It's hard to argue the grand scale and success of the Netflix series Stranger Things. With season four wrapped and writing on the fifth & final season ready to kick off this August, Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer have had more than their fair share of struggles seeing their original production vision fully realized. For example, plans for filming the fourth and final seasons changed dramatically because of COVID-19 pandemic-related production shutdowns. This is your major spoilers warning.
"We're always racing against time with our younger actors, who got six months older than when we initially started. There are actually scenes in this season — because we had all the scripts, so we shot all out of order — there was the scene when they leave Mike's basement, and they're outside. And they're a year and a half older," Matt said. "I think a year. I don't think a year and a half. They do age radically," Ross added. "We were shooting for about three, four weeks when we got shut down. On a typical season, we've written about four or five of the scripts, and Ross and I stop working on the scripts because we're directing the first two episodes," Matt explained. "We direct the first two episodes, and then, we start to frantically try to finish the season up as production continues."
Matt broke down how they both finished the scripts. "It's always a little bit frantic and scary. It's hard to make big pivots and it's hard to look at the season as a whole. So, this year for the first time, we had six months off and we were able to finish all of the scripts, look at how it all played as a whole, and rework some of the earlier scripts to make character moments more resonant in the back half of the episode, I think we were able to go back on a re-read and go, you know what, I've always thought that scene could be better. I always felt we could set up Eddie better in Episode One, this scene between him and Chrissy in the woods, the drug deal scene. There are scenes that move the plot forward, and it was like oh, wait this is a real opportunity to not only set him up as a guitarist who plays a role in the finale, but it's like oh, we could really enrich his character and Chrissy's character in a way that I think was super impactful. So, it was an unusual circumstance that we'll never probably find ourselves in again."
The major cerebral elements of the season four finale "The Piggyback" finds the Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) taunting Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown) as he makes his way to take Max (Sadie Sink) and opening the rift from the Upside-Down to Hawkins. "It's been a long time coming. We've always wanted to go back in the lab and the origin of all this stuff, and so, we joked in the writer's room, this was like 'Stranger Things revelations,'" Ross said. "We knew we wanted to get there with this season and that's obviously the big bombshell in volume two. We really wanted to give the audience a lot of the big answers. There's still a few of the question marks that remain. The biggest one being we set up in the Volume One finale how the Upside Down is stuck in time on the day of Will's disappearance. That's something we don't answer in volume two, and that is really the key plot point, the key question that is going to drive our final season as we try to wrap up this story and give the rest of the answers out."
"We knew this was going to be the penultimate season and so we were able to do a lot of stuff that we haven't been able to do before, like the four gate collision," Matt added. "We've always wanted the Upside Down encroaching into Hawkins in a more massive way. We hinted at it a little bit in Season Two but we want a full-blown Upside Down invasion, and that's something you just can't hit the rewind on that one." "Yeah. Once that happens, there's no going back," Ross said. "So, you could only really do that this deep into the story."
When it comes to what the Duffers will explore in season five, "One, we're excited that the gang is back together in a sense. So, we're excited to see some of our original groupings from that core group from Season One get back together on this journey," Ross said. "We're excited about just getting into the Upside Down and what is really going on there. We have some things we're pretty excited about that and I think there are still a few big surprises we have up our sleeves that we purposely held out of this season that we're excited to bring to people."
"One thing I feel good about, we all feel good about, is the ending and where the show is going to end," Matt added. "It was like as soon as we got there and we were talking about it all with our writers, it just felt like it's one of those ending where okay, that just feels inevitable… that's it." For more on the Duffers' comprehensive look into Stranger Things' season four including the other developing arcs, influences, A Nightmare on Elm Street, comparisons to other big TV franchises, their initial pitch to Netflix & more, you can read the whole Deadline Hollywood interview here.