If there was one take away from Netflix's recent subscriber drop, it was that things would have been a lot, lot worse if it wasn't for Stranger Things.
The sci-fi juggernaut is the newest entry to Netflix billionaire's club. In the lead-up to its release, that chat was whether it could beat the record set by Bridgerton and become the most-watched English language show on Netflix. As it turned out, it absolutely destroyed the regency drama and has become the biggest English-language Netflix series of all time and the first to rack up over one billion viewing hours in its first 28 days of release. Now it stands at 1.31 billion, almost double what Bridgerton pulled in.
The problem for Netflix is, Stranger Things is in the endgame. There's one more season to go, but Neflix needs more than that. Its investors need more than that, and subscribers, whose fingers are going to be hanging around the cancel button amid the cost of living crisis, need more than that.
Fortunately, we know a Stranger Things spin-off series is coming. But the big question is, what will it actually be about?
In the wake of season 4 – and with Stranger Things season 5 close behind – speculation is rife around where a spin-off could go next: whether it follows a character we already know, or something else entirely.
It’s important to remember that Stranger Things was initially intended as an anthology series, similar to American Horror Story – with a different cast of characters in each season. The overwhelming popularity of Stranger Things, however, meant Netflix and the Duffer brothers saw the good business sense in continuing the story they’d already started.
With Stranger Things season 5 set to conclude the arc of the show so far, a spin-off is the perfect opportunity to fulfil that early concept.
The Duffer brothers won’t be acting as showrunners for the spin-off, and say it’s set to be “1000% different”, though will certainly have some hand in deciding its direction.
On the Happy Sad Confused podcast, the show’s creators dismissed speculation around an “Eleven spin-off” or “Steven and Dustin spin-off”, so it does look like we’re set to get a whole new roster of characters. But what could it be? Here are five of our best Stranger Things spin-off predictions.
Naturally, there are some spoilers for Stranger Things below.
1. Young Hopper
David Harbour is one of the show’s biggest talents, and it makes sense we might want to see more of him – or possibly with a new casting to depict Chief Hopper at an earlier time in his life.
A veteran of the Vietnam war, watching the young Hopper return to the States and become the grumpy detective we know and love could be compelling.
While there might not be as much of a supernatural bent to this spin-off idea, a young and grumpy police cadet/detective delving more into the background of Hawkins and its residents could make for good popcorn fodder. But since we’ve seen so much of that community and setting already, it might feel a little bit too safe...
2. New York, New York
Stranger Things season 2 took a brief detour from sleepy Hawkins into Chicago to toy with a more urban feel, and the most effective way to make this spin-off feel different would be to ditch the quiet haunted town for something a little more bustling – seeing how supernatural threats impact more crowded populations and subway commuters.
The Duffer brothers are big fans of the Ghosbusters movies, and it’s maybe time we moved away from quietly-creeping tentacles and towards big, brash, city-smashing action.
We’re also keen to see some enemies that aren’t from The Upside-Down at this point – maybe some ghosts terrorizing innocent children for a change?
3. The Satanic Panic
Stranger Things has a long history of using imagery and monster concepts from Dungeons & Dragons, the role-playing game so beloved by several of the cast.
With season 4 having tied Vecna’s murders to the so-called “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, where a hysterical media cycle stoked fears about D&D as a gateway to Satanic worship, this could prove a fruitful jumping-off point for a new series.
The spin-off could visit other places in the US where paranormal/supernatural happenings get tangled up in the dice-rolling of some innocent gamers. (Maybe a demon summoning ritual that accidentally works?)
4. Stranger Things: Tokyo
If it was good enough for Queer Eye, it’s good enough for Stranger Things. Netflix is a global platform with connections to creatives and production crews all over the world – and it might be exciting to engage with some of the mythology of different cultures, whether the Yōkai of Japanese folklore or the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales out of Germany. (Stranger Things: Bollywood Edition would be a sight to behold too.)
This would be a real shakeup for the series, and allow Netflix to start turning Stranger Things into an even larger global event than before, cycling through the platform’s biggest territories for successive seasons – as long as they ensure creatives from those countries, with an understanding of the local folklore, are leading the charge.
5. Back to the Past
Stranger Things is openly soaked in influences from the 80s, from genre action flicks and Steven Spielberg films to the Star Wars movies. But now that we’ve covered telekinetic powers and interdimensional travel so extensively, maybe it’s time to turn to another favorite film from the 80s: Back to the Future.
Time travel would be a fun, distinct way to help the new spin-off stand out, while exploring some different ideas – changing your past, seeing the future, and trying to fend off the romantic advances of your parents, in classic Back to the Future fashion.
It’s also exactly the kind of sci-fi technology to get unscrupulous government officials and unhinged scientists involved, which seem a staple of Stranger Things storytelling so far.