[This story includes major spoilers for all four seasons of Stranger Things.]
After seven years, Stranger Things is readying to say goodbye. And on Nov. 6 — Netflix’s annual Stranger Things Day — what better way to mark the notable date in the world of the Upside Down than by cataloguing everything we know about the final season? (On Nov. 6, 1983, Will Byers went missing in Hawkins, Indiana.)
When the sci-fi series hit Netflix in July 2016, it became an unexpected cultural phenomenon. The stars, many of whom landed their first major roles with this show, were barely preteens, and the draw for many was Winona Ryder. (The Hollywood Reporter angled its review as “Winona Ryder in Stranger Things.“)
Since then, however, Stranger Things has broken several Netflix records. Season four of the now-hit series set a Nielsen record for the most-watched show ever at the time, racking up more than 7 billion minutes of viewing time in a single week. It was also the most-streamed series of the entire year.
When the show, created by Matt and Ross Duffer, announced its fifth season would be the last, fans were overcome with a sense of sadness, though it wasn’t unexpected. (After all, the once-child stars are now well into their late teens and early 20s.)
“Seven years ago, we planned out the complete story arc for Stranger Things,” the Duffer brothers wrote in an open letter to fans in February 2022, noting that the show was coming to an end. “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.”
Season four of the hit series, which was split into a two-part release, revealed that every villain taken on by the Hawkins, Indiana, crew — played by Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Noah Schnapp, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Priah Ferguson, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Maya Hawke, Joe Keery, David Harbour, Winona Ryder and Brett Gelman — all stemmed from one Big Bad: Henry Creel (Jamie Campbell Bower), also known as “001” and “Vecna.”
The final season of Stranger Things was originally set to begin production this past summer, but the dual writers and actors strikes delayed production. The Duffer brothers closed down the show’s writers room on May 6, following the start of the WGA strike. When that strike ended, the co-showrunners announced they were back in business.
However, as the actors strike surpasses 100 days, even if all the scripts are ready, filming can’t begin while the stars are striking. With SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers seemingly nearing a deal, it’s possible production could start soon.
Below, The Hollywood Reporter breaks down everything there is to know (so far) about Stranger Things’ fifth and final season — from new and returning castmembers to what chaos Vecna might bring to Hawkins in its last run. (This story will be updated as more is revealed about the upcoming season.)
When Will ‘Stranger Things’ Season 5 Be Released?
Prior to the dual actors and writers strikes, Stranger Things season five was expected to premiere sometime in early 2025, according to star Finn Wolfhard. In a GQ video, the actor said that he would be 22 when season five finally hit Netflix. The eyed date lined up with what the Duffer brothers had said in 2022 about the time between seasons four and five being much shorter than the break between seasons three and four, because they weren’t expecting another six-moth hiatus like the one caused from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Filming was originally set to take place this summer, but when the writers strike was called in May, the Duffer brothers took to social media to announce that though they were done with the preliminary scripts for season five, “Writing does not stop when filming begins.” They continued, “While we’re excited to start production with our amazing cast and crew, it is not possible during this strike. We hope a fair deal is reached soon so we can all get back to work. Until then — over and out.”
Two months later, SAG-AFTRA called the actors strike, which would go on to further delay the start of production on season five. Once the actors strike is over (the WGA has since reached a deal), the busy schedules of the starry young cast, as well as the elaborate visual effects in the edit, will likely prolong the release of the final installment even further, perhaps pushing it to later in 2025 or even early 2026.
Who on the Cast Is Returning?
The majority of the Stranger Things main cast came out of season four unscathed, so it seems safe to say that Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), Finn Wolfhard (Mike), Noah Schnapp (Will), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas), Priah Ferguson (Erica), Natalia Dyer (Nancy), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan), Maya Hawke (Robin), Joe Keery (Steve), David Harbour (Hopper), Winona Ryder (Joyce) and Brett Gelman (Murray) will be returning for the final installment. One main character whose fate is up in the air is Sadie Sink’s Max. At the end of season four, Max is left in a coma following her heart stopping for a full minute after becoming a victim of Vecna’s curse. While Max is still technically alive (she has a pulse), there’s no telling how long that’ll last.
One character who will not return in the same capacity is Joseph Quinn’s beloved Eddie Munson, who died at the end of season four after helping the crew defeat Vecna, at least for an undisclosed amount of time. However, Stranger Things is the Duffers’ World, and the audience is just living in it. So while Eddie may not be alive in the final season, the showrunners did tease on a previous appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast that his death will have “huge repercussions” for those who made it out of season four alive, and you can never rule out an otherworldly cameo or flashback.
Campbell Bower (aka Henry, 001 and Vecna), will be sticking around in the final season. At the end of season four, the group is able to briefly overpower the Big Bad, but he survives and retreats, hurt but still strong enough to wreak havoc on Hawkins and cause a natural disaster with devastating consequences. Bower told THR he believes that his character isn’t “suffering,” but “rebuilding.” And while he wouldn’t confirm his appearance in season five, Bower did admit, “Let me put it this way: I know about season five. Take from that what you will.”
