With a whole year having passed since we last saw Hopper and the Hawkins crew, fans are desperate to know when sci-fi smash-hit Stranger Things will be back on Netflix with its fourth season.
The coronavirus pandemic may have delayed production by a few months but thanks to recent reports about a potential date for filming to restart, season four may be landing on our screens sooner than we thought.
However, there’s also uncertainty around the future of Stranger Things, with the series’ star Finn Wolfhard revealing in June that he “will be ready to say goodbye” to his character Mike Wheeler when the time comes – hopefully that won’t be any time soon.
Here’s everything we know about season four plot hints, cast news, release dates and future seasons.
*Warning: spoilers ahead for Stranger Things series 1-3*
Will there be a Stranger Things season 4 on Netflix?
Netflix announced on Valentine’s day 2020 that production was underway on season four (with a video that confirmed the survival of a certain key character), however in March 2020, the streaming platform confirmed that filming on the series was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In late May, stunt boss Hira Koda told ComicBook.com that the Stranger Things team had managed to film two episodes of season four before the coronavirus pandemic shut down production.
“We did three weeks of shooting when we shut down, pretty much along with the entire industry,” Matt Duffer revealed in an interview with Deadline..
This was echoed by star Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin in the series. Whilst on a panel for Galaxycon Live, he said: “We were in the middle of filming [season] four and then they said, ‘Nope!’ They said two-week break, and we’ve been gone for three months.”
He added that he’s itching to get back to work, as once lockdown restrictions end, the series will still require another seven or eight months.
“I’ve been kind of getting antsy trying to get back into work, just because we’ve been [away] for a very long time,” he said. “We’re usually in Atlanta filming for seven, eight months and so it takes a while, it’s more than half the year where I’m away.”
So it looks like a series four will definitely land on our screens eventually, but there’s no clue as to when.
Finally some good news! Netflix is reportedly planning to restart production on Stranger Things season four on Thursday 17th September, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
After three months in limbo, filming will reportedly resume in Georgia, Atlanta after the state’s governor released health and safety protocols for film and TV production last month.
Thankfully, it also looks as if all of season four’s scripts are ready to go, after the Stranger Writers twitter account posted a picture of them with the caption: “The complete season”.
It’s hard to tell just from the scripts in the picture, but it looks as if we can expect season four to consist of nine episodes – this makes sense as it would follow a pattern of eight episodes in season one and three, and nine episodes in season two and four.
While Netflix has not officially announced a release date yet (most probably due to the unpredictable nature of the ongoing pandemic), we can predict that the earliest we’ll be seeing season four is July or August 2021.
Filming for previous seasons has often taken between six and seven months to complete, while four months are usually required for post-production, according to Collider.
A summer release date would also make sense considering Stranger Things’ track record – season one came out in July 2016, season two was released in October 2017 and season three came out in July 2019.
This prediction falls in line the show’s IMDb page, which says the first episode will be released in 2021. The page also reveals that episode one is titled: “Chapter One: The Hellfire Club”, while the tagline for the episode reads, “We’re not in Hawkins anymore” – a reference to The Wizard of Oz.
Back in March, David Harbour (Hopper) revealed during an Instagram Q&A that season four was “supposed to come out early next year”, but that the release date would “probably be pushed back” in wake of the virus.
While in late May, Stranger Things’ stunt boss Hiro Koda suggested that a premiere date for season four could be pushed back even further due to social distancing measures that may be put in place.
“There’s been lots of discussions and it’s going to be really interesting because the president [Donald Trump] has given us these guidelines for the states to open up in phases,” he told ComicBook.com.
He added that everyone on set will need to wear masks and gloves, but the actors can’t for certain scenes. “All stunts that we do, we’re physically touching each other because we’re fighting, and we’re dealing with the cast and putting them in harnesses and wires and flying them.”
Now that filming is set to resume in September, let’s hope that the coronavirus wont be delaying the Hawkins gang any further.
Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) in Stranger Things (Credit: Netflix)
Will season 4 be the final series of Stranger Things?
“The truth is we’re definitely going four seasons and there’s very much the possibility of a fifth,” Levy said. “Beyond that, it becomes I think very unlikely.”
With Stranger Things being one of the hottest properties that Netflix has in its Originals arsenal and the streaming wars starting to hot up with the entrance of Apple TV, Disney+, HBO Max and NBC into the on demand market, it feels like they would be looking for reasons to hang onto the show for as long as possible – and keep hold of the army of fans that comes with it.
Speaking on Lorraine in February 2020, star Noah Schnapp (aka Will Byers) said that he was “sure” there would be another series after the fourth.
“I don’t know if I can say, but from what I think… because they haven’t really told me anything,” he said. “I don’t know what I can’t say either. I’m sure there will be another one after that. I can’t imagine this is the last… I feel like we’d know if this was. I don’t want it to end!”
And recently Finn Wolfhard told The Hollywood Reporter his character Mike Wheeler would “never leave him” and that there was still a long way to go on the show.
He said, “What I think is so great about Stranger Things is it has the Harry Potter effect — where you can see how the characters and the actors grow up over time. The character is a part of me.
“Definitely when Stranger Things ends, it is not going to feel like it didn’t happen or that Mike isn’t a part of me still. I think I will be ready to say goodbye but it will be bittersweet.
“But we still have a lot of work to do with Stranger Things.”
What will happen in Stranger Things season 4?
From what Chief Hopper is doing now, to how exactly the Russians detained a Demogorgon, Stranger Things three left a lot of questions unanswered. Eleven questions, to be exact, which we go into more detail here.
But as well as tying up loose ends, a fourth run could open up new possibilities for the show: for instance, to accommodate the show’s quickly-ageing young cast, could Stranger Things four be set several years after season three?
In February 2020, TVLine‘s Michael Ausiello reported that season four could consist of 9 episodes, one more than initially planned. He also said that a “fan-favourite character may have his/her origin story told in one (or more) of those nine episodes.”
Harbour added that its his “favourite thing” about Hopper that fans are yet to find out about him, but it’s related to the three boxes found by Eleven in Hopper’s attic which are labelled ‘Dad’, ‘Vietnam’ and ‘New York’.
What’s more, apparently the upcoming series is set to be the scariest so far – according to Keery, who plays Steve Harrington. The actor told Total Film, “I think that this year — and I know I say this every single year — but this is definitely going to be a lot scarier than prior years, because last year was pretty dark.”
This was echoed by Stranger Things’ stunt boss Hiro Koda in late May, who told ComicBook.com that season four will be “darker”.
“There’s lots of great surprises and all your favourite people are in it,” he said. “It’s going to be so good. It’s so epic.”
In terms of theories for season four, we don’t know much about newcomer Robin’s background, so she could be a good bet. Or perhaps we’ll find out how former journalist turned private investigator Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) became the bunker-living, vodka-drinking and Russian-speaking sleuth he is today. This seems especially likely now that Gelman has been upped to series regular.
Is Hopper alive? Who is “The American”?
At the end of season three, David Harbour’s Chief Hopper was apparently killed after Joyce destroyed the key to the Upside Down, but the post titles scene referencing “The American” in a Russian jail kept hope alive for fans.
However, Netflix’s Valentine’s Day trailer for season four of Stranger Things confirmed Chief Hopper was alive, and in a prison camp in Russia.
Netflix revealed: “He is imprisoned far from home in the snowy wasteland of Kamchatka, where he will face dangers both human…and other. Meanwhile, back in the states, a new horror is beginning to surface, something long buried, something that connects everything….”
How long he’s been there and what’s been going on is yet to be revealed. But for now the mystery of whether Hopper is dead or alive appears to have been solved.
In the footage, which originated from Liverpool Comic-Con in early March, Harbour said, “There are these three things that we’ve established in the season that if we don’t pay off, it means that they’re bad writers. And the Duffer brothers are very good writers.
“I know specifically that in season four we will give you a big, huge reveal about Hopper’s backstory.”
He added: “I’m so excited about revealing this aspect of the character. It’s one of the things that I’ve known since the first frame of the first shot, and we haven’t expressed it yet. And finally, we’re gonna express it in a big way.
“It’s my favourite thing about him that you guys don’t know about him yet, but it has to do with these backstories of New York, Vietnam, and Dad. And I’m really excited for you guys to know more about that, and it relates, of course, to things he’s doing with Eleven and Joyce and things like that.”
In a separate interview he teased some “Indiana Jones-type” action scenes for his character.
Speaking to Deadline, he said: “I’m really excited to let people see these really deep colours in him. Each season we see a different side of him. Last season was… a bit wackier, and I loved playing that.
“Now [in season four] he is painted in a bit of a darker palette; he’s able to express some of these really deep things that we’ve… hinted at with the boxes in season two. It’s very epic. There are monsters and horror and scares,” he teased. “There’s also some great Indiana Jones-type action.”
Well, as if we weren’t excited enough for season four already…
Stranger Things season 4 theories
Stranger Things season four has a lot of questions to answer – what is going on at that Russian base? How did they get hold of a Demogorgon? How did Hopper survive the explosion at the end of season 3? Are Eleven’s powers really gone for good?
With very little to go on from the Duffer Brothers, fans have been thinking of their own theories for season four.
How did Hopper survive the explosion?
Some fans believe that the Hopper seen in season four’s teaser trailer being forced into manual labour in Russia is not the real Hopper, but actually a clone of the detective. This theory is based on Billy Hargrove’s encounter with a clone of himself in the Upside Down during season three, when the Mind Flayer had planted part of itself inside him and Billy became under its control. A similar thing happened to Will Byers in season 2 – so could it be possible that the Hopper in Russia is actually a clone being controlled by the Mind Flayer?
Other fans are convinced that when Hopper was trapped between the gate to the upside down and a beam of light, he managed to escape before Joyce destroyed the portal. This is because when the camera cut from Joyce to the portal exploding, Hopper was not where he had been in the short before. It is possible that Hopper found a ladder leading to a safe area and since he was already wearing a Russian uniform, the other Russian officers may have found him and taken him back to Russia.
Another theory suggests that Hopper travelled through the portal when the explosion happened and became trapped in the Upside Down. He was then found by the Russian team, who had built another portal to the Upside Down to find another Mind Flayer, and subsequently imprisoned.
