Stranger Things is set to receive numerous spinoffs after the show wraps up with season 5, but it doesn’t need any of them. Since its debut in 2016, Stranger Things has become one of Netflix’s most successful original series, combining coming-of-age dramedy with a small-town sci-fi horror mystery and making stars of its multigenerational cast. But all good things must come to an end. After Stranger Things season 4 is released in two parts during the summer of 2022, the fifth and final season will provide the show with its long-awaited conclusion. However, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has announced the plan for Stranger Things spinoffs to keep stories centered around Hawkins and the Upside Down going strong.
Back in March, Stranger Things director and executive producer Shawn Levy told Screen Rant that he didn’t want to stretch the creators’ vision beyond its natural end. He also reiterated Ross and Matt Duffer’s long-promised claim that the show they started has always had a clear plan for its conclusion, ever since its pilot episode. If this is indeed true, then the question of why Stranger Things needs numerous spinoffs should be revisited. It is understandable that some fans will want to see more from the show’s mysterious setting, its likable heroes, and the rogues gallery of Stranger Things villains, but comfort with the material isn’t enough to build a spinoff on— let alone multiple spinoffs.
For a Stranger Things continuation to work, it needs to expand on the existing fictional universe and fill in blanks left behind by the original series. Yet Stranger Things has thus far ensured that the show has left (and will leave) behind no mysteries — or, that the only unsolved mysteries left are more compelling unanswered than they would be explained.
Why Stranger Things Is Ending With Season 5
Per Screen Rant‘s interview with Shawn Levy, Stranger Things always had a clear plan, and he and the Duffers never wanted to stretch the show past the ending that they originally conceived. As fans of How I Met Your Mother can attest, sometimes adding entire seasons to a show that already has a predestined end can cause real storytelling problems for the creators down the line. Levy said, “We never wanted to run on fumes, and we wanted to only tell as much story as the brothers saw and feel with clarity. So it’s been clear for a while that they know exactly where we’re headed, and this is the arc.” This comment makes it clear that Stranger Things has a definitive, pre-planned ending that wraps up the story of its sprawling cast, meaning the prospects of spinoffs is less appealing for Stranger Things than Game of Thrones or another open-ended series with a more immersive and less-explored fictional world.
Why Fans Expect Stranger Things Spinoffs
Since the creators of Stranger Things knew how they wanted the show to wrap up since day one, the question of where the demand for spinoffs came from is a tricky one. For one thing, fans were promised them by Sarandos, but even before that formal acknowledgment, there was plenty of online speculation about the prospect of more Stranger Things once the series itself ended. In recent years, it has become the norm for successful franchises to never fully die but rather to reboot, sequel-ize, and prequel-ize for eternity. The existence of shows like How I Met Your Father and That ’90s Show proves that no successful series can avoid becoming an expanded universe, so it only makes sense that a show as critically-acclaimed, widely popular, and cinematic as Stranger Things would lead the streaming service to cash in on its large pre-existing fanbase.
The Stranger Things Spinoffs Fans Expect
There are a few ideas for Stranger Things spinoffs that have gained traction among the show’s fandom, such as a prequel that properly explains the origins of Hawkins Lab and the Upside Down’s backstory. A Dustin and Steve show is also a popular pitch online, as is a show centered on grown-up Eleven’s adventures. However, all of these potential Stranger Things spinoffs have the same root problem. Ever since the series gave separate storylines to Joyce and Hopper, the show’s young kid characters, Dustin, Lucas, Mike, Eleven, and Will, and the teenage cast members, Jonathan, Nancy, and Steve, Stranger Things has always had a built-in expiration date. Once the show’s teenage characters enter their twenties and thirties and the kid characters become adolescents (and eventually young adults), it is only natural that they would move out of their spooky small town, find new social groups, and drift apart. Thus, a Stranger Things spinoff that keeps them together would feel unnatural. However, one that singles out a specific character for viewers to follow would lose the chemistry of the show’s ensemble cast.
Why Stranger Things Is An Inherently Self-Contained Story
The reason fans want to see a grown-up version of the show’s characters and demand more insight into the enigmatic history of Hawkins, Indiana, is the same reason these Stranger Things spinoffs wouldn’t work. At its core, since season 1, Stranger Things has always been about adolescence more than monsters and mysteries. Its small-town setting is fascinating precisely because its mysterious history fascinates the young, innocent main characters — as It: Chapter Two’s failure proved, bringing them back as adults can make their once-unnerving hometown seem pretty un-scary in retrospect.
Why Stranger Things Doesn’t Need Spinoffs
What sets Stranger Things apart from the theoretically comparable — but less successful — small-town mystery series like Wayward Pines, Granite Flats, and From is how the show focuses its story mostly on a group of adolescents and teenagers and centers their perspective while also checking in on adult characters. As the central Stranger Things cast age out of their roles, it is only natural that the show should leave both what came before and after this period in their lives a mystery. The future of Dustin and Steve may seem like a hilarious premise, but as older versions of themselves, the duo’s age gap would be less notable and the show would just be about two guys from a small town in Indiana. Similarly, the backstory of Hawkins Lab feels intriguing when some small children and snooping teens are unearthing it piece-by-piece, but a Stranger Things spinoff focused on the realities of setting up a secret government lab would lack the original show’s Amblin-style ’80s nostalgia.
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