Fans are nearly about to be able to watch Stranger Things season 4, which debuts this Friday, May 27, after a years-long break. But when the show returns, it will not be the full season, and rather, the show is being split not in half, but with seven episodes launching on Friday, and two, including the 2.5 hour finale, launching on July 1.
Why? Why is Stranger Things season 4 split into two parts?
We have seen this with the final seasons of other shows like Breaking Bad or Ozark or Better Call Saul, but this is not the final season of Stranger Things, it’s the second to last, with season 5 being the last. This is not about dividing the year in order to go for more Emmys or anything like that either, and it appears to be a development issue.
This question was actually answered by the Duffer brothers a few months back, but many may have missed it. In a letter announcing that season 5 would be the last season, and that season 4 was really long, they explained the split:
“Given the unprecedented length, and to get it to you as soon as possible, Season 4 will be released in two volumes.”
We did not actually know what “unprecedented length” meant back at the time, but now we know that means a bunch of 75 minute episodes, two 90 minute ones and a 150 minute (2.5 hour) finale. So it’s four hours of content that will be saved for July 1, and about nine that will be available on Friday, May 27.
Five weeks may not seem like a lot, but in a show that is increasingly visual effects heavy, it would allow extra time to finish up work on what I’m sure is a blockbuster, effects-heavy finale, especially as Hollywood is currency experiencing a backlog in VFX work.
Part of me wonders if any of this may be on Netflix’s end, as given that they have seen such increased competition lately, if they will use this to allow Stranger Things to stay in the forefront of fans/press minds, as opposed to most moving on after a single weekend. Obi-Wan Kenobi, for instance, debuts on May 27 as well, but it will be airing just one new episode every Friday for six weeks. By default, it seems like we’ll be talking a lot more about Obi-Wan than Stranger Things over that time.
Netflix may continue doing experiments with broken up seasons, but if you believe the official line, the main reason is just more time to finish up production on the grand finale. Which again, is not the grand finale of the entire series, yet.