Major spoilers follow for Stranger Things season 4.
Stranger Things season 5 will contain shorter episodes than its predecessor – and I'm happy that the show's final season won't be another lengthy affair.
Speaking on the latest episode of the Happy Sad Confused podcast, the Duffer brothers – Stranger Things' co-creators – confirmed that season 5 won't be as long as the hit Netflix show's latest entry.
"The only reason we don’t expect [Season 5] to be as long is because, this season, if you look at it, it’s almost a two-hour ramp-up before our kids really get drawn into the supernatural mystery," Matt Duffer explained. "For the first time ever, we don’t wrap things up at the end of [season] 4. So, it’s going to be moving, I don’t know if it will be moving at 100 mph at the start of Season 5, but it’s going to be moving pretty fast."
That, dear reader, is music to my ears. I enjoyed Stranger Things season 4 – in our review, we said the fourth season was a "triumphant horror-fuelled return" for the series. For the most part, season 4's long episodes didn't bother me either as they were necessary for its multi-narrative approach and extensive character development, particularly for newcomers like Joe Quinn's Eddie Munson (RIP, you wonderful metalhead).
Even so, I'm glad that Stranger Things 5 is going back to the show's roots with its shorter episodes. And there are multiple reasons why.
For one, after spending the entirety of season 4 apart, the show's major players have been reunited in Hawkins. If the fictional Indiana town is the only location where season 5 is set, we won't need to follow our heroes across various storylines in multiple locations. Without a myriad of narratives to follow, season 5's episodic runtimes are sure to be significantly shortened.
With season 5 set to be the final entry in Stranger Things' mainline show – the Duffer brothers have plans for a spin-off or two – Eleven and company (and us by proxy) are truly in the endgame. The show's fifth season will comprise the Hawkins gang's last stand against Vecna and the Upside Down's other horrifying creatures, so we're unlikely to see the introduction of new characters or much in the way of further character development.
And that's okay. Stranger Things season 5 should be completely focused on the series' protagonists and their fight against the Upside Down. We want to see our heroes' stories wrapped up by the season 5 finale in a satisfying fashion, with no plot threads left hanging once the credits roll for the last time.
Sure, Stranger Things' fifth season needs to answer some fundamental questions from season 4 and even further back. Is Max still alive? Where has Vecna gone? What is The Shadow exactly? How did the Upside Down become such a dingy, dark dimension when it was a stormy wasteland when Henry Creel (i.e. Vecna) first arrived in this realm? Why is the Upside Down seemingly stuck in the year 1983? Will number eight – aka Kali Prasad – make an appearance?
Ultimately, though, season 5 needs to an entry full of action – i.e. the Hawkins crew taking the fight to the Upside Down in a bid to save the world – while simultaneously focusing on the core group of heroes that we've followed since the Netflix show debuted in July 2016. Concentrate on this merry band and Stranger Things 5 won't need episodes that run for longer than an hour. You know, outside of the lengthy Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King-esque finale that the Duffer brothers are already planning for the show's final season, per their Happy Sad Confused podcast discussion.
By zeroing in on one location and following Stranger Things' main characters, season 5's overarching storyline will also be tighter and more cohesive than seasons 2, 3, and 4. It'll keep the gang together and ensure that they collaborate more closely than previous seasons, and allow season 5 to evoke the tone, aesthetic, and tight-knit feeling of the show's first season.
Yes, Stranger Things needed to evolve as a TV show to simultaneously stay relevant and fulfil the Duffer brothers' ambitions for the story they wanted to tell. It's why the series have become increasingly expansive and creative with each passing season.
But there's a reason why Stranger Things' first season holds a special place in fans' hearts. Okay, it was the right show released at the right time, but its potent mix of 80s nostalgia, original story, and talented cast (remember how good Stranger Things' young actors were even in 2016?) helped it to become an overnight sensation. It wasn't extravagant by any means, but it became a global phenomenon all the same. Season 5 should follow the first season's blueprint of a smaller-scale narrative, focusing on a core group of characters as they fight to save the world from a supernatural threat, and bring the series full circle. In doing so, its episodic runtimes will compare to season 1's 45 to 55-minute installments, rather than season 4's lengthier offerings.
Of course, the Duffer brothers may decide to write another supersized season for the show's fifth and final entry, with the route they go down being determined by the story they wish to tell. Still, I can't help but feel a season comprising shorter episodes would be a fitting and fulfilling way to end the series' main narrative. If that's the choice that the Duffers make, you won't hear me complaining.
For more Stranger Things-based content, check out our season 4 volume 2 ending explainer. Alternatively, find out why one fan favorite character may not be back for season 5.