Which Actors Will Be Joining the Cast for Season 5?
Stranger Things season five is still in the early stages, so not much has been revealed about the plot or who will be joining the hit series in its final stretch. One actress who will be touching down in Hawkins, however, is 1980s icon Linda Hamilton. Details about the Terminator star’s role in the show are being kept under wraps for now.
While other new castmembers may be announced, there’s a possibility Hamilton will be the only one. In an interview with IndieWire in August 2022, co-creators Matt and Ross Duffer said they were doing their best to resist adding new characters.
“Whenever we introduce a new character, we want to make sure that they’re going to be an integral part of the narrative,” Ross said. “But every time we do that, we’re nervous, because you go, ‘We’ve got a great cast of characters here, and actors, and any moment we’re spending with a new character, we’re taking time away from one of the other actors.’”
What Do We Know About the Plot of Season 5?
Toward the end of Stranger Things season four, the Hawkins crew reunites and seemingly overpowers Vecna from separate corners and dimensions of the world. They outsmart and flambé him, thinking they’ve won — but he survives and retreats. In the final moments of the penultimate season’s finale, it is revealed that Vecna’s curse succeeded, despite Max still technically being alive. Hawkins splits into four pieces and the group looks down at their home as the villain’s final chapter begins.
While the writers recently restarted work on the script, not much is known about the plot of season five. But The Duffer brothers have revealed a few things since the season four finale dropped on July 1, 2022. For starters, Will is a “big part and focus” of the final season, the showrunners told Collider in an interview following the fourth season. “We’re starting to see his coming of age, really,” Matt said. “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.” Ross added that season five will most likely bring fans full circle to season one when Will was trapped in the Upside Down, as well as potentially with Steve and Nancy, since she and Jonathan seem to be hitting a rough patch that’s not fully resolved.
Secondly, season five is almost certainly going to have a time jump, considering the actors who play the kids are all approaching (or already in) their 20s, despite technically still being in high school in the Stranger Things world. “I’m sure we will do a time jump,” Ross told TVLine in June 2022. “Ideally, we’d have shot [seasons four and five] back to back, but there was just no feasible way to do that. So these are all discussions we’re going to have with our writers when we start the room up.”
Third, Vecna is back — though fans don’t know in what capacity the show’s Big Bad will return. When THR asked Jamie Campbell Bower how Vecna will factor into the show’s endgame following the villain’s journey throughout the fourth season, he basically admitted he’d be back. And as for whether or not the Hawkins kids can beat him, well, it’s a possibility. “There’s always an opportunity for the good guys to win,” he said. “I think in this case, they’d have to be way smarter than they have been thus far because Henry is not one to forget and not one to let things slide.”
In December 2023, Stranger Things will make its way to London’s West End for The First Shadow, a stage play that takes place in 1959 Hawkins when Hopper, Bob Newby (played by Sean Astin in the Netflix series) and Joyce are all in high school. (See more on the Stranger Things spinoffs below.) “When new student Henry Creel arrives, his family finds that a fresh start isn’t so easy … and the shadows of the past have a very long reach,” the play’s description reads. “This 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, it’s probably safe to assume something in Joyce, Hopper and Henry’s past will come back in some way, shape or form in the show’s ending.
While not much else is known to the public about the final season’s plot at this point, the Duffer brothers know how the show ends — and, yes, it made executives cry. The creators shared on a panel in November 2022 that one of the things they’re trying to balance in season five is giving the characters a chance to complete their arcs while also tying up loose ends and final reveals.
Is This the End of ‘Stranger Things’?
Back in February 2022, ahead of season four of Stranger Things dropping on Netflix, the Duffer brothers announced that the upcoming installment would be the penultimate, and season five would be the last of the show. They wrote an open letter explaining that when they began the story seven years prior, they pictured it running for four or five seasons.
“With nine scripts, over 800 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,” the Duffer brothers wrote, noting season four was “the beginning of the end.”
The letter continued, “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.”
Had the Duffers wanted to continue the show, they may have hit some walls with the actors. Millie Bobby Brown, Joe Keery and David Harbour, among others, have all expressed being ready to say goodbye to the series, despite having a lot of love for it and their fellow stars.
“I owe my whole career to being on that show and all the opportunities that I had since are because of that show,” Keery said. “So it’s very convoluted. There’s a sense of relief, there’s a sense of sadness.” Brown, who plays the show’s main character, told Seventeen that she was “very ready to say goodbye” to Eleven and was excited “to create stories myself that are important to me and focus on the bigger picture.” And Harbour echoed Keery and Brown and said it was time to “leave that nest and try other things and different projects. And to let the Duffer brothers try different things as well.”
In July 2022, the Duffer brothers revealed plans for a spinoff series — the details of which are being kept under wraps — along with an animated series set in the same world. It was one of five projects the siblings announced as part of their overall deal with Netflix, including a stage play set within the world of Stranger Things.