The creators of the most well-known Netflix series explain the rationale behind significant decisions and what to anticipate from the final season.
You’ve come to the right place if you’re a fan of Stranger Things and want to know how and why important choices were made in Season 4. That’s because shortly after watching Episodes 8 and 9 of Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 2, I spoke in-depth with the show’s creators, Matt and Ross Duffer.
Video credit @Collider Interviews
The Duffer Brothers were more than happy to discuss anything throughout the lengthy conversation and opened up about how the most watched Netflix series was made. This covered the season finale, the reason Max (Sadie Sink) was Vecna’s target, Noah Schnapps’ tragic on-screen moment with Finn Wolfhard in Episode 8, and their plans to release a VHS pan and scan version of Stranger Things.
But that’s not all..!
The Duffers also shared a tone of brand-new material about Stranger Things Season 5, including its setting, pacing, how the final season will reveal a tonne of new knowledge about the Upside Down, how they’ve already planned out the final 20 minutes of the series finale, and much more.
If you’re a fan of Stranger Things, I promise you’ll learn a lot about how the show was created and what to expect from the upcoming final season.
You may read the talk below or see the Duffer brothers in the player above.
It was discussed, by Ross Duffer. We also discussed it. There is over an hour of suspense building before it just goes hard for an hour, so I suppose we just couldn’t find a suitable place to break it. Following that, we have our 25-minute coda descent. Simply put, cutting it off after the first hour would not have made for a very enjoyable episode. We believe it would have simply petered out. We decided against forcing an ending since we thought it would just be this huge episode. You are welcome to pause it.
Did you have a different plan for how this season will end? Because some seasons experience a significant shift, I’m interested to know if anything significant changed in this one.
DUFFER Ross Not that I can recall. Just the landing is sticking. It plays such an essential role for Matt and me. So, one of the first topics we discuss when we start a new season is where we want this particular story to go. Thus, the goal post is always the conclusion. We already know where we’re going as we break down episode one. In terms of the season finale, I don’t believe we’ve ever really strayed from it. I think this is a similar situation.
MATT DUFFER: In terms of who survives, who lives, and who passes away. Dimitri, a.k.a. Enzo, may not have survived in a previous iteration, I believe.
DUFFER Ross that’s accurate. But aside from that…
MATT DUFFER: Ultimately, he succeeded. But compared to what we ultimately came up with, that’s merely a drastic deviation from the original idea.
Season 4’s conclusion sets up a huge event for the next season. In essence, Hawkins is screwed because of the enormous object in the middle. What Season 5 spoilers are permissible?
DUFFER MATT: We always wanted to make an Empire Strikes Back finale, which we attempted to achieve with four, so I suppose that’s one of the reasons we’re enthusiastic about it. Where the sensation of loss is present? Season 5 is going to get underway in a unique way—at least for us. We won’t perform the ramp-up. There isn’t any time.
Naturally, after you’ve reached the end of four, there is no such thing as normalcy. It’s not like there will be time to discuss our characters’ romantic relationships or how Steve’s dating is going. There won’t be any of that; it will start off moving at a 100 mph rate of speed. We have a plan for the first scene of five. It’s quite wild, but I don’t know if it’ll stay that way. From start to finish, it will be intense with little ramp-up.
How much did you consider choosing a different victim? How much did you discuss Max being the fourth victim and everything else that happens to her?
MATT DUFFER: We have known all along. Even though we debated what to do with Max, we were aware that she would undoubtedly be putting herself in danger. Max’s fate for the remainder of this season was determined rather early on, but I’m trying to recall exactly how we came to that conclusion.
Of course, it was Max. Since she was the target and had never managed to get rid of the curse. She was merely applying a bandage. In essence, she was utilizing Kate Bush’s music as a form of armor. Therefore, it was quite early. In order to support them and give them a chance to kill him, she was going to take off the armor and essentially sacrifice herself.
She and Eddie are both targeted right away, and as a combination of Vecna and circumstance, in Eddie’s case, they are both screwed. As a result, we can see throughout the season that they have both been doomed from the start. Unlike Bob or situations where the shock value is the only factor. These characters seem to be headed for calamity from the very beginning of the season.
Are we done with seeing Russia?
