Matt and Ross Duffer (Wayward Pines) are taking EW behind the scenes of every single episode in their thrilling new Netflix drama, Stranger Things, an ’80s-set supernatural show starring Winona Ryder and a slew of fantastic young stars. (You can catch up with all of EW’s season 1 recaps.) Here, they wrap up their blog with the season 1 finale, “Chapter 8: The Upside Down”…
If you’re reading this, we’ll assume you finished the final chapter of the season. If not: Spoilers ahead!
This was by far the most challenging episode to pull off. No other episode even comes close. In our original pitch to Netflix, we envisioned the show as a big summer popcorn movie. As such, we felt it was important that our ending felt like a suitably epic movie climax.
We quickly realized that pitching this in a room is one thing… actually pulling it off on a television schedule is another thing entirely. Writing this final script was a painful and confusing experience. As excited as we were about all of the scenes and concepts as writers, the directors/producers in us were beginning to panic because we knew we’d have to actually figure out a way to accomplish it all on screen. But we made a choice to temporarily take off our producer hats and let the story and characters guide us — even if that meant putting our leads in another dimension for most of the episode, and writing in not one, not two, but three monster attacks.
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The scope for this finale really pushed everyone on the show, from actors to the camera crew to our production designer. But at this point in the production, everyone on the crew really believed in the show, and their enthusiasm served as an engine to make the impossible possible. It was a little like cramming for that big final exam. Long days and nights, little sleep, and a lot of stress, but you can do it because you see the light at the end of the tunnel. It wasn’t just hard on the crew, but on our post-production team as well. Our VFX artists were particularly overwhelmed; in the end, nearly 40 percent of this episode has some kind of VFX enhancement. In fact, they were working on shots until the last possible moment. The final VFX shots were turned in just two weeks before they showed up on Netflix. Most shots weren’t ever truly 100 percent “completed.” It was more of a “pencils down!” kind of a finish than anything else, but we’re very happy with their work on the show.
As far as the story is concerned, it was important to us that the finale resolved the main tension: Will goes missing in the beginning of our story, and he’s found at the end. But we also wanted to leave some important questions unanswered. What happened to Eleven? Why the hell is Nancy with Steve instead of Jonathan? (Does it have something to do with Steve’s beautiful Christmas sweater?) Why is Hopper leaving Eggos in the woods? Does he know where Eleven is? What kind of effect did living in the Upside Down have on Will? What exactly is the Upside Down? Was our monster the only monster that lives there? What the hell was in those yellow eggs? We know the answers to all these questions and more, we promise, but we wanted to keep the mystery alive, to leave the door cracked for potential “sequels.”
So while we take a little time off Stranger Things, we’re going to go to rewatch some of our favorite movie sequels of all time.The Empire Strikes Back, Godfather Part II, Aliens, Toy Story 2, Evil Dead 2, and Temple of Doom (underrated!). It’s going to be grueling work, we know, but we think we’ll live.
Random trivia: To create snow for our winter scenes, we shipped over 20 tons of ice… from Florida.
We hope you enjoyed the show, and we hope there are enough of you out there that we get to continue this story. Thanks for reading and watching!