David Harbour Says the Ending of "Stranger Things" Season 5 Is "Very, Very Moving"
While "Stranger Things" season five filming may be on hold due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, there is some new information about the upcoming installment to tide fans over. In an Aug. 17 interview on the podcast "Happy Sad Confused" that was conducted after the WGA strike began but prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike, David Harbour revealed that he knows how the show will end — and it seems that he's expecting it to be quite a tearjerker.
"Yeah, before this strike, we were sent scripts. They're terrific, as per usual," said Harbour, who plays Jim Hopper on the show. "They continue to outdo themselves, these currently on strike writers called the Duffer Brothers. Yeah, and it's a hell of an undertaking too. I mean, the set pieces and the things in the scripts that we saw are bigger than anything we've done in the past."
Harbour noted that the cataclysmic nature of season four's ending means that season five will definitely start with high stakes. "After where season four ended — when you watch us on that hill looking at the ash and the smoke and fires — we're going to start somewhere after that," he noted. "So you've got to imagine the world is a different place."
He also shared that the final season will definitely resolve the main characters' storylines in major ways. "It'll take a while to shoot, which will be tough since we can't get started yet, but it is what it is," he added. "I'm excited to go back. I'm excited to wrap it up in a bold, amazing way. I'm excited to really swing with this character, because you know they're going to pay off these OG characters — Eleven, Hopper, Joyce, Will, Mike — they're going to pay them off in big ways because they've lived with you for the past eight years." He also shared that while he hasn't read any scripts for the finale yet, he knows roughly how things are going to go. "Like, I know where we net out, and it's very, very moving," he said. "That is the term I will use."
Previously, in an Aug. 7 interview with Variety, "Stranger Things" co-creator Ross Duffer revealed that Will (Noah Schnapp)'s emotional journey would be at the heart of the final season. "Will really takes center stage again in 5," he said. "This emotional arc for him is what we feel is going to hopefully tie the whole series together. Will is used to being the young one, the introverted one, the one that's being protected. So part of his journey, it's not just sexuality — it's Will coming into his own as a young man."
Back in July 2022, Schnapp confirmed Will was gay in an interview with Variety. In January, he came out himself via TikTok — and it sounds like his personal connection to his character has made playing Will all the more resonant. "I think the way I act in Season 5, honestly, might be a little different," Schapp told Variety. "I will be fully aware of who I am. Knowing all of that about myself and being able to invest that in my character, I'm honestly just excited."
Not much else is known for sure about season five, but another hint about what we can expect arrived during Netflix's Tudum event on June 17 when it was announced that Linda Hamilton, of "Terminator" fame, will be joining the series. The news followed confirmation from creators Matt and Ross Duffer that work on the show's final season wouldn't resume until after the labor union votes to end the strike. "Duffers here. Writing does not stop when filming begins. While we're excited to start production with our amazing cast and crew, it is not possible during this strike," the creators wrote from the "Stranger Things" writers' Twitter account on May 6. "We hope a fair deal is reached soon so we can all get back to work. Until then -- over and out. #wgastrong"
Prior to the strike, small bits of intel about "Stranger Things" season five had started trickling in from Hawkins. In March, at the 2023 Middle East Film & Comic Con in Abu Dhabi, Harbour said filming for the final season was originally set to begin in June, Collider reported. Now, it's unclear how delayed that'll be.
Harbour's update came a few months after the Duffer brothers had originally told IndieWire in August 2022 that the show's final season was unlikely to introduce any major new characters, adding that their goal was to keep season five's focus firmly on the existing cast. "We're doing our best to resist [adding new characters] for Season 5," Matt said. "We're trying not to do that so we can focus on the OG characters, I guess."
The Duffers had admitted that it was hard not to expand the world of Hawkins in the final stretch. After all, "Stranger Things" has only become richer thanks to the addition of characters like Max (Sadie Sink), Robin (Maya Hawke), and Eddie (Joseph Quinn). But at this stage, the brothers are all too aware that they have limited screen time available to wrap up the story.
"Whenever we introduce a new character, we want to make sure that they're going to be an integral part of the narrative. . . . But every time we do that, we're nervous," Ross explained, "because you go, 'We've got a great cast of characters here, and actors, and any moment we're spending with a new character, we're taking time away from one of the other actors.' So we're just very, very careful about who we're introducing." Clearly, Hamilton's character must be a crucial one for the Duffers to have changed their minds.
The creative team have mostly kept their plans for the new season top secret. But still, a few other nuggets of information have been announced to keep viewers satisfied in the interim. For starters, the "Stranger Things" writers announced that they were working on season five, per an Aug. 2, 2022 tweet from the series' page that read "Day 1" above a photo of a whiteboard. And in February, Schnapp revealed he'd received scripts for the first three episodes. So, at the very least, fans may find comfort in knowing that at least a large chunk of the show's final season was mapped out prior to the writers' strike.
Additionally, the season four finale definitely looks toward a final season that will have more chaos, more drama, and more monsters than ever before. As we wait for more updates about the show's ending — plus its spinoff, prequel stage play, and animated series — take a look at what we know so far about "Stranger Things" season five so far, including the plot, cast, and why it's the final chapter of the series.
