** Is Max Mayfield dead? This article contains detailed spoilers for all of Stranger Things season 4 **
Stranger Things season 4 came to a dramatic conclusion when volume 2 dropped, and fans weren't expecting things to be smooth sailing as the town of Hawkins faced their toughest adversary yet: Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower).
Since she first appeared in Stranger Things season 2 in the episode titled MADMAX, Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink) quickly became a big part of the story and a fan favourite, forming an unlikely bond with the group, especially with Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) who developed feelings for her.
In a now-iconic scene featuring Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill, we saw Max escaping Vecna's clutches, thanks to the power of good music and her friends that cared about her, but she wasn't quite as lucky when she ran into Vecna for a second time in an attempt to help take him down for good.
Max's fate is now unclear, so let's take a look at what happened as well as some theories about what might've happened ahead of Stranger Things season 5, which has been confirmed to be the final outing for the Netflix hit.
Is Max Mayfield dead? What happened to Max in Stranger Things season 4?
In the epic 2 hr 20 min finale of Stranger Things season 4, Max and the gang decided to go up against Vecna with a plan that saw Max try and draw out Vecna in the real world, putting herself in harm's way for the sake of Hawkins.
This gave residents Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer), Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), and Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke) the opportunity to head into the Upside Down to attack him, while Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) and Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) distracted the creatures of the other world together.
During this showdown, we sadly lost Eddie as he protected his newfound friends from the Upside Down's creatures, sacrificing himself to save Hawkins and avenge Chrissy, who he saw brutally murdered by Vecna in season 4, episode 1 in his trailer, where it was assumed he was responsible for her death.
But Max's fate was a little different. She successfully manages to get Vecna's attention and he thrusts her into a world of her own torment and although she is able to evade him for a time, Vecna does eventually catch up with disastrous results.
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) tries to fight Vecna from within Max's mind but then Vecna imprisons her in his Mind Lair and starts to kill Max in front of her, much to Eleven's horror.
During this terrifying moment, Max begins to levitate and her arms and legs are broken by the creature, in the same way we've seen throughout the series as Vecna brutally murdered troubled teens in Hawkins.
Max returns to the real world but the damage done by Vecna is too much for her to bear and she dies in Lucas' arms in a very heartbreaking scene, with her supposed death leading to Vecna's plan coming to fruition as he brings the Upside Down into the real world.
Is their anything more emotional than this max and Lucas scene#StrangerThings #StrangerThings4 pic.twitter.com/BLPtx6Ms2tJuly 1, 2022
So confused! Is Max Mayfield dead? Did she actually die?
This is where it gets a little complicated! We assumed that Max had died at the hands of Vecna, but Eleven was able to step in and intervene, putting Max into a coma that she has not yet awoken from.
We currently don't know if Max is still there, as Eleven was unable to enter her mind and locate her, so she could have passed on or her soul could be trapped elsewhere, with the Upside Down continuing to be a mysterious, logic-defying and surprising place filled with plenty of dangers and abilities that are so different from the real world.
However, we have previously seen Upside Down monsters possessing people so Max could still be vulnerable and serve as a vessel for Vecna, or she could even inherit powers like Eleven did, so there's a chance Max hasn't actually gone just yet and she's still here in some form.
Lucas reading to Max while she’s in a coma made me cry. He’s truly the best boyfriend ☹️ #StrangerThings #StrangerThings4 pic.twitter.com/avxbVwHRVgJuly 1, 2022
It's also interesting that we last saw Max in a coma, as while other characters such as Eddie seem long gone, this does give an opportunity for her character to return in some form so fans can only hope!
Speaking about her character's development to The Hollywood Reporter, Sadie Sink said: "Max's journey in Volume 2, I think, is about how she has to make some really brave choices. And she has already, but I think she has to really step up and be braver than she's ever been before.
"So, that was a nice side of her to see; taking charge of her own life, her own fate and kind of taking a stand, which she's always been good at, but this is to the extreme."
She added: "So, it's nice to see that fiercer side of her, which we caught kind of a glimpse of through the last bit of episode four when she's choosing to fight. So I guess just a little bit more of that."
Stranger Things seasons 1 - 4 are available to watch exclusively on Netflix.
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Lucy joined the WhatToWatch.com team in 2021, where she writes series guides for must-watch programmes, reviews and the latest TV news. Originally from Northumberland, she graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a degree in Film Studies and moved to London to begin a career writing about entertainment.
She is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic and has a huge passion for cinema. She especially loves horror, thriller and anything crime-related. Her favourite TV programmes include Inside No 9, American Horror Story, Stranger Things and Black Mirror but she is also partial to a quiz show or a bit of Say Yes to the Dress!