MATT DUFFER: Pay attention, things shift. We did outline, so it is strange. We took a six-month break just as every show, everyone, and the entire globe did. There is a detailed outline for it. Russia isn’t in it right now. One of the fascinating aspects of Season 5 is, in my opinion, the fact that Season 4 held our interest because everyone was dispersed throughout the season. That was what made it special. But the focus of this is on everyone’s return. Rejoining forces and returning to Hawkins. Hopper has returned to Hawkins. With the addition of Eleven, the original group of boys is once again in attendance. The pioneers! It would be intriguing to revisit some of the season one dynamics but on a larger scale.
I really enjoyed the part where Will is talking about Eleven in the car while also talking about himself. Simply put, it’s a fantastic scene. What future Will tidbits be possible?
MATT DUFFER: Excellent. Regards, dude. Yeah. Noah really is fantastic. We spent a half day filming the scene from every angle since it was crucial that we get it properly. We sensed. However, I think Noah was simply amazing in that sequence. Really, all I can tell about Season 5 is that Will will play a significant role and be the focus of his adventure. His maturation is definitely beginning to become apparent. It has proven difficult for several factors, some of which are magical. But you can already see him starting to mature. I particularly adore the scene between him, his brother Jonathan, and Charlie. He had his brother by his side. I believe that getting in touch with his brother…
ROSS DUFFER: And once more, that positions us to go full circle and return to Season 1. Not just with Will, but with a few of the character arcs as well, I believe you’ll see that. However, there are still issues with Steve and Nancy, as well as her connection with Jonathan. The trip for the characters hasn’t ended yet, even though they may have made progress, as in Will’s case. All of it will be extremely important as we attempt to put an end to this next season.
Based on what happened with Kate Bush, do you believe Metallica is prepared for the number of people that will be listening to “Master of Puppets”?
I’ve heard Metallica is enthusiastic about it, but I’m not sure. Hopefully, I haven’t spoken to the band or any of the members. Hopefully, it does. The other day we had this conversation. I wondered if “Master of Puppets” would experience the same thing.
MATT DUFFER: The Kate Bush incident involving “Running up that Hill” is so peculiar. People say things like, “Oh, that’s all over TikTok,” even though I don’t use it. It’s really strange how that stuff happens; I’m not even sure what that implies. Whether that happens again with another band, I don’t know. It’s undoubtedly the kind of thing you won’t try to duplicate in Season 5. I’ve already had people ask me, “What song are [you] going to perform in Season 5?” I’m like, “We’re not going to do that again.” Perhaps, it will fail if we attempt it.
Oh no, that must be natural. It’s comparable to Top Gun: Maverick’s box office performance in that you can’t forecast whether it will bring in a billion dollars. It kind of takes place.
DUFFER MATT: No. Every Netflix phenomenon that comes to mind just can’t compare to Squid Game and Queen’s Gambit, in my opinion.
ROSS DUFFER: Make it happen.
MATT DUFFER: I concur. Nothing is mathematical. Nothing makes sense to you. Studios have been attempting to solve the problem for ages. Likewise, for artists yes, this is the method that is effective. The moment you attempt to apply that formula exactly, you will fail. We’re not even going to try it again. We have another major musical moment by chance, which is surreal or unexpected. Which, I believe, makes “Master of Puppets” a completely distinct kind of musical event?
But we had to give Eddie his big moment there, Ross Duffer said.
Completely, with it, I had a blast. What can you genuinely say about Upside Down’s social structure? How much of the curtain have you truly drawn back? Are there any major revelations that you have been saving for Season 5?
MATT DUFFER: Yes
DUFFER Ross the major revelations in Season 5 truly revolve around the Upside Down itself, which we have barely begun to hint at. In this year’s episode seven, there is that realization that it is frozen in time. There will be a few more significant revelations about it in Volume 2, but they all revolve around Vecna, Henry, and his quest. But we haven’t truly talked about what the Upside Down actually is. What was Henry doing when he was discovered? Where is the Mindflayer, please? These are the final significant developments for Season 5.
How much did you deliberate over how you intended to end episode 9’s last scene?
MATT DUFFER: That arrived really quickly. We were certain we wanted to end with Hawkins experiencing spore fallout. Although I can’t recall exactly when it was quite early on. We want that. As I previously stated, the finale of Empire Strikes Back Where they are gazing out the window, served as a significant inspiration for us. We were certain that we wanted to end with our heroes looking out towards the ominous supernatural plume that was spewing spores all over their town as they struggled against the evil that had not withdrawn but was still advancing aggressively towards their community. We wanted to hint at the idea of battle and the possibility of a supernatural conflict in Hawkins.
