Stranger Things season 5 is officially in production and The Duffer Brothers have been hard at work writing the new series. The latest from the writers’ room was a very blurry look at the entire plot for the season – but before you get too excited, it seems even the biggest internet sleuths are struggling to work out what it says.
Elsewhere, Netflix was pretty quiet about Stranger Things season 5 at its annual Tudum event. We didn’t get any news from inside the production aside from some fun bloopers from the latest season. But we do know one bit of casting news, however – and it might be a disappointment for fans. Despite the love for Eddie Munson, it seems like Joseph Quinn won’t be reprising the role in the final season.
While we don’t have a release date yet for our final return to the Upside Down, we do know some of what to expect. This includes how many episodes it will feature, that the plot will include a time jump, and an epic feature-length final episode is on its way. For all of that and more on the cast, expected trailer release, plot points, and when it could land on the streaming service, check out our guide to Stranger Things season 5 below.
The Duffers Brothers have started writing Stranger Things season 5. The news was confirmed in early August 2022 when the writers’ room tweeted a picture of a blank whiteboard to mark “day one”.
However, cameras have yet to start rolling on the show just yet. Due to COVID-related shutdowns, season 4 wrapped filming in September 2021 – having originally kicked off production in February 2020 – and the first seven episodes were not released until May 2022, eight months after filming finished. Pre-pandemic, each season has typically taken around six to seven months to shoot.(Stranger Things season 5)
Factor in lengthy VFX post-production work and it takes well over a year to complete a season from start to finish. We would therefore estimate that Stranger Things season 5 won’t come out until late 2023 at the very earliest.
Realistically, though, the new season will probably drop in 2024. Seasons 2 and 3 were almost two years apart, and that was before coronavirus disrupted things, so we know the Duffers aren’t afraid to test our patience. As this is the final season, they’re probably going to want to go big, too, meaning that season 5 could possibly take even longer.
While it’ll almost certainly be bigger than its predecessor, the Duffers want season 5 to be shorter in runtime, as they plan to tighten up the episodes this time around. In season 4, each episode was over an hour and the finale was 2 hours 20 minutes.
“Characters are already going to be in action, they’re already going to have a goal and a drive, and I think that’s going to carve out at least a couple hours and make this season feel really different,” they told Josh Horowitz on his Happy Sad Confused podcast. They did say that the last-ever episode will likely be feature-length, however: “I’m sure the wrap-up will be a lot longer, it’s going to be Return of the King-ish with, like, eight endings.”
A new tweet from the Stranger Things Writers’ Room account gave us a look at their whiteboard in the “grid stage,” split up across eight episodes with four chunks under each one to storyboard the season’s events. If this is the final plan for the season, then it will be shorter than season 4 which had a total of nine extra-long episodes.
Is Stranger Things season 5 the final season?
In terms of Eleven, her friends at Hawkins, and the Upside Down, Stranger Things season 5 will be the last chapter in this story – but that doesn’t mean it’s the last Netflix series that will be set in the Stranger Things universe.
When announcing the looming end of the Netflix show, the Duffer Brothers hinted at a potential spin-off series: “There are still many more exciting stories to tell within the world of Stranger Things. New mysteries, new adventures, new unexpected heroes.”
“We haven’t told anyone the idea yet, much less written it,” they added later on. “We think everyone – including Netflix – will be surprised when they hear the concept, because it’s very, very different. Somehow, Finn Wolfhard – who is one crazy smart kid – correctly guessed what it was going to be about. But aside from Finn, no one else knows!”
For now, the exact Stranger Things season 5 plot is unclear, but the Duffer Brothers have offered up some clues as to what to expect – and teased that they have the whole series’ conclusion pretty firmly mapped out. “We know what the ending is,” Matt Duffer previously said during an interview with SFX. “It’s conceivable that it changes but I think it’s unlikely because it’s one of those endings that just feels, and has always felt, right.
It also feels sort of inevitable. Then when you come up with it, you’re like, ‘Oh yeah well, that is absolutely what is has to be.'”
