Stranger Things Season 4 Was Almost The End For Max

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

In "Stranger Things" season 4, we learned that antagonist Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower), Dr. Brenner's first patient at Hawkins National Laboratory who suffered an extreme Upside Down makeover, has turned his misanthropic psychic eye on Hawkins with a nefarious plan. We discovered that Vecna was behind many of the Upside Down's incursions into our realm, and his most recent plan is the most dangerous yet. Vecna finds out that if he creates four gates into the Upside Down, with each gate resulting from a targeted murder (using his psychic powers across dimensions), he can finally erode the barrier between the two dimensions on a large scale. That will pave the way for the final step of his plan: The eradication of humanity.

Vecna chooses four human victims, each young individuals with considerable emotional pain that Vecna happily weaponizes against them. One of these victims happens to be "Stranger Things" fan-favorite (and Season 4 MVP) Max (Sadie Sink). In season 4, our heroes fail to thwart Vecna's plan — he psychically attacks Max, contorting her body, breaking her bones, and leaving her clinging to life in an ambiguous mental state. In a new interview, series creators Matt and Ross Duffer reveal that ambiguous ending was almost a full-tilt tragedy for Max. 

What saved Max from running up that hill to permanent character death

While "Stranger Things" season 4 ends with the possibility that Max may somehow pull through, her death "was discussed as a possibility," according to Ross Duffer. "For a while, that is what was going to happen," he said. Matt Duffer explained that at the end of season 4, the show's protagonists had to fail in order to properly set up season 5:

"We wanted them to actually lose. We wanted our characters to experience what that felt like. That was the big idea coming into season 4, that they were going to lose. We were going to introduce Vecna and they were going to lose to him. That sets our characters up for what will be the ultimate final confrontation with Vecna and with the Upside Down in season 5."

Ultimately, what saved Max from certain, complete doom was the Duffers' desire for a little more ambiguity leading into season 5. As Ross Duffer explains:

"We wanted to end it with a little more of a question mark at the end of the season. Where it's still really dark and we don't know if Max is going to be okay. We don't really know. We wanted to leave it up in the air moving forward into season 5."

One thing is for sure: The death of new fan-favorite Eddie (Joseph Quinn) and the shocking physical attack on Max are going to have huge ripple effects on what happens in the upcoming final season. "The fact that [Max] is in a coma, I can't really get into the details, but it is important that she is," Matt Duffer teased. "And that is going to have a major effect on 5. So it's not a cheat. It's incredibly relevant to 5."