Brace yourselves for one last battle in the Upside Down, because the Stranger Things kids (turned full-on young adults) are going out with a vengeance. In early 2022 — months before Stranger Things 4 debuted its supersized, two-part season on Netflix — creators Matt and Ross Duffer announced that Stranger Things Season 5 would be the show's last, as they have reached the natural conclusion of the story they set out to tell in 2016.
Unfortunately for fans, it hasn't been easy for the Duffer brothers to translate their creative vision for the concluding chapter to the screen. Production on Season 5 was delayed for many months due to the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA strikes, but now that both unions have negotiated historic deals with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents Hollywood studios, it's set to resume.
There are still technical hurdles to clear: Stranger Things 4 required "thousands of visual effects shots," the Duffers revealed, and given the looming conflict between the Hawkins crew and Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) in the Upside Down, it's likely Season 5 will require just as great an effort, if not greater, from the show's talented VFX artists.
While the wait between seasons grows, Netflix and the show's writers, producers, and stars have made a point of offering up morsels of information about the final season. We'll continue to update this story as new details emerge, but for now, here's everything we know so far about the final season of Stranger Things Season 5:
Netflix and the Duffer brothers have not yet announced a premiere date for Stranger Things Season 5 — and considering production is just getting started, that information will likely remain a mystery for months.
With that said, it's possible to do some detective work and predict when the final season will hit Netflix. On November 10, star David Harbour said that now that the SAG-AFTRA strike is over, his first order of business is getting to work on the sci-fi epic. "We got to film that last season of Stranger Things, don't we?" he told Variety on a red carpet for the BoxLunch Gala celebrating Feeding America. "I got to be down there, like, in a couple of days. We got to get going — we're late."
Typically, filming on past seasons has run roughly seven months (though the crew spent 12 months in production on Season 4), with a premiere coming six months to a year later. By that logic, Stranger Things Season 5 will likely arrive no earlier than late 2024, though it could be delayed until 2025 if production goes long.
All signs seem to be pointing to an eight-episode final season. In August 2022, the Stranger Things writers, who maintain a fairly active presence on Twitter/X, shared a photo of a whiteboard breaking down the season, with columns labeled for Episodes 1 through 8. Of course, something could have changed in the year-plus since their initial post, but an eight-episode order would be in line with previous seasons, all of which have come in at either eight or nine installments.
On November 6, 2022 (also known as Stranger Things Day, which commemorates the date Will Byers disappeared in 1983), the show's official account revealed that Episode 1 is written by the Duffer brothers and titled "Chapter One: The Crawl." Stranger Things Day 2023 brought additional information about "The Crawl," which begins under the cover of darkness.
However, there is one big difference between Season 4 and 5: Episodes in the final season are expected to be considerably shorter than those in the penultimate outing, which averaged 80 to 90 minutes (followed by a two-and-a-half-hour finale). "[Season 4], if you look at it, it's almost a two-hour ramp up before our kids really get drawn into a supernatural mystery. You get to know them, you get to see them in their lives, they're struggling with adapting to high school and so forth. Steve's trying to find a date, all of that," Matt Duffer said on Josh Horowtiz's Happy Sad Confused podcast in July 2022. "None of that is obviously going to be occurring in the first two episodes [of Season 5]. For the first time ever, we don't wrap things up at the end of four."
The one exception will be Stranger Things' series finale, which Duffer said "will be a lot longer." He added, "It's going to be Return of the King-ish with, like, eight endings."
Stranger Things Season 4 built up to a major showdown between Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and her friends and Vecna, the homicidal, psychic entity terrorizing Hawkins, but first, it offered some much-needed background on the show's big bad. Volume 1 reveals that Vecna, born Henry Creel, was Subject 001 in Dr. Brenner's (Matthew Modine) child experiment, but when Eleven learned of his true nature, she effectively banished him to the Upside Down. Once there, Henry absorbed the malevolent forces of his surroundings and transformed into Vecna, and he's spent the years since plotting his revenge.
