The Stranger Things creators have a plan for not botching the ending

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler, Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers, Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, Noah Schnapp as Will Byers, Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven, David Harbour as Jim Hopper, and Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler, Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers, Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, Noah Schnapp as Will Byers, Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven, David Harbour as Jim Hopper, and Winona Ryder as Joyce Byers in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022 /

After a delay caused by the actors and writers strikes in Hollywood, the fifth and final season of Stranger Things is finally moving forward. According to Deadline, shooting starts in January.

This will be the end for Mike, Will, Dustin, Lucas, Steve, Nancy, Jonathan, Eleven, Hopper, Joyce and all the other characters with whom viewers have fallen in love over the past seven years. Creators Matt and Ross Duffer never expected their little sci-fi/horror series to blow up like this, but now that the end is near, they’re determined to get it right.

But endings can be tricky things; there are lots of examples out there of TV shows that ticked off the fanbases with their endings. Speaking to The Guardian, Matt Duffer compared the situation to a football game. “The nine hours that precede the ending can be amazing. But if you stumble at that one-yard line, people will never forgive you for that,” he said. “And they’ll forget the previous nine hours of awesomeness! So it’s amazing what they will forgive if you score a touchdown at the end.”

"Endings of shows are like opening a restaurant in terms of the success-failure rate – there’s an 80% failure rate, I’d say. But I think one very particular way to fail is to attempt to appease everybody. We have a huge variety of fans that span a huge age range and I’m sure they have all their own ideas of how they want the show to end. But we’re not consulting social media on this. Then you just hope and pray that it resonates. But it was funny: once we got there, it just felt right and we’re going to go for it!"

So the Duffers have a list of things not to do if they want to avoid botching the ending: don’t try to please everyone, don’t take pointers from social media. But in the end, you’ve just gotta do what you think is right and hope it succeeds.

“This season – it’s like season one on steroids,” Matt said. “It’s the biggest it’s ever been in terms of scale, but it has been really fun, because everyone’s back together in Hawkins: the boys and Eleven interacting more in line with how it was in season one. And, yes, there may be spin-offs, but the story of Eleven and Dustin and Lucas and Hopper, their stories are done here. That’s it…”

Stranger Things
Image: Stranger Things/Netflix /

Vecna gets a girlfriend in Stranger Things: The First Shadow

Matt mentions that there may be “spin-offs” of Stranger Things down the line. We still don’t know much about those. For now, the big show-adjacent thing is Stranger Things: The First Shadow, a Stranger Things stage play that opened for previews at the Phoenix Theatre in London last month. Directed by Stephen Daldry and written by Stranger Things scribe Kate Trefry (with help from playwright Jack Thorne), The First Shadow is set years before the events of the show, in the 1950s. It’s then that a young Henry Creel — the boy who would become Vecna — arrives in the town of Hawkins and starts creeping everyone out. We’ll also meet younger versions of characters like Joyce, Hopper and Bob Newby.

“When we first heard about it, we assumed it must be: ‘Oh, they want to do a musical out of season one’ or something like that,” Matt said. “That was the lame idea that immediately popped into my head.” But after Daldry explained that they wanted a new story, the Duffers got into it. “The idea for the play itself actually came really quickly: I think within a day,” Matt continues. “The fact that it came that easily, it felt like, ‘OK, there’s a reason for this to exist.’ The play itself took a lot of effort, four years-plus, but I always find if you’re straining too hard to come up with an idea, it’s never a good sign.”

According to Matt, the play is supposed to feel like “a mega-episode of the show, but live on stage.” It will revolve largely around young Henry Creel and a new character named Patty Newby, played on stage by West End newcomers Louis McCartney and Ella Karuna Williams respectively. Apparently, Patty will serve as a love interest of sorts for Henry the budding inter-dimensional psychopath.

The introduction of Patty – “a love story of types between Patty and Henry”, explains Matt – was the suggestion of Thorne, as a way to bring a dash of humanity to Henry. The idea is to explore, “what, if any, humanity Henry had before he went full-blown, you know, Darth Vader.”

Ross expanded a bit on the idea of introducing Patty. “[U]sually in a Stranger Things season, we introduce someone new to the world and for us it’s helpful in that it’s like a new pair of eyes for the audience to experience this world through. So Patty is following in those footsteps. The goal is that you have a much better understanding of Henry when seeing this and see a little bit more of how he got to where he is. And then there’s a bit in the play that is starting to hint at where we’re headed with the final season of the show. That was always the balancing act.”

I have to point out that whenever Stranger Things introduces a new character at the top of a season — think Eddie Munson in season 4 or Bob Newby (to whom I assume Patty is related somehow) in season 2 — they tend to die by the end. And obviously Patty isn’t around later in the show, so…good luck, Patty.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow officially opens on the London stage on December 14. As for Stranger Things season 5, we’ll probably be waiting quite a bit longer, most likely until 2025.

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