We had that image fairly early, I don’t know. It was created by Michael Mar, a fantastic concept artist who has worked with us since season two. Simply put, we were quite eager to film it and watch it. The final VFX was actually only put together, or something like that, a week and a half ago.
ROSS DUFFER: However, unlike previous seasons, this one aims to create a sense of suspense by establishing the stakes, which is something we haven’t done in previous seasons. We’ve established the stakes, so now you just want to attempt to get the “oh my God, I’m so excited to see what happens next” feeling from Empire Strikes Back. Or the Fellowship of the Ring, who is currently traveling to Mordor. That is the aspiration and the dream. You want to feel that way.
Which we simply haven’t been able to accomplish in the past because, often, we wrap up the storylines completely before saying, “Oh, but there’s some horror brewing beneath the surface that the viewer sees but our characters may not necessarily see.” Our characters can actually see the horror in this situation. What are they going to do, I wonder? How will they respond to this? What will the course of their voyage be like? Therefore, when working on that last shot, we referred to those two movies.
Shawn Levy and Netflix have both spoken about the spinoff, and you guys have as well. I am aware that Netflix will do anything to acquire something. And I accept the fact that you won’t reveal what it is to me. However, given your attention to detail and desire for involvement, I’m wondering if you’ll be content to merely create a spinoff. Or do you picture yourself doing as Vince does on Better Call Saul before suddenly getting sucked back in and appearing on another program?
Right, Matt Duffer. Yeah, we have covered this topic extensively since we also frequently discuss the Vince Gillian case. No, I’m saying that ultimately the goal is to hand off the reins to someone else. Because by the time we’re done with this, it will almost certainly have been ten years, God forbid. It will essentially take up my entire 30s. Therefore, this would require another five to ten-year commitments. You can’t, in my opinion, go halfway in. There’s not really a wonderful version of us, say, conducting a pilot and then giving up on it, I was saying to someone else.
You spend every day in the editing room, it’s like? You are colored. You are safe or not, you’re all in. Ross and I have been working on a story that we haven’t yet shared with anyone, and this is what genuinely interests us. Even if anyone will like it, I have no idea. All I know is we are pretty excited about it. However, Netflix has been pleasant and, to be really honest, hasn’t put much pressure on us. They are so patient with Ross and me.
Remember that they still need one more season from you, so I doubt they’ll worry about the spinoff until you’ve finished Season 5.
MATT DUFFER: Maybe
As soon as you turn in Season 5, it’s game on.
DUFFER MATT: Possibly, Yeah. The strain is starting to build. Particularly now that we’ve been discussing it in the media and they don’t know what the concept is, I start to receive more texts about it. They may not be annoyed or driven insane, but they do want to know what it is. I believe I have stated in the press that Finn Wolfhard only knows what it is because he made a guess at it. I’ll let you know whether you guessed it properly, but he’s the only one.
Can I do a 30-minute interview of just guesses?
DUFFER MATT: It wasn’t done with machine guns, is it? Is this it? Is this it? He simply asks, Is that it? I believe that he could only accomplish it if, he was a very intelligent child. He’s a tremendously imaginative young man, but he knows Ross and me too well. He is aware of our interests and moral sensibilities. Anyway, I’m not sure how he discovered it.
But since we are conducting this interview, we are actually working on it. Since it releases tonight, we are definitely finished with episode four.
You don’t have my trust. You will undoubtedly make changes to a shot after it has been released.
Steve, yes, we did that this morning. We adjusted, and there were 20 shots.
Yeah, of course
MATT DUFFER: I concur. Therefore, if you see it, the viewers that stay up late to watch it, it will be different the next day. I’ve been told that things will be a little different either tomorrow morning or afternoon. It’s only visual things; there is no editing.
No, it’s total. Its VFX shots
NO, NO, NO, MATT DUFFER. It isn’t. People believe that we are altering the edit. I say, “No, you can’t.”
When do you envision beginning season five’s filming? Do you have an anticipated start date?
We’re going to take a short vacation in July and then return, to be completely honest, according to the plan. I’m aware that the first week of August will see the beginning of the writer’s room. We’ll then decide on some dates at that point. We’ll decide on certain dates and work out the details because actors ask us every day.
