Stranger Things season 5: Plot, cast, release date rumors

Following one of the great cliffhangers in the show’s history, fans are eager to gather every detail about Stranger Things 5. Understandably, season 5, the finale of Netflix’s Stranger Things, is now one of television’s most highly anticipated events. Since Vecna succeeded in tearing open a massive gate to the Upside Down, audiences now expect the heroes of Hawkins to engage in an epic final battle against the evil psychic and his army of monsters.

At this point, details regarding the season to end all seasons have been scarce, and the world likely won’t get to see the show’s last episodes for quite a while. In the meantime, here’s everything that has been revealed and should be expected from Stranger Things 5.

Stranger Things season 5 release date

The main villain of Stranger Things 4.

On February 1, Netflix announced its series and film slate for 2024. Notably absent from the list was Stranger Things season 5. The final season of the hit series will not air until 2025. Due to the show’s use of VFX and cinematic qualities, a 2024 release was never in the cards.

Due to the Hollywood labor strikes, Stranger Things season 5 has been significantly delayed. Production was due to start in May 2023 for a potential 2024 release. However, the work stoppages forced the show to pause all activities. After a lengthy hiatus, production on season 5 began in January 2024.

Stranger Things season 5 cast

Eddie in "Stranger Things."

Season 4 spent a lot of time introducing a variety of new characters like Eddie, Argyle, Dmitri, Yuri, Vecna, and Victor Creel, to name a few. This all contributed to the season’s extraordinarily long runtime, which many audiences took issue with.

Fortunately, the Duffers revealed on Netflix Geeked that the fifth season will not bring in any new players to join the war for Hawkins, leaving more time for the show to focus on the original cast and developing their characters. It will also give audiences a break from the show’s habit of introducing lovable characters and quickly killing them off. We’re likely going to see all of the originals at some point, but here’s a quick breakdown of who’s still in play:

  • Eleven/Jane Hopper — played by Millie Bobby Brown
  • Mike Wheeler — played by Finn Wolfhard
  • Will Byers — played by Noah Schnapp
  • Dustin Henderson — played by Gaten Matarazzo
  • Lucas Sinclair — played by Caleb McLaughlin
  • Max Mayfield — played by Sadie Sink
  • Steve Harrington — played by Joe Keery
  • Nancy Wheeler — played by Natalia Dyer
  • Johnathan Byers — played by Charlie Heaton
  • Robin Buckley — played by Maya Hawke
  • Jim Hopper — played by David Harbour
  • Joyce Byers — played by Winona Ryder
  • Murray Bauman — played by Brett Gelman
  • Vecna/Henry Creel/One — played by Jamie Campbell Bower

So, no instant fan favorites will be introduced this season. The focus will be solely on the originals, which is certainly a welcome move for the final season. Of course, there may or may not be a cameo — through a flashback or something — of Joseph Quinn’s Eddie Munson, who did perish last season in a glorious battle of metal and blood. Everyone loved him, however, so sometimes you just have to give the people what they want. We shall see soon enough.

Nevertheless, it was revealed by Netflix Tudum that The Terminator actor Linda Hamilton has been cast in the next season, but whether or not her role is a minor one remains to be seen. This is another case of the show casting iconic ’80s actors, as it had previously brought in names like Sean Astin, Paul Reiser, Cary Elwes, and Robert Englund.

As for newcomer Argyle, actor Eduardo Franco stated in a YouTube channel interview with Steve Varley that he doesn’t think his character will return. “It’s nice to hear that there’s some kind of concern or something, you know what I mean? But I’ve never, I never got a phone call, so I think, yeah, I think that’s it,” he said.

It is also worth mentioning that, at this point, actor Noah Schnapp will remain in the show, despite calls for the show to be boycotted following the video of him smiling with people handing out “Zionism is sexy” and “Hamas is ISIS” stickers in the wake of the 2023 Israel-Hamas war.

