During a Sunday FYC panel at Netflix’s Tudum Theater in Los Angeles, the brother filmmakers were asked if they have new ’80s pop culture influences in mind that will shape the final season, in the way A Nightmare on Elm Street and its villain Freddy Kreuger shaped Season 4.
“[Season] 5, the way we see it, is kind of a culmination of all the seasons, so it’s sort of got a little bit from each,” said Ross Duffer to a packed house. “Whereas before each season was so distinctly, you know, 3…is our big summer blockbuster season with big monsters, and 4 was the psychological horror, I think that what we’re trying to do is go back to the beginning a little bit, in sort of the tone of 1.
“But also scale-wise, it’s more aligned with what 4 is,” he added. “So, hopefully, it’s got a little bit of everything.”
A primary difference in Season 5 compared to past efforts, per Matt Duffer, is that the danger facing our teen heroes and the world as they know it is now “all kind of out in the open” — whereas most adults had, in the past, been oblivious to the evil forces their kids had been witnessing.
“So, it’s going to be different because of that,” he remarked.
Stranger Things is a sci-fi drama that follows a group of kids from the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, as they battle supernatural forces connected to an alternate reality known as The Upside Down. The show’s latest season, released in two volumes over the summer, picks up months after 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.
The Duffers were joined for tonight’s panel — moderated by Patton Oswalt — by director-EP Shawn Levy, as well as longtime cast members Caleb McLaughlin, Priah Ferguson and Millie Bobby Brown — with the latter, chiming in virtually. Others appearing in person included popular Season 4 additions Joseph Quinn, Eduardo Franco and Jamie Campbell Bower.
While the conversation was short on major Season 5 takeaways, Ross Duffer did confirm that the writing staff is “on to the second” episode, having turned in the first script to Netflix “a couple of weeks ago.” (The title for the Season 5 opener is “Chapter One: The Crawl,” as the Duffers revealed just last week.)
Ross then went on to say that the team are moving “full steam ahead” with the writing process, having first “developed an overall plan and backstory” for the fantastical arena of the Upside Down back in Season 2. The show’s co-creator said that while some of the mysteries surrounding it were answered beginning in Season 4, there will still be “quite a bit” to unravel in the show’s final year. “But just as important as the supernatural, we have so many characters now, most of whom are still living,” Duffer continued. “It’s important to wrap up those arcs because a lot of these characters have been growing since Season 1. So, it’s a balancing act between giving them time to complete their character arcs, and also tying up these loose ends and doing our final reveals.”
Matt Duffer at another point in the conversation retold the story of the two-hour Season 5 pitch, which he’s said left Netflix executives in tears. “I felt [that] was a good sign,” he said. “The only other time I’ve seen them cry is, like, at budget meetings.”
Levy went on to back up Duffer’s account, as someone who had been witness to these events. “I’m paralyzed with fear that I’ll spoil anything, but I will say, the thing about these Duffer brothers is that even though the show has gotten so famous and the characters have gotten so iconic, and they’re so much about the ‘80s and the supernatural and the genre, it’s about these people. It’s about these characters,” he said. “ And Season 5 is already so clearly taking care of these stories of characters, because that’s always been the lifeblood of Stranger Things. “
While Stranger Things was renewed for a fifth and final season in February, when that season will air is not yet clear. But the show produced by Monkey Massacre Productions and 21 Laps Entertainment scored 13 Emmy nominations for its fourth installment, claiming statuettes for its prosthetic makeup, sound editing, sound mixing music supervision, and stunt coordination. Levy exec produces alongside Dan Cohen for 21 Laps, as well as the Duffers, Iain Paterson and Curtis Gwinn.