MATT DUFFER: I believe the only thing we could possibly want this year is… Having all the scripts written was incredibly good. That is the aim. Having all screenplays written before we start production is a goal that I’m not sure we’ll be able to meet. Given that this is the final season, it is crucial that the plot and story are both executed well. We don’t want to be laying the track as the train is flying, which is what we usually do while writing Stranger Things.
I’m going to say as a fan of the show that I felt this season was really great and I know it’s because we had access to all the scripts.
ROSS DUFFER: It helped.
MATT DUFFER: It certainly was beneficial. It had an impact. Additionally, there is never enough time to turn around. But when you submit a script, filming begins the following day. It’s crazy. About that, there’s something incredibly thrilling. I actually enjoy the strain. In fact, having that gun pointed at our heads improved and inspired Ross and me as writers. Having said that, I believe we can still move quickly and put everything down on paper so we can examine it as a whole. Because it’s more crucial than ever to get everything properly. Ross mentioned that every tale needs to be finished. I’m not sure if it’s satisfying to other people, but it must be satisfying to us. The actors must be content.
We want to give the characters their moments, and since many of them have developed over the course of these four seasons, there will be five of them. ROSS DUFFER we want to be certain that they all arrive in a manner that is satisfying to us all.
MATT DUFFER: The conclusion left us feeling satisfied. We believe we have
DUFFER Ross, they are locked in for the final 20 minutes. Sticking the landing, as I already stated is so-
MATT DUFFER: Okay, I guess this ending is not what you want to hear. I’m not a big wimp either. I have a lot of insecurities, but I think the conclusion is satisfying.
Absolutely, there is no pressure to wrap up this series successfully you must not be experiencing anything, I’m sure.
ROSS DUFFER: No, no pressure at all, Steve.
I have a couple of short questions for you regarding Season 5. Do you anticipate there will be nine, eight, or ten episodes? Are you even aware?
NO, MATT DUFFER well, this season we thought… We mistakenly believed Season 4 would consist of eight regular-length episodes, which is why I hate to announce it. So that’s what I would have said if you had spoken to us before four. We’re probably going for eight this time. It shouldn’t take 13 hours, please. More like 10 hours or something is what we’re shooting for. Because we simply have so much to wrap up, I believe it will be longer than Season 1, but not as lengthy as Season 4. But don’t hold that against me.
MATT DUFFER: Exactly, yes. We fear that the ramp-up will cause us to lose a few hours at that point.
One of the things about Season 4 is how huge and all-encompassing it is. Will you venture outside of Hawkins in Season 5 as you did in Season 4? Or is it much more constrained, focusing more on what’s emerging from Hawkins?
MATT DUFFER: I concur. The majority of it takes place in Hawkins, with a sizable portion in the Upside Down. Which is both fascinating and unexciting since, I swear I spend most of my time staring at spore images and just thinking, “The spore is too large. That spore just whizzed through our character’s body.” Anyway, I don’t want to consider how much time I’ve spent watching spore videos and will continue to spend watching spore special effects videos.
Due to the need for VFX shots and finishing everything, you guys split the release. the first seven episodes, followed by episodes 8 and 9. In terms of a phased release and not releasing them all at once, I’m sure Netflix intends to take a similar approach with Season 5. Have you already begun considering the possibility that parts one and two of episodes one through four and five through eight, respectively, should be written?
Right, Matt Duffer. Actually, we haven’t discussed such issues with Netflix. Maybe everyone is waiting to see how this split occurred, I don’t know. However, you are correct. There were two items. One of them, yes, the episodes, in fact, weren’t finished and wouldn’t be finished all by May. However, it was not intended to divide.
If we had to conduct a split again, I like what you’re saying about adding more to the split. We neglected to write to the divide. It’s fortunate that episode seven ended with the Vecna revelation; it was just serendipity. Simply put, it was quite difficult to release seven episodes by May. That, in my opinion, was the most difficult situation we’ve ever encountered while filming Stranger Things. Therefore, if we were to try it again, I would definitely split up early, as you suggest. I would incorporate that into the story.
Although I would prefer to see all eight at once, people seem to talk about it more when it’s divided. We can continue writing about it because of how much better it is that you guys broke it up.
