Matt and Ross Duffer, aka the Duffer Brothers, decided to break up their nine-episode fourth season of “Stranger Things” in a rather unconventional way. By now, most fans of the Upside Down surely know that the first portion of the season, which launches Friday, consists of seven super-sized episodes, while Volume 2, which debuts July 1, has only two installments.
Though Episodes 8 and 9 are longer than all the episodes that came before them, running at 85 minutes and nearly two and a half hours, respectively, there could still be concerns among viewers that only two episodes does not a second volume make.
But the Duffers assured Variety that Episode 7 of “Stranger Things 4” is not just at the level of any previous season closer they have done, but sets up Episodes 8 and 9 in a way that makes the two-episode Volume 2 feel like it can stand alone.
“Episode 7 is as big as any season finale we’ve ever had, so it made sense to everyone involved to split the season there,” the Duffers said in a joint email interview. “Episode 7 really serves as the end of the second act — and we feel that our final act had enough meat on the bone to make up Volume 2.”
See below for more from Variety‘s “Stranger Things 4” chat with the Duffers.
How would you characterize the tonal shift between Seasons 3 and 4? (We will of course accept movie references here!)
We wanted Season 3 to be a big, colorful summer blockbuster, with comedy, action, spectacle — and a healthy dose of gore. Big references for us that year were “Temple of Doom,” “Romancing the Stone” and “Jurassic Park.” But this season, as with every new season, we wanted to do something very different. Our kids aren’t kids anymore, so we wanted to put them in the middle of a horror film — one that was more psychological in tone. We talked a lot about “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Hellraiser” and the “It” miniseries, which completely traumatized us when it first came out.
Given the unprecedented length of this season’s episodes, had you thought about going to a weekly format rather than two batches?
The original plan was to release it all at once again. But as we began turning over episodes, everyone began to feel the season was too big to be released in one batch — at nearly 13 hours, it is really more two seasons than one. We discussed various release options with Ted [Sarandos], and early on he proposed the two volume split, which would allow us to break up the season while also staying true to Netflix’s binge model.
How did you decide where to split up the season?
Episode 7 is as big as any season finale we’ve ever had, so it made sense to everyone involved to split the season there. Episode 7 really serves as the end of the second act — and we feel that our final act had enough meat on the bone to make up Volume 2.
How far along are you in writing the final season, and did you know going into the start of Season 4 that Season 5 would be the end — or did you figure it out along the way?
We always knew that Season 4 was going to be the penultimate season, and that its ending would dovetail directly into Season 5. During the six month pandemic hiatus, we outlined Season 5 and pitched it to Netflix. Everyone there had also been present when we first pitched the show in 2015. While we were strangers then, we were now friends and there were a lot of tears when it was over. It’s just been an extraordinary journey for all of us, and while it’s hard to believe that we’re approaching the end, we feel incredibly lucky to have such amazing partners.
Do you expect there to be as much of a wait between Season 4 and Season 5 as there was between Season 3 and 4?
Don’t hold us to it, but the gap should be quite a bit shorter this time, due to the fact that we already have an initial outline, and we can’t imagine there will be another six-month forced hiatus.
In your letter to fans announcing the end of “Stranger Things,” you wrote: “There are still many more exciting stories to tell within the world of ‘Stranger Things’; new mysteries, new adventures, new unexpected heroes.” Does this mean you have ideas for spinoffs in the works and, if so, have you actively written anything yet?
We do have an idea for a spinoff that we’re super excited about… but we haven’t told anyone the idea yet, much less written it. We think everyone — including Netflix — will be surprised when they hear the concept, because it’s very, very different. But somehow Finn Wolfhard — who is one crazy smart kid — correctly guessed what it was going to be about. But aside from Finn, no one else knows!