Prepare to say farewell to the upside down.
Netflix revealed early Thursday that Stranger Things will end with a newly announced fifth season. The streamer also set a release date strategy for its long-awaited fourth season and hinted that an all-new Stranger Things series could be in the works.
“Seven years ago, we planned out the complete story arc for Stranger Things,” creators Matt and Ross Duffer wrote in an open letter to fans. “At the time, we predicted the story would last four to five seasons. It proved too large to tell in four but — as you’ll see for yourselves — we are now hurtling toward our finale.”
Netflix announced the premiere date for the 1980s-set sci-fi drama’s fourth season, which is being split into two parts. “Volume 1” of season four will debut May 27 (a whopping three years since season three aired). The second half of the fourth season, Volume 2, will debut July 1. It’s unusual for Netflix to slightly stagger the release of a single season of a drama series rather than doing its usual all-episodes-at-once drop strategy, and the Duffer Brothers elaborated on the decision.
“It’s been a little while,” they wrote. “With nine scripts, over eight-hundred pages, almost two years of filming, thousands of visual effects shots and a runtime nearly twice the length of any previous season, Stranger Things 4 was the most challenging season yet, but also the most rewarding one. Everyone involved is incredibly proud of the results, and we can’t wait to share it with you. Given the unprecedented length, and to get it to you as soon as possible, Season 4 will be released in two volumes.”
The season’s marketing tagline: “Every ending has a beginning.”
Here’s the official description of season 4: “It’s been six months since the Battle of Starcourt, which brought terror and destruction to Hawkins. Struggling with the aftermath, our group of friends are separated for the first time — and navigating the complexities of high school hasn’t made things any easier. In this most vulnerable time, a new and horrifying supernatural threat surfaces, presenting a gruesome mystery that, if solved, might finally put an end to the horrors of the Upside Down.”
Sources say production on season five has not yet begun, so an official timeline for when the drama starring Winona Ryder, David Harbour and Millie Bobby Brown will truly conclude remains to be determined.
The creators also strongly hinted that Stranger Things might get a sequel or spinoff series beyond the show’s current story and cast: “There are still many more exciting stories to tell within the world of Stranger Things: new mysteries, new adventures, new unexpected heroes. But first, we hope that you stay with us as we finish this tale of a powerful girl named Eleven and her brave friends, of a broken police chief and a ferocious mom, of a small town called Hawkins and an alternate dimension known only as the Upside Down.”
Stranger Things coming to an end sooner rather than later should not be considered a surprise. As the Duffers noted, they have publicly maintained for years the show wouldn’t have a particularly long run.
“Season four won’t be the end,” Ross Duffer told The Hollywood Reporter in August 2020. “We know what the end is, and we know when it is. [The pandemic] has given us time to look ahead, figure out what is best for the show. Starting to fill that out gave us a better idea of how long we need to tell that story.”
Yet sources say that despite the show’s standing as a massive hit on the platform, Netflix executives have routinely been frustrated by the long delays between Stranger Things seasons, the skyrocketing cost for the show (season four is said to have been well over budget) and the demands of creators the Duffer brothers. The siblings signed a massive nine-figure overall film and TV deal with Netflix in late 2019, when the drama was formally renewed for a fourth season.
Even without formal ratings data, Stranger Things is easily among Netflix’s biggest franchises. The series remains an awards contender — it has collected 31 Emmy nominations (winning six) and created what is likely a multimillion-dollar licensing business of merchandising with a line of comic books, interactive experiences, mobile games and other revenue-generating consumer products.
What’s more, the Stranger Things cast has had their profiles rise thanks in part to the success of the show. The adult and young actors on the series all successfully renegotiated their contracts ahead of season three (a common practice for a hit series) to earn massive pay raises. The young stars — Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Noah Schnapp — secured roughly 12 times their previous deals and earn $250,000 per episode. Adult stars Ryder and Harbour saw their salaries climb to $350,000 per episode. Breakout Brown is said to earn somewhere between those two levels. Additionally, executive producer Shawn Levy has also cashed in on the show’s success and is on his second rich overall deal with the streamer, where he has multiple projects in the works.
While Netflix owns Stranger Things outright, the streamer is still prone to conclude series early in their run as costs skyrocket the older a series gets. In the time between seasons of Stranger Things, prolific creator Shonda Rhimes also delivered a new franchise, Bridgerton, which eclipsed the Duffers’ drama as the streamer’s most-watched English language original. It’s unclear if financially speaking, its merchandising and live events has made Bridgerton — already renewed for multiple seasons and with a spinoff already in the works — Netflix’s most valuable asset.
The forthcoming conclusion of Stranger Things arrives mere hours after Amazon announced that its crown jewel, the award-winning Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, would also be returning for its fifth and final season.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism