After that emotional season three finale, Stranger Things remains one of the most hotly anticipated shows on Netflix, with the next chapter set to reveal the fate of a fan favourite character.
After a somewhat divisive second outing, Stranger Things season three proved a return to form for the fantasy drama, with a sharply written eight episodes that delivered big on thrills and laughs.
But there were plenty of questions left unanswered, with arguably the biggest hovering over David Harbour’s Jim Hopper, who initially seemed to have been killed off until a tantalising tease suggested otherwise.
Fans have widely suspected that he is “the American” being held in a maximum security Soviet prison, perhaps transported there as Eleven closed the latest doorway into the Upside Down.
The season three ending had a feeling of real finality about it as Joyce Byers moved her family away from Hawkins after a number of utterly traumatic experiences.
Could they be drawn back to the sleepy town for one last adventure, or will the tendrils of the Upside Down begin branching out elsewhere?
The difficult wait for more information has been extended by the recent coronavirus pandemic, but there’s every chance that this extra time has allowed the writers to refine it to be the best it possibly can.
“The [Duffer] brothers have always been extremely, extremely controlling over… the quality control of the show,” Stranger Things star Joe Keery told The Hollywood Reporter. “So, if this just gives them more time to realise what their vision is, then yeah, I think it could be a good thing. [Stranger Things season four] will be worth the wait, hopefully.”
Netflix has recently started a new service allowing non-members to watch the first episodes of some of the platform’s most popular programming for free, Stranger Things included, so there’s been no better time to jump in if you’re behind.
Production is set to resume later this month, after being halted in March due to COVID-19, but there is a chance Stranger Things’ September resumption might not happen, depending on how the pandemic continues to evolve.
Here’s everything we know about season four plot hints, cast news, release dates, and future seasons.
*Warning: spoilers ahead for Stranger Things seasons one-three*
When is Stranger Things season 4 released on Netflix?
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, although subsequently creators the Duffer brothers cast doubt on that date.
After three months in limbo, filming will soon resume in Atlanta, Georgia after the state’s governor released health and safety protocols for film and TV production last month.
Thankfully, it 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 – following a pattern of eight episodes in season one and three, and nine episodes in season two and four.
Stranger Things 4: the complete season. #ST4 pic.twitter.com/DAjQFnPVGq
— stranger writers (@strangerwriters) June 18, 2020
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 won’t be delaying the Hawkins gang any further.
Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) in Stranger Things (Credit: Netflix)
Is there a Stranger Things season 4 trailer?
Other than the Valentine’s Day teaser, a full-length trailer is yet to land. However, Netflix did release a table read video with footage of the cast.
It doesn’t give anything away plot-wise, but it’s nice to see the cast having fun while the rest of us eagerly await news from the upside down.
Stranger Things season 4 filming
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 season 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.”
Will season 4 be the final season of Stranger Things?
The show is likely to continue for longer than its originally planned four season-run. Producer Shawn Levy later said that enthusiasm from Netflix and its child stars may well have convinced them to go on for one more season after that, too.
“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.”
The creators echoed these statements when speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in August, saying that season four “won’t be the end”.
“We know what the end is, and we know when it is,” Ross Duffer said. “[The pandemic] has given us time to look ahead, figure out what is best for the show. Starting to fill that out gave us a better idea of how long we need to tell that story.”
“We’ve had a lot more time to work on the scripts,” he added. “For the first time, we have all the scripts written and we’re able to look at it as a whole piece and make adjustments.”
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 season 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.”
Millie Bobby Brown (who plays Eleven) said she was “p***ed” by her character’s departure from Hawkins with the Byers (via The Evening Standard) – but added that the emotional goodbye scene could help foreshadow the end of the show.
She said, “I usually am the one who’s crying in every single scene and the kids have to deal with me listening to [sad] music and they’re like, ‘Oh God.’ I thought, are we all going to go off and listen to music [to prepare for the scene]? And then one of the kids was like, ‘Imagine if we have to do this for real one day’. And we were like, ‘What do you mean?’.
“And they were like, ‘What if, when Stranger Things is over, we’ll all have to say goodbye to each other and, like, this is it’.
“And we all started crying and then they rolled camera and said action. And that was it. We all started saying goodbye to each other. We felt too real.”
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 season two and acted as a Russian translator in season 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.
super excited to have Tom Wlaschiha in our Stranger Things family! pic.twitter.com/CjXMGWeA1e
— stranger writers (@strangerwriters) February 14, 2020
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…?
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.
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.”
This “fan-favourite” is likely to be Hopper, after David Harbour promised fans at Liverpool Comic Con in March a “big, huge reveal” about his character’s backstory in the upcoming season.
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 season 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.”
While the Stranger Things team have given little away in terms of the upcoming season’s plot, its spin-off comic book may have recently teased a potential storyline involving Steve (Joe Keery), Robin (Maya Hawke), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Erica (Priah Ferguson).
In the comic, Erica starts selling green acid she smuggled out of the Russian lab at the end of season three, forcing the other three to intervene before she gets herself into trouble. While the plot doesn’t seem particularly dramatic for the small screen, hopefully it’s suggesting that we’re going to see more of the fan-favourite foursome in season four.
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.
Furthermore, in May 2020 video footage surfaced of Harbour teasing a bit more about what was coming for the character in season four, hinting that his Hopper’s past will be explored in greater depth and that a huge secret will come to light – apparently one for which some clues have already been laid out.
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?
It’s not Hopper, people. It’s a clone.
This is Stranger Things we’re talking about.
— Ishkur (@Ishkur23) February 14, 2020
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?
Stranger Things season 4 teasers
In May, the Stranger Things writers posted a series of cryptic tweets in response to fans asking for spoilers.
The Stranger Things Writers’ Room account tweeted an emoji with a hand over its mouth, and another of a blushing face.
— stranger writers (@strangerwriters) May 18, 2020
The account also tweeted a picture of the gang in the Starcourt Mall during the final episode, with the mysterious caption: “Are the kids alright?”
are the kids alright? pic.twitter.com/JJ28V0Vza5
— stranger writers (@strangerwriters) May 18, 2020
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.”
Stranger Things season four has been delayed, but seasons one-three are now available on Netflix. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV Guide.