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13 questions Stranger Things season 5 needs to answer

Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven and Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner in a press image for Stranger Things 4
(Image credit: Netflix)

Stranger Things season 4 finished in style, with a 2.5-hour finale that redefined the word "epic." But unlike previous seasons, it didn't neatly wrap up every storyline — and far from it.

You probably guessed this was coming, but consider this your spoiler warning for Stranger Things season 4.

Instead, episode 9 ended with clouds of dust and ash from the Upside Down spewing over Hawkins, Indiana, and plants decaying before our heroes' eyes. It turns out Vecna — who it transpires was behind everything that had happened in the previous seasons — had succeeded in opening four gates between the worlds and is now poised to end life as we know it.

Is a happy ending still possible? How can Vecna be defeated? Why was Will's nose bleeding? And will Nancy choose Jonathan or Steve? All these questions will need answering in Stranger Things season 5 — so here's how we think things will play out.

1. What role will Max still play?

Sadie Sink as Max, is levitating with her eyes going weird in Stranger Things season 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

It’s pretty clear Max (Sadie Sink) still has a part to play in Stranger Things season 5. The fact the Duffer brothers literally killed her, only for Eleven to bring her back, was about as subtle as a clown in a monastery. The same is true of the revelation that she is braindead, and that there’s no “Max” in her mind for Eleven to connect with. The question is what good can Max do if her body is broken and braindead?

The key likely revolves around the fact Max that is the only one of Vecna’s victim’s who is still alive. Max’s mind was likely absorbed during his attack, but the fact she does have a living body to return to means there’s hope she could be recovered. Vecna made it clear he needed four victims to break through to Hawkins, and retrieving Max from his clutches may be the key to foiling his plan — or at the very least weakening him so the Hawkins gang can finish him off for good. — Tom Pritchard

2. Is the whole world now in danger?

Plumes of dust from the Upside Down gather in clouds above Hawkins

(Image credit: Netflix via Simply Scenes/YouTube)

Judging by the final scenes of season 4, there’s no way all this destruction will be limited to Hawkins. And indeed, Vecna told Eleven in the final episode of season 4 that “Hawkins will burn and fall. And the rest of this senseless broken world. And I will be there. I will be there to pick up the pieces when it does. And remake it into something beautiful.” 

From that, you might think that Stranger Things season 5 would be even more widescreen in nature, with the whole world galvanising to take Vecna down.

That doesn’t appear to be the case, though. Speaking to the Happy Sad Confused podcast (opens in new tab), the show’s creators Ross and Matt Duffer indicated that S5 will be based largely around Hawkins and the core season 1 characters — which seems slightly odd in the circumstances.

Then again, there’s every chance that the key to beating Vecna lies within the town — not least because the four gates were all opened there. That should mean there’s far less reason for anyone to mess around in Siberia or California this time, let alone for the show to introduce a bunch of new characters in Washington DC or London or wherever. — Marc McLaren

3. Will the ‘kids’ still be pivotal?

Most of the kids huddled around a table in a press image for Stranger Things 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

This follows on from the above — but given the extent of the Upside Down’s ‘leakage,’ surely the world’s governments aren’t going to leave a bunch of kids to fix something that could end life as we know it? Equally, we doubt very much that S5 will suddenly shift gears and become some kind of Michael Bay's Transformers-style brainless action-fest, with most of the episodes focused on army tactics and commando missions. So what gives? 

Our guess is that Hawkins will be quarantined — either by the army or possibly by Vecna himself — thus keeping the main characters within the town and making them the only ones who can end the big badness. And that may well be for the best, because realistically, Eleven is the only person capable of stopping Vecna. The job of the rest of the crew, then, will probably be to keep her safe and in a position to end what she inadvertently started. — MMc

4. Will there be a big time jump between Stranger Things 4 and 5?

Finn Wolfhard, Galen Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin in Stranger Things season 1 and season 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

There is no kayfabe (in-story) reason I can understand why Stranger Things season 5 should take place on any other date or time than immediately following the events of Stranger Things 4. But, rationally, people expect it should. Production hasn't begun yet, and these 'kids' aren't getting any younger. 

Typically, Stranger Things seasons take place a fraction of a year after the one that came before. Season 1 took place across November and December 1983, and then season 2 jumped ahead to fall 1984. Season 3 picked up the next summer and season 4 is in March 1986. But March 1986 sees Hawkins becoming consumed by the Upside Down in a literal manner. Grass is bled of its color, rivers of lava run in the distance, and it all feels like someone dropped hell on top of earth. 

