First Part of ‘Stranger Things’ Season 5 Coming Next Month

in Movies & TV

David Harbour as Jim Hopper in 'Stranger Things'

Credit: Netflix

There are many conversations around Stranger Things taking place, mainly because of the delays Season 5 is facing due to the WGA (Writers Guild of America) and SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) strikes.

Fans couldn’t be more excited about the upcoming fifth and final season, though. Season 4, which premiered on Netflix last year, was nothing short of television gold and ended on a cliffhanger so nail-biting it’s hard to imagine it ever being topped by the following season.

(L to R) Argyle, Jonathan, Eleven, Will, and Mike in 'Stranger Things' Season 4
Credit: Netflix

Related: ‘Stranger Things’ Reveals First Look at Season 5’s Chapter 1

We watched as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink), Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), Jim Hopper (David Harbour), and the rest of Hawkins’ unsung heroes took the fight to the Upside Down’s “dark wizard” Vecna/Henry Creel/One (Jamie Campbell Bower), before ultimately losing and being forced to watch as Vecna and the Upside Down tightened its grip over their hometown.

But the delay to Season 5 changes nothing where the wider franchise is concerned. The past year alone has seen several announcements for upcoming Stranger Things spinoffs, two of which have already been released. As such, the franchise is expanding in a massive way.

Hopper in the Russian prison in 'Stranger Things' Season 4
Credit: Netflix

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Though there are no release dates for any of these confirmed projects (no surprise  considering Stranger Things Season 5 is in the same position), we’re getting a live-action spinoff, an anime spinoff, and a Saturday morning cartoon-inspired series.

The novel titled Flight of Icarus (2023), which focuses on Joseph Quinn’s character Eddie Munson, has already been released, and so has TMNT x Stranger Things (2023), the comic book miniseries that sees the Hawkins kids team up with the Ninja Turtles.

Dustin and the gang ready to play D&D in 'Stranger Things' Season 4
Credit: Netflix

Related: ‘TMNT: The Last Ronin’ Trailer Breakdown

Meanwhile, several cast members from the flagship Netflix series have already started popping up in other franchises. Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler) appeared in Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) and will return in next year’s Ghostbusters: Firehouse (2024).

David Harbor will reprise his role as Santa Claus in Violent Night 2 (TBA), and Sadie Sink recently starred in the award-winning film The Whale (2023). Winona Ryder is also set to reprise her role as Lydia Deetz in the long-awaited Beetlejuice 2 (2024).

And that’s not even half of the Stranger Things cast — the rest are just as busy in other franchises.

The D&D club huddling in 'Stranger Things' Season 4
Credit: Netflix

Related: BREAKING: ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife 2’ Trailer Arrives, Title Revealed

While Season 5 seems like a lifetime away (there’s no fixed release date, but it’s expected sometime in 2025, more than likely towards the backend), fortunately, we’ll soon be getting the first part of the fifth and final season. And by “soon,” we mean next month (the Duffer brothers have now also shared a first look at Season 5’s Chapter 1).

What’s really been keeping our hopes up while we wait for Season 5 is the biggest Stranger Things spinoff of them all: the upcoming West End stage production titled Stranger Things: The First Shadow (2023), which acts as a prequel to the main Netflix series.

Young Henry Creel in 'Stranger Things' Season 4
Credit: Netflix

Related: First Look for Upcoming ‘Stranger Things’ Spin-off Revealed

The First Shadow writer Kate Trefry recently spoke to SFX Magazine (via Games Radar) about how the play serves the final season of Stranger Things, explaining that there will be many references to the whole Netflix series throughout, and that while it is not required viewing, audiences will have a “deeper understanding” of Season 5 if they watch the play.

Here are her full comments:

“There are referential sequences and imagery and callbacks and flashbacks to the events of the play in Stranger Things Season 5 that will still make sense to you if you don’t see the play,” Trefry said, “but you’ll have a deeper understanding of them if you do. It’s in conversation with the seasons prior and the season to come. It really informs everything that you have seen and will see.”

So, while it isn’t crucial that you watch the stage play, it will leave you with a much better understanding of Season 5 when it eventually arrives on Netflix, which means that The First Shadow is important viewing as opposed to required viewing.

Recently, Stranger Things co-creator Matt Duffer even described the stage play as a “mega episode,” which sets it up as the first part of Season 5 even more.

Here’s how The First Shadow ties into all five seasons of Stranger Things.

Stranger Things: The First Shadow

'Stranger Things: The First Shadow' poster
Credit: Netflix

What’s it about?

The stage play will act as a prequel to the Netflix series, giving us the origins of Vecna (Henry Creel), which so far have only been teased on the screen.

Per the official website, here’s the synopsis:

BEFORE THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN…

Hawkins, 1959: a regular town with regular worries. Young Jim Hopper’s car won’t start, Bob Newby’s sister won’t take his radio show seriously and Joyce Maldonado just wants to graduate and get the hell out of town. When new student Henry Creel arrives, his family finds that a fresh start isn’t so easy… and the shadows of the past have a very long reach.

Brought to life by a multi-award-winning creative team, who take theatrical storytelling and stagecraft to a whole new dimension, this gripping new adventure will take you right back to the beginning of the Stranger Things story — and may hold the key to the end.

For obvious reasons, the synopsis is keeping some key details under wraps.

When is it set?

The First Shadow is set in 1959, 24 years before Stranger Things Season 1, which is why all returning characters who are adults in the Netflix series are much younger this time around.

Who’s in it?