By Season 4, Vecna has become powerful enough to travel to Hawkins and take possession over some of its residents, including Max (Sadie Sink) and Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer), but in Volume 2, the teens beat him at his own game. Using Max as bait to lure Vecna out of hiding, the young heroes sneak into his home in the Upside Down and launch a coordinated attack, seriously wounding, but not killing, the demon. For a brief moment, it seems as if Max has paid the ultimate price for her sacrifice, but thanks to Eleven's newfound ability to bring people back from the dead (all it took was a stirring montage of her friendship with Max), she lives to see another day — and another fight with Vecna.
Season 4's cliffhanger ending gives fans a pretty clear indication of where Stranger Things is heading in its final outing. The main Season 5 storyline will revolve around the battle with Vecna, but defeating him will require these characters — teens and adults — to come together in ways they never would've thought possible.
According to the Duffer brothers, now that Hopper (Harbour) and Eleven have been rescued, the final season will take place primarily in Hawkins, which will allow the show to "re-explore some of the Season 1 dynamics again, except on this grander scale," they told Collider in July 2022. However, with Vecna breaking down the barrier between Hawkins and the Upside Down, there will also be a lot of time spent in the alternate dimension, so fans should expect plenty of supernatural action, as well.
Just as in Season 1, it seems that Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) will continue to be a key point of connection between the two worlds. In the wake of the Season 4 finale, Matt Duffer revealed, "Will's going to be a big part and focus, is really all I can say of Season 5, in his journey. 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." For his part, Schnapp has confirmed "it's 100% clear that [Will] is gay and he does love Mike," played by Finn Wolfhard, and he's hopeful that the final season will include "a coming out scene" and more information about his "connection to the Mind Flayer and how that fits into the world."
The final season will also bring other character arcs "full circle," Ross Duffer said in the same interview about Will's coming-of-age-journey, particularly as it relates to the love triangle between Nancy, Steve (Joe Kerry), and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton). "The characters have maybe made steps, like in the case of Will, but that journey isn't over yet," he explained. "All of that is going to play a huge role as we try to wrap this thing up next season."
Whatever happens, viewers should prepare for an emotional ending. While speaking with TheWrap, Ross Duffer recalled that when he and Matt first revealed Stranger Things' Season 5 arc to Netflix executives, they were met with tears. "It was hard. It's the end of the story. I saw executives crying who I've never seen cry before and it was wild," he said. "And it's not just to do with the story, just the fact that it's like, oh my god, this thing that has defined so many of our lives, these Netflix people who has been with us from the beginning, seven years now, and it's hard to imagine the journey coming to an end."
While the bulk of the Stranger Things cast is expected to return for the show's final season — including Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, and Maya Hawke — there's one cast member who won't be around for the final battle: Joseph Quinn, whose character Eddie Munson sacrificed himself to save the town from a swarm of demobats. Unlike Max, Eddie isn't coming back from the dead, though the Duffers have said his sacrifice will have "huge repercussions" on the rest of the group.
Quinn's departure will leave a Metallica-fan-shaped hole in the show, but he'll be replaced by another brave soul. In June 2023, Netflix announced that Terminator alum Linda Hamilton is joining the cast for Season 5. Details about Hamilton's role are still under wraps, but as a fan of the show, the actor is already well-versed in Stranger Things lore. "I don't know how to be a fangirl and an actress at the same time," Hamilton said at the time of the announcement. "I'm gonna work on that."
Stranger Things Season 5 may still be months (if not years) away, but those desperate to return to Hawkins are in luck: The long-awaited stage play, Stranger Things: The First Shadow, makes its debut in London's West End in December 2023. Conceived as a prequel to the Netflix series, the play follows a young Henry Creel (Louis McCartney) as his family arrives in the small Indiana town in 1959 looking for a fresh start. There, Henry meets younger versions of many familiar characters, including Hopper (Oscar Lloyd Jr.), Joyce (Isabella Pappas), and Dr. Brenner (Patrick Viall), as well as newcomer Patty Newby (Elena Karuna Williams), with whom Henry develops a romance.
While The First Shadow was conceived as an original, standalone story, it includes "so many Easter eggs" about Henry's journey to becoming Vecna and the origin of the Upside Down, playwright Kate Trefry said in a featurette released in November 2023 (on Stranger Things Day, of course). Netflix has also teased that the "gripping new adventure will take you right back to the beginning of the Stranger Things story — and may hold the key to the end," so diehard fans should nab tickets sooner rather than later.
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Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.