This article contains spoilers for the Stranger Things season 4 finale.
Stranger Things season 4 concluded with many questions lingering. Where exactly is Max? How can Vecna be defeated? And when can we expect Will to share his secret with Mike? One question that’s already been definitively answered, however, is: will we get a Stranger Things season 5?
The good news is that we will absolutely see a fifth season of Stranger Things. The bad news is that it will be the show’s last. Back in February 2022 when Netflix announced the release dates of season 4’s two volumes, the streamer also announced that the show was receiving a fifth and final season. The show’s creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, wrote a letter to fans to accompany the announcement. It read, in part:
“Seven years ago, we planned out the complete story arc for Stranger Things. At the time, we predicted the story would last four to five seasons. It proved too larger to tell in four, but — as you’ll soon see for yourselves — we are now hurtling toward our finale. Season 4 will be the penultimate season; season 5 will be the last.”
True to the Duffers’ word, fans were able to see how season 4 would be the beginning of the end for Stranger Things. Hell, the series new big bad Vecna even literally says that Eleven and her friends have arrived at the “beginning…the beginning of the end.” What will that ending have in store for Stranger Things‘ characters and for Stranger Things‘ fans?
Let’s figure that out together here as we go over what we know about Stranger Things season 5 and present some theories as to how this epic story might end.
When Will Season 5 Premiere?
While we don’t know when Stranger Things season 5 will premiere, there are some encouraging indicators that the wait won’t be as long as the one between season 3 and season 4. After season 3 premiered on July 4, 2019, it took nearly three full years before season 4 made its way to Netflix.
A lot of that delay can be attributed to the pandemic. Makeup effects department head Barrie Gower told Den of Geek that they began building Vecna in January of 2020 before having to shut down production for three months. Another aspect of season 4’s delay that can’t be ignored is that the Duffer Brothers clearly wanted to take their time to properly plot out the end of the series.
The fact that Netflix confidently announced a season 5 renewal alongside the season 4 release date news suggests that the Duffers and the rest of the show’s production team will probably be ready to get rolling relatively soon. We wouldn’t be shocked if season 5 got a late 2023 or early 2024 release date.
Will Vecna Be the Big Bad?
Midway through season 4, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) theorized that the Demogorgon was the Mind Flayer’s foot soldier while Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) was his five-star general. While Dustin was right in assuming that the humanoid Vecna was more powerful than any Demo-creatures, it seems as though he still underrated the dark wizard.
Vecna, formerly known as Number One and before that as Henry Creel, proudly announces to Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) in the season 4 finale that he is the author of all her suffering. Upon arrival in the Upside Down, Vecna surveyed the landscape and saw that it was to his liking. He even met The Mind Flayer and borrowed some of its power. From that moment on, Vecna sought Eleven as a sort of key to the “real world,” which he in turn could turn into The Upside Down.
The series big bad has been Vecna this whole time and according to Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), he still has yet to be defeated. Will, thanks to his earlier connection with the Mind Flayer (who was operating as part of Vecna), can still feel Vecna’s presence. He knows that, despite the seemingly fatal burn wounds, that Vecna will recuperate to fight another day. And fight he shall in season 5.
What’s Happening to Hawkins?
As previously stated, Vecna’s ultimate goal is to unleash the hellish chaos of The Upside Down upon our unsuspecting world. The neat thing about the season 4 finale is that he kind of succeeds in that mission. By successfully killing Max (more on that in a moment), Vecna was able to open a fourth gate and in the process break the “dam” connecting the two realities.
This breaking of the dam has immediate destructive repercussions as the force of the break creates a 7.6 magnitude earthquake throughout Hawkins that kills at least 22 people. Unfortunately that earthquake was just the beginning of the bad news to come. Based on the final shot of the season it seems as though a significant chunk of The Upside Down has leaked out into our world. There’s a huge portion of the natural landscape outside of Hopper’s cabin that is effectively in black and white. Not only that but there are ominous black clouds tinged with red lightning in the sky … and they’re advancing.
The “normal” citizenry of Hawkins, like Mike’s dad Ted (Joe Chrest), scoff at the notion that the town is cursed. When the apocalyptic black clouds roll in in season 5, however, they may have no choice but to believe.
Where is Max?
Perhaps the biggest mystery that Stranger Things season 5 will have to confront is the whereabouts of Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink). To be clear, we know where Max’s body is. Her mortal form currently lies in a hospital bed in Hawkins, buried deep in a coma. We don’t, however, know where her consciousness is.
Eleven was able to successfully save Max’s life by using psychic abilities heretofore not known to us. In the process though Max’s consciousness appears to have run off. When Eleven tries to hack into her mind in the hospital she finds nothing but an empty space filled with ankle-deep water. The essence of Max Mayfield is missing. But where could it be?
There’s a bleak possibility that Max’s mind is still someone in the thrall of Vecna. Since that would suck we’re just going to guess that her mind is off traveling the immaterial world looking for a weapon to bring the monster down once and for all.