It requires so much balancing, Ross Duffer says. I fell in love with TV, specifically [the] Sopranos, but I wasn’t watching in real time since I also appreciate it as a consumer. I was simply indulging in the Netflix DVDs I was receiving via mail. It’s a real balancing act, then. I do like what we accomplished this season and that you get a taste of both worlds and that you were able to consume a lot of stuff and get caught up in the characters and plot while at the same time allowing for conversation and everything else.
We’ll see, says MATT DUFFER. Well, I’m not sure. It’s fascinating. That sort of subject is what I believe we’ll start talking about.
DUFFER Ross I believe Netflix to be open. They’ll undoubtedly have some ideas.
Do you have a bunch of fascinating never-before-seen footage and deleted scenes? Are you consciously holding it back for a potential ultimate box set release?
MATT DUFFER: No, it’s really strange. We never remove scenes. In Season 1 or 2, there may have been one deleted scene. We have two scenes that were cut.
DUFFER Ross, I can think of one from Season 1 and another from this season, but they’re both so dull. The deleted scene isn’t that interesting; they’re just really…
MATT DUFFER: Yeah, I see. Just a car scene took place.
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20-second driving sequences, ROSS DUFFER Since the majority of the time, the scenes we create have a purpose. So, often, Matt and I will just really reduce it and tighten it up as much as we can if a scene is affecting the pacing or anything else. Typically, that is what we are doing. We’re not doing scenes the right way. Therefore, there isn’t some mysterious backlog of cut scenes.
MATT DUFFER: There are lots of deleted lines, but not a lot of deleted scenes.
Are you considering creating a sizable 4K Blu-ray box set once the show is over? Have you even considered it?
DUFFER MATT: Do I have permission to discuss this? We almost think the opposite, and Netflix eventually agreed. I want to make a VHS, but I’ve been bothering them about it for years. At the very least Season 1, I want a pan and scan version. All I want to do is try to scan it and pan.
We’re going to play it out. Ross Duffer.
Put it through a VCR MATT DUFFER.
MATT DUFFER: We’ll perform the lovely action before moving on to the pan and scan.
ROSS DUFFER: Put it on Netflix instead of the VCR, hit it a few times, and skip the VCR. The nostalgic aspect appeals to me the most, at least. We asked our colors to pan and scan the first episode of Season 1 for us.
MATT DUFFER: I love it.
ROSS DUFFER: For amusement only. It simply triggered a lot of memories.
However, hopefully, we’ll release the Blu-ray.
We’ll do the 4K, Ross Duffer.
Listen, I do believe that the number of things that can be done through streaming but aren’t done bothers me. What you’re suggesting is that Netflix released a pan and scan of Season 1 that makes it appear as though you’re watching a VHS tape. That’s great. More people ought to practice this.
MATT DUFFER: They said it wouldn’t be embedded; it would stand alone. Whatever it is, it’s like the Stranger Things VHS. Anyway, I’m looking forward to it; we’ll see if it materializes. They seem to be miffed that we asked, in my opinion.
Now that we’ve made it clear in this interview, ROSS DUFFER
MATT DUFFER: They must carry it out. Yeah. They’re not going to be pleased. No, I’m not serious. They will be okay.
Obviously, a major influence on the series was D&D. Could you elaborate on its writing-related effects and how creating a season is analogous to creating a campaign?
It is comparable to creating a campaign, says Matt Duffer. Even so, it’s strange. Ross and I, as I frequently claim, are avid board game players even if we didn’t play a lot of D&D as children. Due to the fact that Magic the Gathering was popular while we were in the early 1990s. Our main interest was Magic the Gathering. We created an hour-long Magic the Gathering movie as our very first production. We were the only ones using plastic swords to attack one another. But the storytelling, originality, and abundance of incredible monsters that are a part of D&D are what I adore about it, and what I’ve come to love about it even more.
It was a very early concept when we decided that it would have to be D&D because Magic obviously didn’t exist. Ross and I did play it, but not constantly. We decided to do it. Then, I believe we did not realize—well, they would call the bad guy, the villain, the Demogorgon _Until we were a few scripts into writing Season 1. He would be given a name modeled after a creature from the D&D mythos.
The notion that youngsters are utilizing this game to explain and understand the illogical and odd things happening around them has thus far stuck. We’re very happy that they were playing accidentally. Had an opening scene when they were playing D&D unintentionally, which is almost as much of an homage to E.T. as anything else.
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