The cast negotiated a pay raise for season 5

Characters from Stranger Things season 4 stand ready to attack Vecna.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Given the enormous success of Stranger Things, it only makes sense that members of the core ensemble should be paid handsomely for their work on the show. According to reporting in Puck News, these pay raises were separated into three tiers.

Winona Ryder and David Harbour are supposed to be paid $9.5 million for the season. Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Finn Wolfhard, and Sadie Sink will make a little over $7 million for the season. Series regulars such as Natalia Dyer, Maya Hawke, Charlie Heaton, and Joe Keery will make $6 million for the final season.

The show is casting for a few minor roles

The cast of Stranger Things in the lab.

In addition to all of the core cast members returning for season 5, the show is also casting for a couple of smaller roles as part of the new season. Among those who are being cast for the season are a number of army or military personnel (which makes sense given Vecna’s takeover of Hawkins) and a couple of 8 to 10-year-old kids. A description for one of those kids reads: “[DEREK] Character is portrayed as 8-10yo, male, any ethnicity, overweight. An outsider with no friends, he is rude to adults — and a bully to those his age.”

Stranger Things season 5 plot

With the major questions out of the way, let’s talk about some of the other details we know or that have been confirmed by the showrunners.

Stranger Things season 5 will have a time jump

Vecna's grandfather clock in "Stranger Things."
Image used with permission by copyright holder

According to Screen Rant, like the show’s previous seasons, season 5 will begin quite some time after the fourth ended. One might assume that the show will pick up after season 4’s shocking cliffhanger, but the show’s creators understandably want more time to pass, given that most of the cast is still maturing and that the last two seasons took two to three years to complete. The show has made casting calls requesting vintage cars from 1988, implying that season 5 will take place two years after the previous one ended.

This time jump could thus have the series return to Hawkins long after the residents have evacuated the town, which could become overrun by Vecna’s forces from the Upside Down. However, who wouldn’t want to see the chaos unleashed on the invasion’s first day in the vein of A Quiet Place: Part Two?

Season 5 will take place entirely in Hawkins

A daytime view of the destruction in Hawkins, Indiana, from the end of Stranger Things season 4.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Season 4 of Stranger Things proved to be the show’s biggest yet in terms of scope. It followed the heroes living separately from each other and traveling through Hawkins, California, Russia, and even the Upside Down. In contrast, the final season will primarily follow the cast in Hawkins and the Upside Down.

While that may not sound like anything new, the Upside Down did seep through the giant gate that ripped through Hawkins, so audiences may see the town turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland warped by the alternate realm. Recent photos on X revealed that an Upside Down version of Hawkins Lab is being built for the next season, implying that Vecna will turn his former prison on Earth into his new fortress.

Will plays a greater role in season 5

Will Byers sits on a couch in season 4 of Stranger Things.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Will Byers played an important part in the show’s first two seasons, having been the first person to be dragged into the Upside Down and come back alive. Though the previous two seasons explored Will’s isolation from his friends and his closeted sexuality, he has very much taken a back seat from the rest of the group. However, Matt Duffer revealed to Collider that season 5 will have a strong focus on Will and show him “come into his own.”

Will has long shared a psychic connection with Vecna and the Upside Down’s hive mind, giving him the ability to sense their presence and activity. This power could be crucial to his role in the show’s final episodes, and it could even become the key to stopping Vecna once and for all. Since the show began with Will’s disappearance, it’s only fair that it ends with him getting the spotlight.

Cut season 2 content will be in Stranger Things season 5

Stranger Things season 2 Thessalhydra
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In an article by Netflix Tudum, the Duffer Brothers have revealed that the final season will use a lot of leftover ideas that they came up with for season 2, and that alone has significant implications. The series’ second season shows Will struggling to live his life after returning from the Upside Down as he becomes possessed by the Mind Flayer and, therefore, Vecna. Perhaps the latter will try to possess Will once more after his body was wounded in the season 4 finale.

The second season also depicts Eleven exploring her past and reuniting with her old friend from Hawkins Lab, Kali. As a result, the final season may show Will once again being overcome by Vecna’s influence, and Eleven may team up with Kali one last time to save Hawkins and close the Gate once and for all.