Will Joyce and Murray save Hopper?
Some fans are convinced that Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) and Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) will be heading to Russia in season four to rescue Hopper.
After Ryder and Bauman were reportedly spotted filming in Lithuania, Redditor killthemwithcoffee is convinced that the pair, who spent the majority of season three with Hopper, will be executing a rescue mission during season four.
There have been hints that the story will move beyond Hawkins, with co-showrunner Matt Duffer recently telling EW that the fourth season could see plotlines moving “into areas outside of Hawkins”. According to Deadline, Netflix moved filming from Atlanta to New Mexico, which suggests a change of setting might be on the cards.
Ross Duffer added about a fourth run: “It’s going to feel very different than this season. But I think that’s the right thing to do and I think it’ll be exciting.”
The tagline for this season also appears to be: “We’re not in Hawkins anymore” – suggesting that this season will be geographically bigger than its predecessors.
However, fans are also guessing that Murray will be the next character to die this season, after the death of Alexei, a Russian technician arrested by Hopper who becomes friends with Murray.
Redditor Tesgoul posted: “I think the next one to die is Murray. His death will be sad, but not too much because he is kind of a side character. He is the perfect target.”
“Remember in season two when he had already suspected a Russian invasion in Hawkins way before everyone else found out about it?” they continued. “Maybe that doesn’t count, but he was there in the mall when the Russians took away Hopper, and now with the voicemail for Joyce there’s a chance he figured out or is going to figure out what the Russians have done with Hopper as well.”
They concluded: “The guy knows way too much about the enemy.”
Will Jonathan and Will’s dad be back for season four?
Ross Partridge as Lonnie Byers (Credit: Netflix)
A few Stranger Fans viewers are convinced that Jonathan and Will Byers’ dad, Lonnie Byers (Ross Partridge) will return for the upcoming season after seeing him at a table reading for season four.
Reddit user LastWarrior24 posted a photo from the video, appearing to show Partridge at the table read. Could Lonnie become a bigger part of the Byer kids’ lives now that the Byers have moved out of Hawkins? Could he become another antagonist that Joyce has to deal with this season?
Will Dr Owens return?
There are fans that believe Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) from season two could return for season four. The last time we saw the scientist, Hopper and Joyce had told him that Russians were attempting to reopen the Gate beneath Starcourt Mall last season.
“I suspect Owens may return as part of the Joyce rescues Hopper plotline, as will Murray, but I doubt it’s because of her actual job. She has no formal education beyond high school I don’t think,” one fan wrote, according to News Lanes.
“They could still keep an eye on her in other ways. Owens and Joyce trust each other now, just as Hopper did, after everything that happened so I imagine if anything he would be more likely to convince the government to leave her alone.”
Will Owens help to retrieve Hopper from the Russians? Or will he withhold information and cover up the Russian conspiracy?
The writers also updated viewers on what jock-turned-Scoops-Ahoy-employee would be up to now, writing: “Steve is doing his own thing, you know, working with Robin and not drinking enough water because he gets distracted easily and forgets where he put his drink.”
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Stranger Things season 4 cast
There were a few casualties in the last episode of season three. Billy (Dacre Montgomery) is certainly dead (or as certain we can be that anyone is dead in Stranger Things), and is unlikely to return for a fourth run, unless as part of a cameo, à la Sean Astin’s Bob – or if they do a flashback of some sort?
We should expect to see most of the main cast back for season four, including Millie Bobby Brown’s Eleven, Finn Wolfhard’s Mike, Winona Ryder’s Joyce, Noah Schnapp’s Will, Caleb Mclaughlin’s Lucas, Gaten Matarazzo’s Dustin, Natalia Dyer’s Nancy, Charlie Heaton’s Jonathan, Maya Hawke’s Robin and Joe Keery’s Steve.
Variety also reported that Priah Ferguson, who plays Lucas’s sister Erica (of “you can’t spell America without Erica” fame), has been promoted to series regular for season four.
And in March 2020, it was confirmed that Fleabag star Brett Gelman had also been upped to series regular. The actor plays eccentric private investigator Murray Bauman, who helped get justice for Barb in series two and acted as a Russian translator in series three (RIP Alexei).
There has been no official casting news yet, but we can safely assume there will probably be new cast members and guests announced in due course for season four – including a notable Game of Thrones star who cropped up in the teaser trailer at the 0.28 second mark…
Tom Wlaschiha, who played ‘Faceless Man’ Jaqen H’ghar in HBO’s series Game of Thrones, appears set to play a mysterious Russian soldier.
We can also expect some “icon[ic]” actors to join the cast as guest stars, according to the series creators.
“We have some cool [guest stars]. A couple of cool ones this year,” Matt Duffer told Deadline. “It’s a really fun way to get to meet one of your icons, you know? Write a part for them and see if they want to do it… these are actors we grew up watching so it’s amazing and surreal.”
Given that David Harbour has already teased some “Indiana Jones-type” action in an interview with Deadline, could a cameo from certified iconic and screen legend Harrison Ford be on the cards…?