“Stranger Things” Season 4 is nothing if not super-sized. Its final two chapters premiered on Friday with notably boastful runtimes of 85 minutes and 140 minutes each – essentially lasting as long as or longer than most feature-length films. And whether everyone likes that narrative tactic or not, creators Matt and Ross Duffer have revealed that they envision a similar structure for their fifth and final season.
In a recent Happy Sad Confused podcast interview with host Josh Horowitz, Ross Duffer bemoaned the pattern he sees on series’ closers “where the penultimate episode is the strong episode and then they wind down on the last one.” So they concluded that the trick to avoid such traps is to just make one long episode. “We’re more likely to do what we did here which is to just have a 2.5 hour episode,” Ross revealed of the intended “Stranger Things” Season 5 finale.
“The wind-down is just part of a 2.5 hour episode,” Matt added. “I would expect the finale to be at least two hours.”
Running nine episodes and lasting an approximate 13 hours, the fourth season of “Stranger Things” marks the creatives’ most ambitious installment yet. The Duffers said that Season 5, while flexing a robust finale runtime, is overall likely to be shorter than Season 4. .
“The only reason we don’t expect it to be as long is because if you look at it, it’s almost a two-hour ramp-up before our kids really get drawn into the supernatural mystery,” Matt explained. “You get to know them, you get to see them in their lives, what they’re struggling with, adapting to high school and so forth. Steve’s trying to find a date, all of that. None of that obviously is going to be occurring in the first two episodes of [Season 5].
“For the first time ever, we don’t wrap things up at the end of 4, and so it’s going to be moving. I don’t know that it’s going to be going 100 miles an hour at the start of 5, but it’s going to be moving pretty fast,” he continued. “Characters are already going to be in action, they’re already going to have a goal and a drive, and I think that’s going to carve out at least a couple hours and make this season feel really different. I’m sure the wrap-up will be a lot longer, it’s going to be ‘Return of the King’-ish with, like, eight endings.”
The brothers also teased that Season 5 will be isolated to the small town that started it all: Hawkins, Indiana.
“We wanna go back to a lot of the things we did in Season 1,” Matt said. “A lot of the original groupings and pairings that we had in Season 1 – there’s something nice about coming full circle.”
As far as what that full-circle drama will entail is anyone’s guess. Ross said that he and the series’ other writers know how “Stranger Things” is ending, but they don’t yet know how they’re going to get there.
“It’s dangerous as a writer to be writing hours and hours and not know where you’re going. I’d rather leave some of that middle journey vague and fuzzy., but so long as you know where that destination is, it sort of gives you that clarity. It’s like that lighthouse blinking in the distance,” Ross said.
“At the moment, we feel pretty confident about [our ending],” he continued. “So while a lot of Season 5 is actually pretty blurry, the last 30 minutes of it are pretty clear in our heads. So if we can make the journey entertaining, I think that we have an end that will hopefully satisfy. You can’t satisfy everyone, but the hope is that it’s something that feels right for this story.”
That all said, the Duffers don’t want to be backed into a corner. Just incase Season 5 comes together without their projected setting and runtime, they clarified that a lot of Season 4 took them by surprise, so Season 5 very well may do the same.
“You know, if you had talked to us at the start of writing [Season 4], I would’ve told you it’s eight episodes and they’re about an hour long each,” Matt said, “so I wouldn’t trust a word that comes out of my mouth.”