The fourth season of Netflix’s hit supernatural mystery Stranger Things — which has just aired its two concluding episodes — was famous for its length before it had even been released. The season ran nine episodes, all but one of which were over 75 minutes long. The final episode, at two and a half hours, was longer than most feature films.
It won’t be quite the same for the series’ fifth and final season, showrunners Matt and Ross Duffer have now revealed. With less set-up work to do, and the story rolling straight from the climax of Stranger Things 4 into the new season, they expect episodes to move at a brisker pace.
“The only reason we don’t expect to be as long is, this season, if you look at it, it’s almost a two-hour ramp up before our kids really get drawn into a supernatural mystery,” Matt Duffer told the Happy Sad Confused podcast. “You get to know them, you get to see them in their lives, they’re struggling with adapting to high school and so forth, Steve’s trying to find a date, all of that. None of that is obviously going to be occurring [in season 5].
“For the first time ever, we don’t wrap things up at the end of 4, so it’s going to be moving,” he continued. “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. 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.”
That said, don’t expect the Duffers’ newfound love of brevity to stretch to the very last episode of the show, which is likely to run a similar length to the fourth season’s finale. “We’re more likely to do what we did here, which is to just have a 2.5 hour episode,” Matt Duffer said, before joking (we hope) that it would match the infamous sprawl of Peter Jackon’s third Lord of the Rings film. “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.”
However, this is all subject to change. The Duffers told Collider that they plan to start the writers’ room for the fifth season in August, with actor David Harbour estimating an air date of “mid-2024” to GQ. There’s room for things to get out of hand yet.
“We thought Season 4 was going to be eight [episodes], and they were going to be regular length,” Matt Duffer told Collider. “So if you had interviewed us before 4, that’s what I would’ve said.”