Stranger Things all but emerged out of nowhere in 2016 to become a smash hit for Netflix, and the streaming giant to date hasn't managed to replicate the kind of success it found with the sci-fi horror series. The show boasts a cast stacked with talented actors, a creepy and unique premise, and a streamer with every reason to pour resources into making it the best it can be. After three seasons in Hawkins, Indiana, Season 4 is poised to take Stranger Things in some very different (and much colder) directions. And, if I have my wish, it will release on a different schedule than usual for Netflix.
Stranger Things is a revolutionary show for the streaming giant, and it could be a game-changer again if released on a new schedule that works. If ever there was a scripted show for Netflix to experiment on release dates with, a guaranteed hit like Stranger Things should be the one. Here are my reasons for wanting Netflix to change its release schedule for Stranger Things Season 4.
No Need To Binge-Watch
Netflix more or less invented the concept of binge-watching, and I'm a veteran of either staying up late or getting up early to start new seasons. I worked my way through the first three seasons of Stranger Things as quickly as I could, and have no doubt that I would do the same for Season 4 if Netflix sticks with the same release model. But I have to wonder -- do I binge nowadays because I want to experience every episode as soon as possible, or because I want to avoid spoilers?
Big twists will have Twitter buzzing and news spreading on the very same day of release. I was spoiled on Dr. Brenner's fate before I even knew who Dr. Brenner was, and I accidentally found out that there would be a big death in the penultimate episode of Season 2. Spacing episode releases out isn't unprecedented; Netflix split seasons of shows like Fuller House and Lucifer into separate chunks, and I wound up loving Amazon debuting the first three episodes of The Boys Season 2 before switching to weekly releases. I could sleep, check social media, and stay on top of twists without trouble.
Season 4 Would Last Longer
While my logic would be more than a little Upside Down if I tried to say that eight hours in one sitting are shorter than eight hours spread out between several weeks, the Stranger Things experience of the fourth batch of episodes could last a lot longer if the full season isn't dropped all at once. Amazon's split release of The Boys Season 2 managed to turn what could have been a binge-watch into an experience lasting for more than a month, and the events of individual episodes could really sink in. Releasing episodes on a weekly basis for the season to run for longer also opens the fandom up to more discussion and theorizing.
Stranger Things has been known to pack in Easter eggs, and some moments, twists, and certainly cliffhangers could pack more of a punch if viewers had no choice but to wait and ruminate until the next episode. Nobody remembers poor Benny from Season 1, but that wouldn't be the case if there had been a break following his death. (R.I.P. Benny.) Even Bob's death didn't hit as hard in Season 2 as it could have if viewers had to really let it sink in. And as somebody who got pretty tired of Hopper's behavior in Season 3, maybe spacing his scenes out could have been an improvement, and I would have been sadder at his presumed death or more excited at the prospect of a date with Joyce!
Stranger Things Hiatuses Are Long
I love Stranger Things, but the breaks between seasons are just painful! More than a year passed between the releases of Season 1 and Season 2, and there was a break of nearly two years between Season 2 and Season 3. If all had gone well, fans might have been able to hope for Season 4 by the end of 2020 or first half of 2021, but Stranger Things was one of many shows that had to shut down production earlier this year due to the pandemic. Although production on Season 4 has restarted, the wait is likely going to be significant.
After waiting through a hiatus that could well be upward of two years from the July 2019 release of Season 3, do we really want Season 4 out in one fell swoop? Assuming Stranger Things continues beyond Season 4, the wait for Season 5 could be quite lengthy as well, even if production figures out how to get back to business more or less as usual in a pandemic. When hiatuses are long, seasons deserve to last for long as well, and I think we'll deserve several weeks or even a couple of months of content.
Good For Other Shows
Netflix is seemingly all about the numbers these days when it comes to making decisions about what to cancel and what to renew, and not even shows that had previously been renewed are safe from the Netflix axe. (R.I.P. GLOW.) I very highly doubt Netflix will ever cancel Stranger Things, but arguably no other show on the streaming service has that kind of mega-hit security, and newer shows need viewers to justify a renewal. If Stranger Things spread its episodes out over weeks, then that would bring fans back on a weekly basis.
Signing into Netflix for one show inevitably results in exposure to other shows, especially now that Netflix has started sharing how popular some of its shows are on the home page. Spacing out the release schedule could bring viewers to Netflix on a more regular basis and spread some of those beautiful Stranger Things numbers around. Sure, some viewers didn't respond well to The Boys changing its release schedule, but Stranger Things is a tried and true hit, and Netflix doesn't even have to switch to one episode per week for some changes for the better.
Split the eight-episode fourth season in half or into pairs to release weekly, and I can already imagine more people checking out Netflix more often, and Stranger Things mania lasting for more than the weeks surrounding a release before viewers go into fandom hibernation until the next season. I think it's at least worth trying, especially since Season 4 sounds like it'll be a pretty big departure anyway.
At least part of the season will take place in snowy Russia with Hopper, and the Byers family (now including Eleven) left Hawkins at the end of Season 3. If we're already rolling with the punches of the adorable little D&D munchkins from Season 1 getting ready for high school on top of all the other changes, I think we can deal with a schedule change.
Be sure to weigh in our poll below about whether Netflix should make a Stranger Things change! For now, we can only wait and hope for more official Stranger Things news sooner rather than later. You can find all three seasons of the show so far streaming on Netflix, and our 2020 Netflix premiere schedule can point you toward more streaming options from this year as we head towards 2021.