Despite its inconsistencies, I missed Stranger Things this past summer to the point where a rewatch of the series (or, rather, the best of the series) was almost in order. There’s comfort and familiarity in these characters and with the fifth and final season on the — albeit, distant — horizons, I’m already mourning no more Steve Harrington to look forward to. Season 1 and 3 remains the series at its very best and most addictive, though its fourth had some notable highs such as the killer “Dear Billy” before falling off in the finale.
The series has only gone bigger since its initial debut, with episode lengths veering into feature film-length territories. It’s a trend that seems unlikely to stop. In a recent interview with Total Film, executive producer Shawn Levy noted:
“There’s no way to be contiguous with Season 4, and not, frankly, expand scale and depth,” Levy said. “It’s major, major, cinematic storytelling that happens to be called a TV series. ‘Stranger Things 5’ is as big as any of the biggest movies that we see.”
There’s certainly a lesson to be learned by many a showrunner that there’s the ability to adopt cinematic, visual language without forcing a gargantuan runtime. Often, these days when creators cite their series as being “10-hour movies” instead of ten episodes of television, the expected result is an overstuffed series that doesn’t understand the pacing of television and how to tell insular, episodic stories that still amount to an overarching narrative. Essentially, it boils down to the “bigger is better” belief without thinking about what makes good, “big movies” in the first place.
That said, the cast is ready to wrap things up with the series, even if fans aren’t quite ready to see them go. Joe Keery who plays breakout character Steve spoke of the ending in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily, saying:
“It does feel like it’s time. It won’t be easy for it to end. I mean, I owe my whole career to being on that show and all the opportunities that I had since are because of that show.”
David Harbour and Millie Bobby Brown have also expressed their belief that it’s time for the show to end, with Harbour noting the experience will be “bittersweet.”
Here’s hoping that, when the series can shoot again, the lessons the series takes from its success are less from the side of needing to go long as evidenced by Season 4. The best bet is that they remember Season 1’s success was largely based on the ability to tell personal stories of friendship and camaraderie in a science fiction setting, with unexpected heroes defeating the odds. Give us the good stuff and leave the 90-minute episodes in drafts.