Earlier this year, we got our first teaser trailer for The First Shadow, and a few weeks ago, the production announced the entire cast and shared promotional images of the new actors.

As it’s a prequel, Henry Creel, Joyce Byers, Jim Hopper, Bob Newby, and Martin Brenner have all been recast.

Per Deadline, the entire cast list for the stage play is as follows:

Shane Attwooll (Chief Hopper), Chase Brown (Lonnie Byers), Christopher Buckley (Bob Newby), Ammar Duffus (Charles Sinclair), Gilles Geary (Ted Wheeler), Florence Guy (Karen Childress), Max Harwood (Allen Munson), Michael Jibson (Victor Creel), Oscar Lloyd (James Hopper, Jr.), Louis McCartney (Henry Creel), Isabella Pappas (Joyce Maldonado), Matthew Pidgeon (Father Newby), Calum Ross (Walter Henderson), Maisie Norma Seaton (Claudia Henderson), Patrick Vaill (Dr. Brenner), Lauren Ward (Virginia Creel), Ella Karuna Williams (Patty Newby), and Kemi Awoderu (Sue Anderson).

Seasons 1 — 3

Nancy Wheeler in in 'Stranger Things' Season 3 poster
Credit: Netflix

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The First Shadow will focus on characters introduced in Stranger Things Season 1: Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper, who are played by Winona Ryder and David Harbor in the series. As Joyce and Jim have a history, it’s likely we’ll learn more about this in the stage play.

Season 2 introduces Bob Newby, played by Sean Astin. Bob will be returning to the franchise in the upcoming stage play, which will also introduce his sister Patty.

The wicked Dr. Martin Brenner, who has appeared in all four seasons so far (played by Matthew Modine), will also appear, and we’ll no doubt learn more about him, too.

Each of the four seasons so far have featured a different protagonist from the Upside Down: Season 1 has the Demogorgon; Season 2 has a variation of that creature in the form of quadruped, dog-like monsters; and Season 3 features the “Mind-Flayer.”

Whether or not any of these will appear in the play, though, remains to be seen.

Season 4

Jamie Campbell Bower as Vecna in 'Stranger Things 4'
Credit: Netflix

Season 4 introduces Henry Creel/Vecna/One, while offering some context to previous antagonists such as the Mind-Flayer. The latest season leans into the true nature of the Upside Down, so hopefully the new stage play will offer even more context around the shadow dimension.

A young Henry Creel is also among the returning characters, so we’re sure to learn more about him.

Season 5

Stranger Things characters looking into the Upside Down
Credit: Netflix

We now know that The First Shadow will enhance our experience and understanding of Season 5, which likely has a lot to do with Henry Creel and the nature of the Upside Down. It’s implied in the trailer for the stage play that “time” will play a crucial role in the story.

As the synopsis says, “This gripping new adventure will take you right back to the beginning of the Stranger Things story — and may hold the key to the end. Will it feature some sort of time travel? Only time will tell. It’s certainly becoming a popular concept in franchises such as Star Wars, and, as rumor has it, the upcoming Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2023).

Is it canon?

The First Shadow is 100% canon with the main Netflix series. The website’s FAQ page states the following: “Head to the theatre to experience the canon event and see for yourself how everything is connected.”

Will other characters from Stranger Things appear?

As the production has announced its cast list, it’s unlikely any additional characters from the Netflix series will appear. However, until the play arrives on stage, this can’t be ruled out, as there may be some surprises in store.

As such, it’s possible the likes of Eleven could show up. After all, she’s a character with a deep and powerful connection to the Upside Down, and in Season 5, it’s implied that the mysterious shadow dimension exists outside time and space.

This means that Eleven could show up in The First Shadow through time travel, although this would involve a recasting, as it’s unlikely Millie Bobby Brown would reprise her role.

Is it required viewing?

No. The First Shadow is not required viewing; however: per Kate Trefry’s comments, watching it is crucial to gaining a “deeper understanding” of Season 5 when it arrives.

Check out the trailer for The First Shadow below:

Related: Upcoming ‘Stranger Things’ Spin-Off Shares First Look

As per Netflix, here’s the official synopsis for Stranger Things Season 4:

It’s been six months since the Battle of Starcourt, which brought terror and destruction to Hawkins. Struggling with the aftermath, our group of friends are separated for the first time – and navigating the complexities of high school hasn’t made things any easier. In this most vulnerable time, a new and horrifying supernatural threat surfaces, presenting a gruesome mystery that, if solved, might finally put an end to the horrors of the Upside Down.

Max and Dustin looking into the Upside Down in 'Stranger Things' Season 4
Credit: Netflix

Related: ‘Stranger Things’ Is Bringing Back a Fan-Favorite Character

Stranger Things Season 4 stars Joe Keery (Steve Harrington), David Harbour (Jim Hopper), Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson), Paul Reiser (Dr. Sam Owens), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), Natalia Dyer (Nancy Wheeler), Joseph Quinn (Eddie Munson), Matthew Modine (Papa/Martin Brenner), Maya Hawke (Robin Buckley), Winona Ryder (Joyce Byers), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers), Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven/Jane Hopper), Sadie Sink (Max Mayfield), Noah Schnapp (Will Byers), and Jamie Campbell Bower (Vecna/One/Henry Creel).

Seasons 1 — 4 are streaming on Netflix.

The First Shadow is set to premiere in London’s Phoenix Theater on December 14, 2023.

In the meantime, you can catch Finn Wolfhard in the first official trailer for Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire (2024).

Are you excited for The First Shadow? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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