"Stranger Things" Season 5 Cast
Following the conclusion of season four, we have a pretty good idea of who will be back for season five. Hawke, Harbour, Winona Ryder, Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Priah Ferguson, Schnapp, and Joe Keery all made it out of the season alive and should return. Sink's Max went through some major trauma in season four, but it seems she'll be back, too. Jamie Bower Campbell will also be back as Vecna, and it's likely Eduardo Franco will still be around as Argyle. But if fan favorite Quinn returns as Eddie Munson, he'll have to communicate from the afterlife.
Meanwhile, in an IndieWire interview, published on Aug. 11, 2022, the Duffer brothers told the publication, "We're doing our best to resist [adding new characters] for Season 5." The temptation apparently won out, as Linda Hamilton was announced as joining the cast on June 17.
"Stranger Things" Season 5 Plot
Details about the final season are being kept tightly under wraps, but the Duffer brothers know where the show is headed. "Once we actually really sit down and write down that final season anything could change," Ross told SFX Magazine. Matt added, "But I doubt the ending ending is going to change . . . It's conceivable that it changes but I think it's unlikely because it's one of those endings that just feels, and always felt, right, and it also feel sort of inevitable." And per Variety, Will's journey will be a major part of the final season.
The ending of season four also gave us some major clues about where the plot will go in the final season. In the season finale, the gang subdues Vecna, but, as Will tells them, he's not dead. And he was successful in opening up four gates between Hawkins and the Upside Down, which causes a giant crack that let the Upside Down flood into the town. How our protagonists will save the day remains a mystery.
Why Is "Stranger Things" Ending After Season 5?
Here's everything we know about why the beloved series is ending after season five.
The Duffer Brothers' Quotes About "Stranger Things" Ending
On Feb. 17, the Duffer brothers shared in a heartfelt open letter on Instagram that "Stranger Things" would end after season five. "Seven years ago, we planned out the complete story arc for 'Stranger Things,'" the Duffer brothers wrote. "At the time, we predicted the story would last four to five seasons. It proved too large to tell in four, but — as you'll see for yourselves — we are now hurtling toward our finale. Season 4 will be the penultimate season; season 5 will be the last."
In other words, "Stranger Things" is naturally coming to an end from a storytelling viewpoint. If this note is anything to go by, the creative force behind the global hit series is gearing up to go out on a high, and we can't wait to see it all unfold.
The two shared that the fourth season would be the show's biggest outing yet, with extended episode runtimes (the reason for the season being split into two volumes). "With nine scripts, over eight-hundred pages, almost two years of filming, thousands of visual effects shots, and a runtime nearly twice the length of any previous season, 'Stranger Things 4' was the most challenging season yet, but the most rewarding one. Everyone involved is incredibly proud of the results, and we can't wait to share it with you," they wrote.
Shawn Levy's Quotes About "Stranger Things" Ending
Shawn Levy, the executive producer and director of "Stranger Things," echoed the Duffer brothers' sentiments, stating that the decision to end the show after season five had been mapped out far in advance. "It feels like the organic lifespan of this particular story with these particular characters, and we want to stick the landing, and we don't want to overstay our welcome," Levy told The Wrap in March. "So we have a clear vision and plan, always led with clarity of voice and vision by the Duffer brothers." He added that season four was created with the season five ending in mind, noting that the Duffer brothers "have had a sense of how they wanted to wrap this up for a while, and that informs season four."
The "Stranger Things" Cast's Quotes About the Show Ending
Like the audience, the cast and crew of "Stranger Things" aren't ready to say their goodbyes just yet.
Schnapp, who plays Will Byers, revealed the cast's emotional reaction to the news during his appearance on the March 11 episode of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." Schnapp told Fallon that he read the official letter that was put out by the Duffer brothers at the same time as the rest of the world. "So they put out this letter, and it was like, 'The show's ending, that's it. This is the beginning of the end.' And I read it, and I was just bawling. I was so upset," the teen actor said. When he reached out to his costars, he found them in a similar emotional headspace. "I texted Millie — my castmate, who plays Eleven. And she was like, 'You're crying, too?' Like, 'So am I.' And then she texted Gaten, who also plays Dustin, and he was like, 'I'm crying, too.' And then we all texted the Duffers, and we were like, 'This is so sad. Like, I can't believe this is over.' And they were like, 'You guys gotta stop texting us. Like, I know it's over, but we have time left.'
Will There Be a "Stranger Things" Spinoff After Season 5?
While "Stranger Things" is preparing to bid adieu to its viewers after season five, the Duffer brothers and Netflix have already confirmed that a spinoff series is, indeed, happening. The streamer announced the big news on July 6 as part of its collaboration with the Duffer brothers' new production company, Upside Down Pictures. Not only are fans getting a spinoff, but the new production deal also includes a "Stranger Things" stage play set in the show's universe — which will be produced by Netflix, Sonia Friedman, and Stephen Daldry.