We really ought to see what happens next. How the city reacts to this. Because nothing suggests that the Upside Down is taking its time now. Of course, the Duffers have an 'out,' so to speak: Vecna/Henry Creel may still be alive, but he needs time to heal after taking that L. — Henry T. Casey

5. Is Eddie Munson definitely dead?

Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson in STRANGER THINGS

(Image credit: Netflix)

So, there are two sides when it comes to how to answer this question. On one side, we have those who clutch to the fan theory that could save Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) from the death that probably happened off camera, and on the other side we have rational people and the Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer, who categorically declared Eddie dead.

So, let's explain the Stranger Things 4 fan theory that keeps hope for Eddie alive, and the other moment that fans are holding onto. First off: Quinn's talked about Eddie's death in ways that make it seem like he knows something we don't. Secondly, think back to when the Hellfire Club was fighting Vecna in their D&D game.

There, the kids talked about Kas, a lieutenant of Vecna's. Interestingly enough, Kas is a character who fought with a similar blade and shield as Eddie in his final outing in the Upside Down, and Kas was resurrected and played a role in Vecna's death. This arguably gives us a way for Eddie to return, to help his friends again. We doubt he'd come back for real, but if he did, we'd love to see him escape Hawkins, change his name and become the newest member of Metallica — HTC

6. What happened to Owens?

Paul Reiser as Dr. Owens in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

(Image credit: Netflix)

For the second time in three seasons, we left Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) in a pretty bad place: handcuffed to a pipe in the NINA complex, then interrogated by the nasty army man Sullivan. Still, better that than being attacked by Demodogs and left bleeding in a stairwell, as he was in season 2. 

The question now is whether he escaped from NINA/Sullivan, and whether he still has a role to play in season 5. Our guess is that the answer on both counts is yes. It would be pretty unlikely that Sullivan would have gone so far as to kill Owens, particularly now that Eleven has escaped and he might be able to help track her down. And it’s also possible that he can help Eleven in her fight against Vecna; with Papa now (really) dead, Owens is pretty much the only person who knows how El's powers work. — MMc

7. Is Will the key to defeating Vecna?

Noah Schnapp as Will Byers in Stranger Things season 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

Poor Will Byers, one of Vecna's first targets (that we were aware of, at least), is still connected to the Upside Down's chaotic ruler. This is how we learned that Vecna is still alive, as Will felt Vecna's presence through his neck (and had that nosebleed). This continued connection isn't just haunting; it suggests that Will Byers may have more to do in Stranger Things 5 than just be sad and miserable. His connection to Vecna, in fact, could be leveraged against the demonic evil that haunts him.

And, let's be real: Will should have a major role to play in stopping Vecna, especially since his main characteristic is how he's (seemingly) painfully closeted about his sexuality. The show hasn't said it one way or another, but when pop culture often only gives gay characters stories of pain and persecution, we need to see Will get a big win to cap off this series, and making him a pivotal part of Vecna's demise would be an easy way to do that. — HTC

8. Will Kali return?

Linnea Berthelsen as Kali and Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in a scene from Stranger Things season 2

(Image credit: Netflix)

If you don't remember Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), that's not much of a surprise, because she only appeared in three episodes of the show, back in season 2. Kali, also known as number 8, was another of Dr. Brenner's 'children' at the Hawkins Lab, but escaped before the massacre that ultimately led to the creation of Vecna and the opening of the portal to the Upside Down.

What's more, she's (as far as we know), the only one of these gifted children still alive, Eleven and Vecna aside. So could she play a role in defeating Vecna? It's certainly possible — not least because fans have spotted that in the opening episode of S4, 'Kali' is the answer to one of the clues in a crossword puzzle Brenner is completing. Just a little easter egg or something more? We'll have to wait and see. — MMc

9. Why is the Upside Down frozen in 1983?

Vecna in The Upside-Down

(Image credit: Netflix)

Stranger Things Season 4 answered a lot of questions about the Upside Down and what it was before Vecna turned up and sent everything to hell. But that only leaves more questions to be answered. Specifically, why the Upside Down Hawkins is frozen to the day Eleven reopened the gate and Will subsequently vanished.

We still don’t know how the Upside Down turned from a primordial landscape into a dark reflection of Hawkins in the first place. There are plenty of theories, but there’s nothing that really makes sense based on what we know. We need to know whether Vecna crafted the twisted version of the town himself, or whether Eleven’s incursion had something to do with it. My guess? It’s a little of both, but it’s these lingering holes that Season 5 is going to have to set straight once and for all — TP

10. Is Nancy going to leave Jonathan for Steve?

Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler in Stranger Things season 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

The biggest question that season 5 needs to answer, obviously, is how Hawkins' love triangle will play out. Nancy and Steve? Nancy and Jonathan? Steve and Jonathan? Who knows, but you can bet that the love lives of these young hearts will play a part in the final season. 

