Is Stranger Things 4 about to do an Avengers: Endgame and have everyone time travel?

The cast of Stranger Things
(Image credit: Netflix)

"It's time. You have lost," Stranger Things season 4 villain Vecna menacingly states at the very end of the show's official trailer. Being bested by the baddie, though, isn't something we've come to associate with Millie Bobby Brown's superpowered hero Eleven, or any of the Hawkins gang for that matter. 

Over the last six years, the group has often found itself in life-threatening situations – against Demogorgons, the Mind Flayer, and Dr. Martin Brenner – but they've typically come out on top (RIP Barb, Bob, Alexei, and Billy). Vecna's line suggests that their luck is about to change in Volume 2, and if it does, what would that mean for the Netflix show's fifth and final season? Two words: time travel.

In recent interviews, the Netflix show's creators Matt and Ross Duffer have reflected on past character deaths and told fans that episodes 8 and 9 of season 4, which are both set to land on the streaming platform on July 1, are "extremely emotional". Elsewhere, executive producer and director Shawn Levy warned that they'll "punch you right in the heart", which can't help but make us wonder whether one or more main characters are going to bite the dust very soon. With some of the cast hinting that Volume 2 will be "darker" than Volume 1, too, it really does sound like they're mentally preparing us for the worst. But it would hardly be in keeping with Stranger Things' fun-despite-the-horror tone if the entire series were to end on a bleak note...

Stranger Things have happened...

Fans have already voiced their worries over Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), who was bitten by a bunch of Demobats after he got stuck inside the Upside Down with Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Robin (Maya Hawke), and Eddie (Joseph Quinn). For now, though, we're less concerned with the fate of the perfectly coiffed babysitter than we are with the fact that, when the foursome are in the other dimension, they discover that it is stuck in November 6, 1983, AKA the day that Eleven opened The Gate. 

The Upside Down being frozen time doesn't really factor into Volume 1 in any meaningful way but, as Levy has said before, "there aren't many accidents" in Stranger Things – so it's obviously going to become important at some point in the near future. Might our heroes use it to somehow reverse certain events if some of our heroes are killed in Volume 2, just like Iron Man, Cap, and co. did in Avengers: Endgame? When it comes to this show, anything is possible.

Time travel being introduced in Stranger Things is something fans have long speculated about. The show is unapologetically sci-fi and the Duffer Brothers have openly talked about how it's been influenced by '80s movies such as E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, and A Nightmare on Elm Street – it's hardly a stretch to think that Back to the Future might be a title they'd reference as well. 

Time has also proved to be a big theme in season 4, and the Duffers have admitted that that will continue into season 5 already. Vecna's victims see visions of a grandfather clock moments before their consciousnesses are dragged into his parallel world and he murders them, while much of Eleven's storyline revolves around her having to relive painful events from late 1979 as she subjects herself to a sensory deprivation tank in the present. By facing her past, 1986 Eleven successfully regains her powers, which further supports the idea that time can be used – and to some extent, manipulated – to fix certain problems.

It's hard not to draw comparisons between Vecna and Endgame villain Thanos, too. While we don't know all that much about the former yet, Stranger Things seems to be positioning him as the show's ultimate big bad, more powerful than the Demogorgons and more able and calculating than the Mind Flayer. As it stands, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and the rest of the brainy bunch reckon that the Mind Flayer is still in charge while Vecna is his "five-star general", but we suspect that they – and we – will learn different in Volume 2 and season 5. While we can't be absolutely certain, the Mind Flayer appeared to have been destroyed at the end of season 3, and it's common knowledge that it needs to possess corporeal beings to do its bidding. Vecna is technically a human, so can do evil things himself, and he has a shared history with Eleven; he certainly seems like the ultimate villain. Let's face it, we never got a backstory on a Demogorgon or the Mind Flayer, either.

Stranger Things

(Image credit: Netflix)

Episode 7, titled 'The Massacre at Hawkins Lab' is very monologue heavy, and in one long speech, Vecna explains to Eleven via a flashback that when he discovered his psychokinetic powers, he set out to create a new world order; one that is unbound by time, rules and other machinations of human existence. Now, he seems to target those who are unsatisfied in their lives for whatever reason, or at least not living them to the fullest – Chrissy, with her eating disorder; Fred, with his PTSD, and Max with her Billy-related guilt and grief. In Avengers: Endgame, Thanos wanted to bring balance to the universe by wiping out half of all living things. We're just saying… There are some parallels there, and could be proof that the Duffer Brothers may very well have been inspired by the Marvel mega-hit.

Speaking of Matt and Ross, the siblings have previously stated that they'd be keen to "find something else to do" with Grace Van Dien, who played Chrissy, and Sean Astin, who played Joyce Byer's sweet-natured, ill-fated boyfriend in season 2. Might that be another veiled hint at the idea of resurrected characters going forward?

Lastly, and if these don't turn out to be foreshadowing, we'll eat our 'Thinking Cap' hats, Dustin rolls an 11 during a Dungeons & Dragons session with the Hellfire Club in the very first episode of season 4. The outcome causes Eddie (Joseph Quinn) to declare his campaign against Vecna "a miss", before Erica (Priah Ferguson) miraculously rolls a 20, and they vanquish their enemy. Another sign of them losing to Vecna in real life perhaps, before they ultimately turn the tables (or turn back time) and win? Elsewhere, Eleven refers to herself and her friends as "time travelers" by way of Winona Ryder's Joyce. The scene in question sees her narrating a letter she's written to long-distance love Mike (Finn Wolfhard), as she attempts to paint a rosy picture of her not-so-rosy new life in Lenora Hills, California. "Today is day 185. Feels more like ten years. Joyce says time is funny like that," she says. "Emotions can make it speed up or slow down. We are all time travelers if you think about it." If our theory is correct, the metaphor could end up morphing into something a lot more literal. 

Fortunately, we don't have to wait too much longer to see whether it will. Check out our Stranger Things season 4 release schedule for more info on Volume 2, which is set to drop on July 1. If you've already binge-watched all seven episodes of Volume 1, why not check out our list of the best Netflix shows for some viewing inspiration. 

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.