Season 4 concluded with every group – in Nevada, Indiana, and Russia, respectively – somewhat unknowingly teaming up to take down Vecna. While Max baits his mind at the Creel House, Robin, Steve, and Nancy set fire to his defenseless physical form in the Upside Down. Simultaneously, Mike and Will dunk Eleven in a makeshift sensory deprivation tank, and her consciousness finds its way to Max to assist her in facing off against the big bad.
But as Will states towards the end of episode 9, Vecna is far from defeated.
“Now that I’m back, in Hawkins, I can feel him. And he’s hurt, he’s hurting, but he’s still alive. It’s strange knowing now who it was this whole time. But I can still remember what he thinks, and how he thinks. He’s not gonna stop, ever, not until he’s taken everything… everyone… We have to kill him,” he solemnly tells Mike.
In a new interview with Collider(opens in new tab), the showrunners revealed that Will is going to be the “primary focus” of season 5, as the final episodes “circle back to season one.”
Matt explained: “We’re starting to see his coming of age, really, which has been challenging for a number of reasons; some of which are supernatural. But you’re starting to see him come into his own.”
“I think you’ll see that with a couple of the character arcs, not just with Will,” Ross added. “But also with Steve and Nancy, and her relationship with Jonathan, where things are not fully resolved. The characters have maybe made steps, like in the case of Will, but that journey isn’t over yet. All of that is going to play a huge role as we try to wrap this thing up next season.”
“5 is just going to be pedal to the metal from the opening scene,” the latter also told The Wrap(opens in new tab), hinting that whatever happens, it’s going to be emotional. “I saw executives crying who I’ve never seen cry before and it was wild.”
After the Stranger Things season 4, Volume 2 ending, there are also plenty of theories floating around about what could happen. We suspect that time travel might factor in in a big way, seeing as the Upside Down was revealed to be stuck in November 1983. Some viewers have been speculating if Eddie Munson could return as a new villain.
Other theories suggest Max could be the key to Vecna’s plan, Dungeons & Dragons may predict who the next big bad will be, or that Eleven’s ‘lost sister’ will help her defeat Vecna at the end of the season.
It’s highly unlikely that any of the main cast members are going to split before Stranger Things wraps itself up for good, so it’s expected that they’re all set to return for season 5. That means Millie Bobby Brown will be back as Eleven, Finn Wolfhard will reprise his role as Mike Wheeler, and Sadie Sink will be seen again as Max Mayfield… if she manages to make it out of her coma, anyway.
Other actors almost certainly geared up to show their faces again include Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), Noah Schnapp (Will Byers), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson), Maya Hawke (Robin Buckley), Joe Keery (Steve Harrington), Natalia Dyer (Nancy Wheeler), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers), Brett Gelman (Murray Bauman), David Harbour (Jim Hopper), and Winona Ryder (Joyce Byers).
“Let me put it this way: I know about season five. Take from that what you will,” Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays Vecna/Henry Creel/One, said elsewhere. Bower’s return is hardly surprising, though, given the fact that the gang didn’t actually manage to kill his season 4 big bad. Here’s hoping things work out better for them in season 5…
Joseph Quinn, who was introduced as Eddie Munson in season 4, recently told The Guardian(opens in new tab) that he’d love to see the leader of the Dungeons & Dragons’ loving Hellfire Club return in season 5. “I’ll be furious if they don’t bring me back,” he laughed. “I’d love to, if they’ll have me.” (Given that the character was killed by a bunch of Demobats in episode 9, though, we’re not sure how likely that is – for more, check out our deep dive on everyone who dies in Stranger Things season 4, Volume 2).
What’s more, the creative team admitted it was pretty unlikely he’ll be back. Executive producer Shawn Levy told The Hollywood Reporter(opens in new tab): “A lot of people can’t even handle the thought of a season 5 without some excuse for Eddie presence. [But it’s] highly unlikely, highly unlikely. But we hear you, world, we know. You’re obsessed with Eddie – so are we.”