most prominent primetime addition, and his upside-down rattling rendition of Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” By the time he strap on his guitar and do his best Hetfleld-Hammett impersonation, Eddie is already well established as the epitome of ’80s headbanging, a long-haired outcast in a denim jacket adorned with a giant Ronnie James Dio backpatch that acts as the president of the Hellfire Club and the emcee for his rambunctious games of Dungeons & Dragons.
Eddie is eventually jailed for the murders of several classmates from Hawkins, Indiana, committed by Upside Down villain Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower), and thus is vilified as a devil-worshipping cult leader in a storyline that touches on the hysterical ‘satanic panic’ of the decade.
After fleeing and/or hiding from athletic bullies and law enforcement for much of its nine episodes, he finally gathers some courage and shreds Metallica’s 8.5-minute opus atop its Upside Down trailer, almost literally on the riding lightning during a storm to lure the hungry demon bats of the alternate realm away from his comrades.
It’s like something out of a post-Black Sabbath Ozzy Osbourne music video, it’s a moment designed to shred. While the concept may be reverent, the execution is sheer unbearable fakeness.
Much of that is Eddie himself, a cartoon rioter who is way too cheesy to register as a legit metalhead. As epitomized by Quinn, Eddie comes across as a jester masquerading as a thrash foe, and his non-stop corny demeanor—whether he goes full-dork as the master of D&D ceremonies, or freaks carelessly because he wanted for murder – undermining his supposed badass nature.
Of course, even a die-hard Slayer Nation member would be tempted to lose his cool under such end-of-the-world pressures. but during Weird stuffround four, only Will is more likely to burst into tears, and he has a whole closet full of pent-up emotions that can blame him for his cranky state. All wild laughter and wilder brooding and screaming, Eddie’s caricatured nature makes his juvenile delinquent routine so schtick – an idea compounded by his adorable and cuddly relationship with Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and the ultimate, moan-worthy respect for Keery’s heroic preppy Steve.
All of this culminates with Eddie’s cover of “Master of Puppets,” which has currently lifted the song to the top of the iTunes charts and was hailed (embarrassingly, albeit predictably) by Metallica as “an incredible honour.” Aside from the fact that it’s unlikely Eddie would have perfected Metallica’s opus in a few months PuppeteerThe March 1986 release and ignoring Dustin’s grinning idiotic response to this showmanship (which adds an extra layer of Velveeta to the spectacle), Eddie’s over-the-top ax work is the kind of spinning display fit for an air guitar competition.
That impression is reinforced by the fact that he’s wailing alone in the Upside Down, and yet you can hear the rest of the band’s instruments, as well as Hetfield’s voice – meaning he’s either just going to the pre-recorded album. plays, or, uh, he’s magic? While the Duffer Brothers are clearly using a formal shortcut to maximize the scene’s impact, their demand for suspension of disbelief is overturned by logistical madness. In other words, if Eddie is performing alone, why don’t you let us know? And if he isn’t, why not just spin the record at maximum volume and avoid endangering himself?
In the grand scheme of things this bloated and anticlimactic season – and given that Weird stuff fundamentally depends on indulgent nostalgia – this lonely storytelling device isn’t quite catastrophic. Yet it is an essential part of a fourth chapter characterized by excessive sloppiness. If Eddie were the type of true ’80s metalhead who got held back multiple times in high school and cared more about Iron Maiden and Motorhead than math and social studies, he’d consider this pantomime the height of absurdity—and a sham that should not be.