Though it may not officially arrive for more than a full year, Stranger Things Season 5 will no doubt be one of the biggest small-screen events of any time period, considering it will be the final outing for many beloved characters. (Though hopefully without many joining the show’s line of major and memorable deaths.) We still aren’t sure exactly what to expect when the Netflix hit returns, at least outside of the first scene tease, but creators Matt and Ross Duffer have shared a potentially cryptic new update.
As it usually goes, the Duffer brothers like to keep details close to the vest when talking about Hawkins’ elite, and they’ve had a whole new project to keep mum about in the form of the London stage play The First Shadow. Speaking with The Guardian about the play and the franchise’s future (both including and beyond the fifth season), Matt Duffer further confirmed which characters’ stories will be concluding with those episodes, but his wording seems to leave the door open for others to return. Here’s how he put it:
This season – it’s like Season 1 on steroids. 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 1. 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… Outside of the play. So if you want to see more of some of them, go see the play.
Second, Duffer brought up the concept of spinoffs, which is something fans have been clamoring for even before it was revealed Season 5 would be the final run. With Netflix ordering an adult animation follow-up back in April 2023, combined with the stage play, the sky’s the limit for the siblings, and so long as they’re able to balance their Stranger Things efforts with other creative endeavors — such as their adaptation of Stephen King and Peter Straub’s The Talisman — then we may never say farewell to this universe.
Which brings us to the third and most important point: the potential for fan-favorite characters to return. While I will allow for possible mixed signals by way of the interview, the fact that Matt Duffer only namechecked four specific characters whose arcs are ending — Eleven, Dustin, Lucas, Hopper — has me curious about whether everyone else is feasibly in the mix for future appearances.
It’s a no-brainer to understand why Eleven’s story will be wrapping up here, since Millie Bobby Brown’s character has been the crux of both the sci-fi mystery and the more emotional beats. Once everything gets sorted out (he says optimistically) with Vecna and everything in Eleven’s past, it wouldn’t make sense to keep her around as a lead.
The same pretty much goes for Hopper, especially if future spinoffs take the story outside of Hawkins and the police chief’s jurisdiction. And for all that Dustin and Lucas are great, they’re not quite as close to the core narrative as Will and Mike, who could possibly return in some form. (I’d personally love to see a flash-forward show where both of them are adults.)
For all that I do love speculating about which characters could return in later projects, from Max to Steve to Robin to Murray, I’m currently refusing to consider what Matt Duffer’s words might mean for the fates of the characters he did name. It doesn’t seem plausible for all four to escape with their survival intact, but one can hope.
While waiting to hear more about the final round, all four previous seasons can be streamed in full with a Netflix subscription, and check out all the great upcoming horror TV shows that’ll get here in the meantime.