A major problem with the early seasons of Stranger Things was its inability to focus on one villain at a time, and the Netflix series runs the risk of bringing back this issue in the fifth and final season of the show. Stranger Things season 5 has its work cut out. The phenomenally popular series received rave reviews when season 4 hit Netflix, but Stranger Things season 5 must wrap up a whole host of subplots after the explosive season 4 finale.
While Stranger Things season 5 could potentially pull off this feat, the odds are stacked against the series. As star Maya Hawke aptly noted, Stranger Things has a lot of characters, all of whom deserve a fitting ending to their story. Not only that, but Stranger Things season 5’s surplus of cast members means it risks repeating an issue that plagued the show in earlier outings. Stranger Things season 5 will have at least two major villains and needs to make both of these threats convincing. Luckily, it is possible for Stranger Things season 5 to achieve this.
Stranger Things 5 Has Two Big Villains (Again)
After the ending of Stranger Things season 4, there are two major villains heading into season 5. The most obvious threat is Vecna, the horror-movie-inspired Stranger Things villain who has secretly been central to the story of the series since the pilot episode. However, there is also the army who are pursuing Eleven, led by Colonel Jack Sullivan. Judging by their casual approach to torture and murder in season 4, these villains have no qualms about killing Eleven and her friends. Not only that but, as proven by their ability to take down Dr. Brenner (who survived a Demogorgon attack), the army is also a ruthlessly effective villain.
This could pose a problem for Stranger Things season 5. In earlier seasons, Stranger Things has struggled to split its focus between various villains. In season 1, Stranger Things successfully made both Hawkins Lab and the Demogorgon into compelling villains, but these two antagonists were very different in scale. In season 2, Stranger Things redeemed Steve Harrington as it turned the more violent, unhinged Billy into the show’s non-supernatural villain but, despite Dacre Montgomery’s standout turn, Billy never registered as a major threat when compared to a swathe of Demogorgons. Similarly, Stranger Things season 3 turned Billy into the Mind Flayer, a genuinely threatening monster, but also wasted screen time on the ineffectual Russian scientists.
Why The Hawkins Lab Story Worked In Stranger Things Season 1
In theory, the doctors and technicians of Hawkins Lab shouldn’t have been any more threatening than the Russians of Stranger Things season 3, but season 1 made these minor villains effective. Since it was clear that the Demogorgon was a lone monster that escaped containment, viewers knew that the bloodthirsty monster was the immediate, life-or-death threat while the shadowy conspiracy going on in Hawkins Lab was more of a big-picture, existential threat. However, this won’t work with the army in Stranger Things season 5.
Already, Eddie’s death in Stranger Things season 4 proved that Vecna is a lethal, murderous villain, and his explanation of his plan proved that Vecna also has huge ambitions to take over all of Hawkins (and, possibly, the world). Meanwhile, the Army’s full-scale assault on the Byers home, which resulted in the death of two guards, and their murder of Dr. Brenner and everyone else involved in the NINA project made it clear that they, too, are large-scale villains with the resources, manpower, and ambition to kill the entire cast of Stranger Things season 5 if that is what it takes for them to take down Eleven.
Why The Russian Plot Slowed Down Season 3
The problem with Stranger Things season 5 having two huge, unstoppable, unrelated villains can be seen in season 3’s Russian subplot. The Soviet scientists under the mall almost kill Robin and Steve but before the finale, their role is scarcely more important than Argyle’s part in Stranger Things season 4 thanks to the overstuffed writing of season 3. In season 1, a foreign government secretly invading Hawkins would have been a big enough threat to sustain an entire season, whereas by Stranger Things season 3, the presence of military scientists barely makes an impact thanks to Billy’s gigantic body-snatching flesh monster.
As a result, the story of Stranger Things season 3 felt pulled in two directions between a non-supernatural threat of catastrophic proportions and a similar apocalyptic paranormal problem. These two plots never intersected naturally, with even the finale splitting the sizable cast of Stranger Things between an underground Russian base and the Starcourt Mall. However, Stranger Things season 5 can avoid repeating this mistake by keeping its cast together, dealing with the army and Colonel Jack Sullivan first, and then addressing Vecna in part 2 of season 5. This way, Stranger Things season 5 lowers the risk of making its two villains less effective.
How Stranger Things Season 5 Can Make The Army A Better Villain
Currently, the army and its leader are a dangerous but distant threat in Stranger Things. Once Eleven escaped Project NINA, the army’s role effectively came to an end, although viewers can be sure that they will show up in Hawkins after the explosive, town-shaking events of the Stranger Things season 4 finale. This would be the best way to handle the subplot, with the Army arriving and attempting to capture Eleven while Vecna recovers from his battle against the psychic teen. Mike hiding Eleven from the army would bring back Stranger Things season 1’s sweetest story, while the Army searching Hawkins would give Vecna and Eleven time to recover.
Why Vecna Shouldn’t Be Season 5 Part 1’s Main Villain
Much of what made Vecna such an effective villain in Stranger Things season 4 was the slow-burn introduction of the character. It took numerous episodes for the main characters to even encounter Vecna face-to-face and the season was almost over before viewers learned his backstory. Stranger Things season 5 needs to reintroduce some mystery now that the character’s entire life story and grand plan have been revealed, and the best way to achieve this is to hide him for part 1 of Stranger Things season 5. If the final season is split like Stranger Things season 4, part 1 should focus on the Army while part 2 reintroduces Vecna, thus maximizing the impact of both villains.
Next: Jamie Campbell Bower Is Right About Stranger Things 5’s Will/Vecna Fight