The finale is going to be emotional

Eleven and the gang from Stranger Things Season 3.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

While talking to The Hollywood Reporter, the Duffer Brothers and Shawn Levy made it clear that the season’s storyline is going to be an emotional rollercoaster of a ride. “We did get our executives to cry, which I felt was a good sign that these executives were crying.”

Levy also made it clear the story will center on the beloved characters. “Season five is already so clearly taking care of these stories of the characters because that’s always been the lifeblood of Stranger Things.”

Another little tidbit they shared is that the theme, tone, and experience would go full circle, meaning the fifth season will be more reminiscent of the show’s earlier seasons, just on a bigger scale. Whatever the case may be, we’re excited, and we can’t wait.

Will there be any new monsters?

The Spider Monster in "Stranger Things."
Netflix / Netflix

Each season of the show has introduced a new breed of monster from the Upside Down, with the fourth giving audiences the flying Demobats. If the next season follows this pattern, Vecna could pull out all the stops and introduce some new creatures to attack Hawkins. Nancy did have a vision of a “giant monster with a gaping mouth” leading Vecna’s army of monsters. While she could be referring to the Mind Flayer (as it fits this description of the Spider Monster in season 3), Comic Book Resources theorized that this mystery monster is actually the dreaded Thessalhydra.

In the world of Dungeons and Dragons, the Thessalhydra is a large, reptilian creature with eight heads akin to a hydra, all connected to an enormous mouth. This creature is presumably the one that was roaring and causing earthquakes in the Upside Down in season 4. The season 1 finale did show the boys fighting against the beast in their DnD campaign, so just like with the Demogorgon, this seemingly small scene could have foreshadowed their greatest battle yet.

How many episodes will be in Stranger Things season 5?

The cast of Stranger Things season 4.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

A total of eight episodes have been confirmed for the show’s upcoming season, with the first episode being titled The Crawl. Right now, it’s unknown how long each episode will be, but the Duffer Brothers stated on Happy Sad Confused that the series’ last episode will have a runtime similar to season 4’s two-and-a-half-hour-long finale.

This will surely make for a big conclusion, and the Duffers have even stated that it will give “all the characters a proper send-off,” describing it as “Return of the King-ish with eight endings.”

Who’s dead or dies in Stranger Things season 5?

Max in "Stranger Things."

Season 4 featured some major character deaths that shocked many audiences, including that of Eleven’s “papa,” Dr. Brenner. Though this isn’t the first time that Brenner appeared to bite the dust in this series, the Duffers confirmed on Happy Sad Confused that the doctor is dead “for real this time.”

Newcomer and fan-favorite Eddie Munson also gave his life fighting off a swarm of Demobats to protect Dustin and Hawkins. While it’s pretty clear he died, actor Joseph Quinn told E! News that he is hoping to return to the show as Eddie, at least for a brief cameo. “I’d be very up for it,” said Quinn. “But yeah, let’s see.”

Lastly, poor Max briefly died after Vecna broke her bones, allowing him to create the giant gate to the Upside Down. Though Eleven restarted her heart, Max was left in a comatose state, leaving her ultimate fate unclear. “I have no idea what’s coming in [season 5] and what that looks like,” Sink said to Deadline. “Max’s storyline is very up in the air ’cause, obviously, she’s in a coma, and Eleven can’t find her in the void. So who knows where she is and what state she’s in?”

As for who might leave the land of the living in Stranger Things season 5, we don’t really know, and there hasn’t been much shared about it. We’re just going to have to wait to find out.

What will we learn about the Upside Down in Stranger Things season 5?

Stranger Things

The Upside Down has long been one of the show’s greatest mysteries. This parallel universe is an almost exact copy of the human world, but season 4 revealed it was not always like this and that it looked the same as Hawkins on the day the series began, the day Eleven first opened the Mothergate.

