People like to think that the elaborate narrative arcs on their favorite shows are planned out well in advance. And sometimes they are, but more often the show’s writers may only have the broader sense of where they want the story to go. While it might seem counterintuitive, that is likely the better approach as it leaves more room for improvisation or course correction. And make no mistake, it’s not uncommon to start a show with one plan, only to shift gears as production gets underway.
Netflix’s breakout hit ‘Stranger Things’ is a prime example of that sort of thing. While the Duffer Brothers went into the show with a definite plan, they quickly realized that a few things needed to change. That’s normal, but as we learned from the new book ‘Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down’, sticking to those early plans would have significantly altered the progression of the series. In particular, there were some pretty major characters that the Duffers planned to kill off, only to change their minds.
The first of these is, surprisingly, Eleven, played by Millie Bobbie Brown. That’s right, the show’s most identifiable character, and arguably its dramatic anchor very nearly didn’t make it out of the first season. As Ross Duffer explains:
“Eleven was going to sacrifice herself to save the day. That was always the end game. But once we realized that the show was potentially going to go on longer than one season, we needed to leave it more up in the air, because deep down we knew the show just wouldn’t work without Eleven. And at that point, we knew how special Millie was. If there was going to be more ‘Stranger Things,’ Eleven had to come back.”
The show’s resident psychic wasn’t the only major character to escape the chopping block. The first season’s planned body count would have also grown to include fan favorite Steve Harrington. In this case, it was actor Joe Keery who ultimately secured Steve’s reprieve through the unexpected likeability that he brought to the roll, Duffer explains, adding that “this Steve character, he was just supposed to be this giant douchebag.”
The pattern would repeat itself in the second season, this time in the form of Sean Astin’s Bob Newby. Though Bob was always meant to die, he was originally planned to shuffle off much earlier in the season. As with Keery, Astin’s likeability meant that the character got a new lease on life, though not for as long as some might’ve hoped. It was also, as Duffer noted, a matter of giving Bob’s death meaning. As he puts it, they wanted to make sure they gave him a hero’s death.
While Netflix has yet to announce a premiere date for ‘Stranger Things 3’, the season is currently expected to debut in the summer of 2019. The new season will feature returning stars Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Millie Bobby Brown, Joe Keery, Natalia Dyer, Priah Ferguson, and Charlie Heaton alongside newcomers Cary Elwes. Jake Busey, and Francesca Reale.