With Vecna revealed, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) on the verge of getting her powers back, and new gates opening between Hawkins and the Upside Down, Stranger Things is nearing not only the conclusion of its fourth season, but its series end.
Of course, a fifth season is on its way (eventually) and Netflix celebrated both volumes of season 4 and the program overall by dedicating the full Thursday of Geeked Week 2022 to the series. Although it was as much retrospective as preview, it was still plenty of information to parse, so we’ve compiled it into a handy list of the day’s events.
And be sure to check in each day as we’ll be adding to our knowledge base as Geeked Week continues.
(Photo by Netflix)
Unlike some shows working off of a detailed master plan, creators Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer revealed they only really had the first season worked out.
“[Netflix] asked us to walk them through the mythology,” Ross Duffer said. “So we talked to our writers about the Upside Down and that is most of what we’re talking about now [in season 4]. The big beats were there.”
Some of those beats have played out across the seasons, and it led to Vecna’s connection to Eleven. And some answers yet to come in the fifth and final season have been seeded in season 4.
But one example of how making the series changed the story: Steve (Joe Keery) was meant to die in season 1.
“When he comes back and fights the Demogorgon, that was supposed to be Jonathan’s dad,” Matt Duffer revealed. Neither Duffer could remember exactly when Steve was going to die, but they credit Keery with changing the character’s trajectory.
“You’re learning what works and what doesn’t work,” he continued. “The cast is impacting where you take the narrative, the other writers and directors … it’s this living thing.” He also added that although they’re not making it all up on the fly at this point — the is a rough plan at all times — the act of making Stranger Things always “informs what we’re doing.”
(Photo by Netflix)
One of those things informing the story is the unavoidable march of time. As the actors age, so too do the characters — although not in a 1:1 progression. Season 4 sees the kids entering high school and finding their place within it. And that growing complexity lead to a tone-shift in the series.
“It can’t be The Goonies anymore, but they can be in a horror movie,” Ross Duffer explained.
Matt Duffer added: “Them growing older forces the show to evolve. [For us] middle school was a fun adventure [and] high school was horrible. I have nothing but terrible memories of high school,”
Calling upon those memories, the Duffers infused the season with a greater exploration of anxiety and depression, represented by Vecna.
“Season 3 [was] our big blockbuster movie. Season 4 was Nightmare on Elm Street and Hellrasier,” he said.
Those filmic touchstones definitely played out in Max’s (Sadie Sink) storyline.
“You learn he targets people who are in a real place, and Max is one of those people,” Sink said. “She’s dealing with the grief of Billy’s death.”
Although, as viewers have seen, the music of Kate Bush definitely helped with both of those situations.
And although the story in Hawkins reached some of its darkest depths, not every season 4 plot needed to be pitched that severely.
“We shot a stoner thriller comedy where they shot a different, psychological, kind of movie,” Finn Wolfhard said of Mike, Will (Noah Schnapp) and Jonathan’s (Charlie Heaton) journey across the western United States. “It was insanely fun.”
Brown, meanwhile, said she “appreciated the Duffers taking away [Eleven’s] abilities.” The deep dive into the character’s emotional well-being and the “real” relationship struggles between Mike and Eleven definitely set things apart from previous season, where her powers took precedent. She also thought it was a great decision to split the cast apart and focus on different 1980s locations. But she also noted, “It always ends up in the Upside Down.”
One of the more dramatic splits in the early part of the season was Lucas’s shift from nerd to jock.
“I understand where Lucas is in his life,” actor Caleb McLaughlin said of his characters soul-searching via high school sports. “He’s going through this time of ‘where do I really fit in?’”
Although, as seen through the season, he is drawn back to his friends, McLaughlin argued he needed that time away from them to see how important they are to him. “I understand why they’re upset,” he added. “[But] he just needed to step out real quick.”
No doubt motivating his decision to rejoin the Hellfire Club were the actions of Hawkins High basketball team captain Jason Carver (Mason Dye) following the death of his girlfriend. According to the Duffer Brothers, the decision to unravel him was, in part, motivated by the show’s tendency to introduce characters who just embrace and accept the supernatural.
“We wanted to explore what it would be like for someone who would’ve led a good life [had that not occurred], but then it happens and it all comes spilling out,” Matt Duffer said.
Ross Duffer added: “[Jason] sees these supernatural things and he cracks a little bit. How would one react to seeing something so outside of reality?”
The answer, of course, is still ambiguous as the ultimate effect of his Satanic Panic rabble-rousing has yet to be revealed.
(Photo by Tina Rowden/Netflix)
When asked about the actual Satanic Panic, Winona Ryder recalled the album censorship crusade led by Tipper Gore. She and panel host Felicia Day laughed about the silliness of it in hindsight.
But David Harbour’s memories of the panic went deeper: 1982’s Mazes and Monsters.
“It’s the best,” he said. “Tom Hanks is like a dungeonmaster with his friends. They were saying D&D is the devil and it will possess you.”
Although the film became something of a camp classic as the panic subsided, Harbour admitted he was himself addicted to a video game. The massive multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft, to be exact.
“In 2005 I played the s— out of [WoW] and it ruined my life,” he recalled with a laugh. “I was a night elf warrior called Norad. He was second tank of my whole guild.”
Oddly enough, another game broke his addiction: “I also played The Sims and my avatar got to a certain point in his career [in the game’s acting profession], and I wanted him to work on his speech and body [skills]. All he wanted to do was play video games, and I had this ‘wom-wom’ moment. I came back [to the real world].”
Over a decade later, the real world would include the biting cold of Lithuania, where Stranger Things shot the exteriors of the Russian prison.
“We shot in a real prison outside of Vilnius,” Habour said. “The toughest stuff was when Hopper abandons his shoes and I’m running shoeless. It’s not very pleasant,” he said. “I found my wolf — my inner Russian bear. It was brutal physically and emotionally.”
Joyce, Ryder’s character, spent most of the season trying to find her way to that same place. When asked what motivated the character to leave her children behind to find Hopper, she said, “It’s Hopper. They are like family. There’s no way she couldn’t have gone.”
(Photo by Tina Rowden/Netflix)
The main part of the session ended with a brief teaser (posted above) of season 4 Volume 2. The last two episode of the season see Joyce, Hopper, and Murray (Brett Gelman) continuing to delve into the Russian mystery while Eleven heads out to confront Vecna. Although, as he claims in the tease, “You have freed me … You can’t stop this now.”
Afterward, Wolfhard, Priah Ferguson (Erica on the series), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin) and Joseph Quinn (new character Eddie Munson) took part in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign ran by B. Dave Walters. Set in “Hawk’s End,” the campaign saw the group facing the undead, battling with Vecna, and saving the day. Notably, Ferguson played Erica’s Lady Applejack while Quinn played a creature called “Joe Kerry.” It was an interesting 80-or-so minutes which proved, yet again, that Walters is one of the best dungeonmasters working in video.