According to Netflix Life, audiences will finally get some concrete answers about this strange world in the next season. The Duffer Brothers even revealed in an interview that they had a 25-page document outlining the mythology of the series, particularly the Upside Down, since they started making season 1. “The only thing we don’t delve into in [season 4] volume 2 is Upside Down lore,” said Ross Duffer. “We hint at it. I’m sure someone on Reddit will be able to maybe piece it together, but a lot of those answers for the Upside Down, or that is really what the basis of season 5 is about.”

How Stranger Things: The First Shadow connects to season 5

Vecna in "Stranger Things."
Netflix / Netflix

The popular Netflix series recently took over London’s West End with its stage play prequel, Stranger Things: The First Shadow, which follows the origins of Henry Creel and many of the show’s other adult characters. Fans of the show may want to follow this play, as the Duffers said in an email to EW, “The First Shadow definitely gives fans some no-so-subtle teases and hints as to where certain storylines are heading in season 5. It touches on several themes and ideas that we will continue to explore in the show.”

In The First Shadow, it is revealed that Henry first entered the Upside Down (then known as “Dimension X”) when he was living in Nevada as a child. He returns to Earth 12 hours later with his psychic powers and an overwhelming urge to kill, which he gained after being infected by the Mind Flayer. This twist suggests that the Mind Flayer will end up the show’s final antagonist after all, as it likely altered Henry’s memories to make him believe the life story he told the heroes in season 5.

The play also revealed that Bob’s sister, Patty, shared a romantic bond with Henry as a child, allowing him to hold onto his humanity before embracing his darkness and becoming Vecna. Since Patty survives by the end of the play, she could return to Hawkins in season 5 to help stop Vecna once and for all.

Is Stranger Things season 5 going to be the final season?

Joyce – Stranger Things - Winona Ryder | TVs Most Badass Moms
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It has been confirmed by the Duffer Brothers that season 5 will indeed bring the Stranger Things story and plotline to a conclusion. That means, when it’s all done, Eleven, her friends and companions, the Upside Down, and most characters involved in the story will be sunset — hopefully, with a satisfying wrap-up.

What did David Harbour say about Stranger Things season 5?

When discussing the show’s fifth season in an interview with Discussing Film, David Harbour was upfront about how it needs to be its last season. “I think it’s a great show, even if I wasn’t in it,” he said. “Now we’re almost nine years from filming the first season, and I think it is time for it to end. But it is, of course, very bittersweet.”

The good news is that even though this is the last season of the mainline series, we may see more Netflix shows and content set in the Stranger Things universe. The Duffers have teased a potential spinoff or two. While talking to Variety, they said, “There are still many more exciting stories to tell within the world of Stranger Things. New mysteries, new adventures, new unexpected heroes.”

Only Finn Wolfhard knows what the Stranger Things spinoff show is about

Gaten Matarazzo, Finn Wolfhard, and Sadie Sink stand in a crowd during a high-school rally in a scene from Stranger Things 4.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Apparently, Finn Wolfhard was able to guess the concept for the new show. “Somehow, Finn Wolfhard – who is one crazy smart kid – correctly guessed what it was going to be about. But aside from Finn, no one else knows!”

“We haven’t told anyone the idea yet, much less written it,” they added later on. “We think everyone – including Netflix – will be surprised when they hear the concept, because it’s very, very different.”

Whatever the case may be, with the Duffers we’re certainly in for a wild ride, so buckle up while you still can.

If you want to take a trip down memory lane, and recap some of the story beats, be sure to check out our guide on the ten most important moments in Stranger Things. You might also be interested to see the magic behind the vines and gore of season 4’s VFX.

When does Stranger Things season 5 start filming?

