We probably have at least a year and a half, if not two years until the arrival of Stranger Things season 5, based on how the timeline of the seasonal releases have gone to date, and comments from the cast about what they’re expecting.
So, ahead of 2024, we’re left to speculate about what might arrive in season 5, and a few recurring themes seem to be surfacing, partially based on things the Duffer Brothers have said, partially based on in-show clues.
And there seems to be one overarching, growing theory in particular that I quite like a lot regarding season 5. Let’s go through the pieces:
- The Duffer Brothers have said that season 5 will feature Will quite a bit, who as we know was the “taken” friend in season 1, lost in the Upside Down, and now retains his ability to connect to Vecna on some sort of psychic, cross-dimensional level.
- The Duffer Brothers have also said that season 5 will focus on the Upside Down in particular and answer questions about it. “What was that where Henry was when he was found? The Mind Flayer, where is that?”
The idea here is that these two things might be directly linked.
One enduring mystery about the Upside Down that was brought up again this season was that while it’s a flipped version of Hawkins, it’s a flipped version of Hawkins at a stuck point in time. Namely, Nancy’s sophomore year, which I believe is when the show started.
We know that Eleven did not create the Upside Down, merely opened a portal to it, letting Henry/Vecna into a dimension that already existed there.
The theory is that all of this could be tied to Will, and the Upside Down is some sort of projection of a real-life D+D campaign of which he is the ultimate dungeon master, whether he realizes it or not. The fixed point in time is when he was at his happiest, enjoying being a kid playing D+D with his friends, which is why Hawkins is permanently frozen in that moment. Maybe he created it somehow, maybe it always existed, but then he froze it in time when he was there.
One idea is that if the gang returns to the Upside Down, and this time Will returns with them, he may discover he has immense power there, something that this psychic connection to Vecna only hints at. That he, not necessarily, Eleven, may be the key to the Upside Down. He may not be some sort of evil mastermind, but it’s possible he was involved in its creation or existence to some degree as a physical manifestation of a D+D campaign.
How or why Will has this power, I’m not sure. Will’s origins, so far as we know, are not some great mystery. He has a mother, a brother. They do not seem to have any special powers. His father was an a-hole, not some magical being. So there are gaps here. But Will remains too much of a focal point for the Upside Down, someone that Vecna is not only connected to, but may in fact fear a bit, as suggested by past seasons. There’s also a tie-in fans have noticed that the red dragon Will drew in his artwork is the only other being in that D+D campaign more powerful than Vecna, and the idea is that maybe he manages to manifest that kind of power by the end.
Of course, there’s something parallel, perhaps separate, perhaps not, to all of this, where the main Will storyline this season was that he appears to be on the verge of confessing to having feelings for his best friend Mike, which does not seem like it will go well, given Mike’s fated relationship with Eleven. His brother seems to more or less kind of understand what’s going on, albeit no one says anything explicitly. But if one of the central ideas of the Upside Down is that “love” is something that can break through the dimensions, like how we saw Mike help Eleven this season, I do wonder if that will come into play with Will’s own feelings in season 5.
This is complicated, and all the pieces are impossible to put together right now, but there’s definitely something here. Keep an eye on Will, that’s all I’m saying.