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Stranger Things represents the kind of risk-taking that made Netflix great and that it needs more of

Sometimes giving shows the chance to grow and develop can lead to magic

Stranger Things season 4 screenshot
Image credit: Netflix

It's hard to imagine Netflix these days without Stranger Things being one of its leading shows. The first season of the sci-fi series landed back in 2016 and was an immediate hit, dominating the conversation around television for weeks afterward. With Stranger Things season five filming and with its release date unknown, it feels like this was Netflix at its very best – taking risks and showing patience to let them pay off.

While it feels like it was always a sure thing now, Stranger Things was a risky venture for the streamer – it focused on a group of relatively unknown child actors and drew from the depths of the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual for its creatures, two things that can make filming and finding an audience difficult. With a massive special effects and prop budget and a plot that was expected to take around four seasons to play out, Stranger Things is exactly the kind of show Netflix typically cancels after one season at the slightest provocation.

It isn’t like the streamer hasn’t had reasons to cancel the show. Both the 2020 pandemic and the 2023 Hollywood strikes brought filming to a standstill, resulting in long gaps between seasons that have spelled the doom for other beloved Netflix shows like GLOW. The young cast quickly stopped being young, which resulted in (quickly dismissed) rumors that the producers would have to de-age them to make them seem like high school kids.

Related: Stranger Things will "stick the landing" for the Netflix show's finale, says Deadpool & Wolverine director

And yet here we are, going into the fifth and final season of Stranger Things and we get to see the fruits of both the Duffer Brothers' creative labor and Netflix’s uncharacteristic patience. The story of Hawkins is coming to a close, hopefully giving our favorite group of geeks and outcasts the sendoff they deserve, but Hollywood also has a new generation of stars because Netflix took the time to foster the show. Finn Wolfhard is enjoying his time in the Ghostbusters franchise while Millie Bobby Brown has stuck with Netflix for both Damsel and Enola Holmes. Joseph Quinn, who only played Eddie Munson for a single memorable season, has landed himself a spot in the Fantastic Four while David Harbour will be back in the MCU when Thunderbolts* hits cinemas. All these careers were either launched or boosted when by Netflix nurtering Stranger Things.

Stranger Things is what streaming was always meant to give us – a show brimming with risk about obscure lore and fuelled by nostalgia while fostering the next generation of actors who can go on to do incredibly cool things. The show delivers on the promise Netflix always had but seldom lives up to. As the streaming market becomes more crowded and Netflix has to work harder to squeeze every possible subscriber for all they’re worth, Stranger Things is an example of what the company can do when it remembers that if you just make good TV, people will watch it.

Netflix's Stranger Things is heading into its grand finale - of the main show that is. While you wait, make sure you've watched all of the franchise (including the spinoffs in books and comics) with our Stranger Things guide, know who the Stranger Things season 5 cast, and what Dustin actor Gaten Matarazzo things would make the show better (more deaths). .