The cast of Stranger Things 5.
Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

Following recent reports that Stranger Things 5 was filming last week, Netflix has confirmed that the show’s final season has officially begun production. No other details were revealed, but Netflix did share a picture from the cast table read taken on December 6, 2023, by Atsushi Nishijima. From left to right, you can see Noah Schnapp, Millie Bobby Brown, David Harbour, Winona Ryder, Cara Buono, Joe Keery, Amybeth McNulty, Charlie Heaton, Brett Gelman, Maya Hawke, Natalia Dyer, Jamie Campbell Bower, Priah Ferguson, Linda Hamilton, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Ross Duffer, Matt Duffer, Finn Wolfhard, and in case anyone was worried about the return of Max, Sadie Sink is there as well.

Variety was the first to report that principal photography of Stranger Things season 5 would begin in January. Via social media, Heaton, Keery, Hawke, and Dyer were reportedly on set in Atlanta on January 5. Those performers are notably the teenage heroes of the show, Jonathan, Steve, Robin, and Nancy, all of whom have had experience in the Upside Down by this point.

According to @AtlantaFilming Actors Charlie, Joe, Maya and Natalia are filming Stranger Things 5 today in an unknown building at the Atlanta studios, at the moment there is no footage from the set or the actors #StrangerThings5 #StrangerThings

— Stranger Things On Spain® (@SThingsOnSpain) January 5, 2024

PopBase tweeted the below image, which shows stars Maya Hawke and Joe Keery getting ready to shoot a scene for Stranger Things‘ upcoming fifth season, on January 9.

Maya Hawke and Joe Keery behind the scenes of filming for ‘Stranger Things’ Season 5.

— Pop Base (@PopBase) January 9, 2024

A preview of what Stranger Things season 5 will be like

Recently, we got a sneak peek as to what the upcoming season of Stranger Things will be like. On the Twitter account @strangerwriters, which is the official account for the Stranger Things writer room, an anonymous writer shared the following Tweet:

Season 5 is like if season 1 and 4 had a baby. And then that baby was injected with steroids.

— stranger writers (@strangerwriters) March 21, 2023

Whoa! While not exactly detailed, the Tweet gives you a reasonable parameter as to what season 5 will be like: epic like season 4 but with a more personal touch like the show’s season 1. This makes sense, as the writers will most likely want to keep up exploring the bigger picture and just how powerful the Upside Down can be in the final season. If you remember, season 4 had more monsters, more characters, and more of a detailed backstory about Eleven, the origins of Vecna, and how the Upside Down came to be in Hawkins.

Because this is the last season, the writers also want to return to what made the show so special: a tight focus on the four friends — Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Will — and how their bond helped those around them (Joyce, Sheriff Hopper, Eleven, Nancy, Jonathan). With season 4’s finale leaving everyone back in Hawkins, it makes sense to return to the original season’s tight focus on those characters.

Saying goodbye is hard, especially for Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin)

With season 5 set to be the show’s last, several stars have voiced their angst regarding its inevitable end. One of them is Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin on the show. The actor recently stopped by The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to promote his new Broadway musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Of course, Fallon couldn’t resist asking about Stranger Things, and Gaten was more than happy to share his somewhat sad feelings about the show’s end.

Gaten was recently seen on social media shooting a scene in which Dustin seems to be visiting Eddie’s tombstone, which is vandalized in a likely reference to 1976’s Carrie. Without a doubt, this looks to be the setup for an emotional final arc for Gaten’s iconic character.

Gaten Matarazzo behind the scenes on the final season of ‘STRANGER THINGS’.

— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) January 11, 2024

Don’t worry … it’s not all a game

During an interview with Metro on the red carpet for the new Stranger Things play in London, the Duffer Brothers went on record to debunk a popular fan theory about the show’s ending. The theory claims that the show will turn out to be a long and elaborate D&D game played by the show’s main characters, thus explaining the many connections between the plot and the popular role-playing game.

However, the Duffer Brothers have outright denied the theory, with Matt replying with a firm “no” to the suggestion. Ross added that “would be the equivalent of ‘that’s all a dream.’” The siblings reiterated that “(they’ve) known where (they’ve) been going for a while” and “feel comfortable with it.” Fans must wait a while longer to see their ending, but at least they can rest easy knowing it won’t be a cop-out.

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