How The Duffer Brothers Keep All Of Stranger Things' Storylines Straight

If you thought "Stranger Things" season 4 felt a little stronger than the typical season ... well, there might be a reason for that. Creators Matt and Ross Duffer have always employed a strong cadre of smart writers who care about the characters and understand the overall Amblin-Meets-John Carpenter-And-Stephen King tone they're going for. But they are still beholden to a typical TV schedule, which means they do a lot of brainstorming and outlining, but only go into production once a few actual scripts are finalized. 

It's an unfortunate reality of scheduling a project as massive as "Stranger Things," but even so the series has been very consistent (minus the weird tangent where Eleven goes into the city and pals around with other telepathic delinquents, but we won't make eye contact with that one). 

Season 4 was a little different though. For the first time they went into production with all the scripts written, all i's dotted, and t's crossed. And that's because a little thing called Covid rolled in and kinda shut the whole world down for a while, including "Stranger Things" season 4. The Duffer bros. recently appeared on Netflix Geeked, where they discussed the benefits of planning all the way ahead vs. only planning partially ahead.

More time to run up that hill

The Duffer bros. have always been big planners. They believe in outlining, outlining, outlining: having a clear picture of where every character is going, but leaving a little room for inspiration as they go. So if Sadie Sink has a brilliant idea for Max's overall story, for example, they can adapt on the fly. It's always easier to make those in-the-moment decisions when you know what the big picture looks like.

Yes, it comes with the territory, but the Covid shutdown gave the "Stranger Things" writing team six extra months of writing time. As Matt Duffer explained, that time helped them smooth out some kinks that had developed in past seasons:

"For the first time ever, we were able to actually complete all the scripts before shooting started and then look at them as a whole. And then fix any issues and make sure the characters were tracking from episode to episode. If there was a character arc that was feeling a little bit light or incomplete, we were able to go in and plug in those holes."

The Duffers don't anticipate having another excess of writing time for the fifth and final season, but they were able to make the most out of a bad situation when the shutdown happened. Using that extra time to hone in on story and character details is what gave us the pop culture sensation that we're currently experiencing.