The fourth season of Netflix’s creepy hit Stranger Things has taken the world by storm. The first seven episodes, released on 27 May, wowed viewers with their ambitious storyline involving the formidable Vecna. They also introduced instant fan favourites like Dungeons and Dragons guru Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn), and propelled Kate Bush back to the top of the charts thanks to the use of her iconic 'Running Up That Hill' in a plot involving the grieving Max (Sadie Sink).
Now, the fourth season’s epic finale has landed on Netflix as of 1 July, and eager fans are already piecing together what might happen to the citizens of Hawkins in the show’s fifth and final season.
Read more: What happened in Stranger Things S3?
So, what do we know so far?
Stranger Things season 5 release date
Season 5 of Stranger Things was announced in February 2022, but for now we don’t know when the show will be heading to our screens. The COVID-19 outbreak has delayed production and as yet the final season hasn’t started filming.
“I’m not sure we’re ready to say yet a start date for shooting” Matt Duffer told TVLine. So. it’s safe to assume that any finale may not be on our screens until late 2023 at the earliest.
Such a gap wouldn’t be uncommon for the show, which normally leaves around 18 months between seasons, with fans waiting just under 3 years between the release of season 3 (July 2019) and 4 (May 2022).
What will be the plot of Stranger Things season 5?
Very little is known about the plot of the fifth season, as fans were keen to keep the final two episodes of Season 4 spoiler-free. However, the show’s creators, The Duffer Brothers, have given snippets of what to expect, assuring the fans that 'a lot of it is pretty well mapped out'.
“We learn a lot every time we make a [season],” Matt Duffer said in an interview with TVLine. “We’ve learned a lot just working with all of our new actors and the ones that we’ve worked with for a long time over this year (during Season 4 filming) so I’m sure it’ll change a little bit from that outline”.
A statement in February confirmed that the show will end with Season 5, and one thing that seems to be confirmed is that the plot will move forward in time, as opposed to the yearly jumps of current seasons.
“I’m sure we will do a time jump,” says Ross Duffer, who also says the initial plan was to shoot season 4 and 5 back-to-back. “There was just no feasible way to do that” he reflects on the situation.
Fans who are fully up-to-date with season four will know that by the end of the finale, Max was still lying in a coma in hospital and Eleven was unable to access any of her thoughts or memories to communicate, suggesting that she might not recover.
Eleven and Hopper were reunited at their cabin in the woods, but with a mass exodus from Hawkins (most residents believe Vecna's carnage was an earthquake, with rumours of a satanic curse attached) it's possible that other key characters' families could be preparing to leave.
Vecna/Henry/One is not fully defeated yet and promised a more global reign of terror to come, which was supposed to be kick-started by Max's death before Eleven, whose powers are back and stronger than before, managed to keep her just hanging onto life.
Why the time jump?
While there may be storyline issues to contend with, part of the Duffer Brothers’ decision to include a time jump in the fifth season is the show’s young cast.
It’s been six years since Stranger Things debuted, but in the show’s timeline only three years have passed in four seasons (starting in 1983 to most recently 1986). As such, the gap between the characters’ age and the actors who play them is beginning to show.
Millie Bobby Brown recently expressed shock that Eleven is supposed to be fourteen in Season 4 (the British star is currently 18). It’s not the only big gap, however: Caleb McLaughlin is five years older than his 15-year-old character Lucas, while 30-year-old Joe Keery’s character, Steve, is believed to be between 18 and 19.
Season four saw Nancy and Jonathan preparing to head off to college, but with Jonathan secretly not applying for the same college that Nancy is expecting to attend together and Steve making his lingering feelings for Nancy clear, there could be some big changes once the older kids leave high school.
The time jump should also clear up exactly what happens to Max after being left in a coma by Vecna.
Is Stranger Things Season 5 the final season?
In February, The Duffer Brothers confirmed that Stranger Things will reach its end with Season 5. In an open letter shared on Netflix’s blog, the duo revealed that this is the run they always envisioned for the show.
"Seven years ago, we planned out the complete story arc for Stranger Things," they wrote. "At the time, we predicted the story would last four or five seasons. It proved too large to tell in four, but — as you'll soon see for yourselves — we are now hurtling toward our finale. Season 4 will be the penultimate season; season 5 will be the last.”
That may not be the last we see of the show’s universe, however, as Ross Duffer teased a spin-off show in an interview with Variety.
Likely to begin production as Season 5 is winding down, Ross Duffer teased “The reason we haven't done anything is just because you don't want to be doing it for the wrong reasons, and it was just like, 'Is this something I would want to make regardless of it being related to Stranger Things or not?' And definitely.
"Even if we took the Stranger Things title off of it, I'm so, so excited about it. But it is not… It's going to be different than what anyone is expecting, including Netflix."
The super-sized, epic conclusion of Stranger Things 4 is now streaming with Episodes 408 and 409, only on Netflix.