Of those choices, we're team Nancy and Steve, partly because Steve has such great hair and partly because Jonathan is such a drip [Editor's note: a drip who cares about family a great deal and loves his brother Will dearly]. But so long as we get some kind of resolution, we don't mind too much. Although we do also feel that Stranger Things season 5 might ditch the one thing I care about that delves into this love triangle. — MMc

11. How will Vecna be defeated?

Jamie Campbell Bower as Vecna in Stranger Things

(Image credit: Netflix)

Vecna has already been mind-thrown (repeatedly) by Eleven, shot (repeatedly) by Nancy, burned (repeatedly) by Steve and Robin… but somehow, he appears to have survived to open up the four gates and wreak havoc on Hawkins. So how will the gang finish him off in season 5? 

The most obvious option is that it will be down to Eleven, but given that Vecna appears stronger than her, is that really likely? Plus, it seems a bit too easy of a solution for the show to take. 

Instead, we're putting our money on a team effort — because what is Stranger Things if not a show about the power of friendships. So we're thinking it will take the whole crew to do it: Eleven, with super-powered help from Kali and Will, some kind of Upside Down-based afterlife-help from Eddie, mind-based help from the comatose Max, plus good old fashioned physical attacks from Hopper, Joyce, Steve, Nancy, Jonathan, Robin, Lucas, Dustin, Mike and Erica.

And if Vecna survives all that, then frankly he deserves to rule the world anyway. — MMc

12. Who will die? 

Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler in STRANGER THINGS 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

Okay. We kinda feel like enough Stranger Things characters have died at this point. Eddie's death was hard enough to take, especially after all the "protect Steve" conversation and Eleven losing Hopper until the end of ST4. 

That said, Stranger Things will probably not let all of its kids and adults make it out of Hawkins alive. Dr. Owens may still be alive, but while he could be killed off there's little to be gained from such a death. Steve and Nancy, if you ask us, are already living with their kids in the future, so that's off the table. Looking up and down the cast, we can only see one character as expendable: Mike Wheeler. He was painfully boring in ST4, and it feels like he'll have a chance to be important again only to sacrifice himself for Eleven. — HTC

13. Will there be a happy ending?

(L to R) Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler, Joe Keery as Steve Harrington, Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson, Maya Hawke as Robin Buckley, Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield and Caleb McLaughlin as Lucas Sinclair are lined up in Stranger Things 4

(Image credit: Netflix)

Game of Thrones' third season featured a very meta quote, with Ramsay Snow essentially telling the audience they shouldn’t be expecting a happy ending. But, as the Duffer Brothers have been quick to point out, Stranger Things is not Game of Thrones. So can we expect a nice, neat, happy ending at the end of the fifth season? Maybe, but also maybe not.

Every season of Stranger Things so far has ended on a bittersweet note. The kids may have saved the day from the monster of the season each time, but it has always come at some great cost — for instance Will being infected with Demogorgon spawn, Hopper seemingly dying, Bob Newby actually dying, and the latest finale that saw Vecna succeed in infecting the real world with The Upside Down. 

It wouldn't be a huge surprise if season 5 ended the same way, but then again the Duffers have made it clear that this is it — there's no season 6 coming later. So, if Steve is going to get his dream life with Nancy at his side, if Joyce and Hopper are finally going to get that meal together, and most of all if Will is going to get a haircut, season 5 will have to end with Vecna defeated and life at least partly returning to normal. Well, we can hope. — TP

Marc McLaren
Marc McLaren

As Editor in Chief (U.K.) on Tom’s Guide, Marc oversees all gaming, streaming, audio, TV, entertainment, how-to and cameras coverage, and is also responsible for the site’s U.K.-focused output. He previously edited the tech website Stuff and has tested and written about phones, tablets, wearables, streaming boxes, smart home devices, Bluetooth speakers, headphones, games, TVs, cameras and much more. He also spent years on a music magazine, where his duties mainly involved spoiling other people’s fun, and on a car magazine. An avid photographer, Marc likes nothing better than taking pictures of very small things (bugs, his daughters) or very big things (distant galaxies). When he gets time, he also enjoys gaming (console and mobile), cycling and attempting to watch as much sport as any human can. He's also fallen in love with Wordle over the past six months and is the author of our today's Wordle answer column, in which he supplies hints and strategy tips for the mega-popular word game. Given he's completed every single Wordle so far and only lost once, and analyzed every Wordle answer in search of patterns, he's well qualified to help you safeguard your streak.

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