UPDATE: as expected, Stranger Things season three will consist of eight episodes, “down one installment compared to season two’s nine-episode haul but in line with season one,” according to TVLine. Production begins in April.
For years, television shows were to expected to make somewhere between 22 and 26 episodes a year. That changed with the rise of cable, where seasons regularly only last 13 episodes, and again with streaming. Netflix and Hulu shows can be as short as they want, because there are no time slots to fill or advertisers to appease. The prestige TV-era has also allowed showrunners to have more creative freedom, which is why the final season of Game of Thrones will clock in at six episodes. (“We wanted it to be one giant story,” co-showrunner David Benioff explained, “without padding it out to add an extra 10 hours.”) The days of the filler episode are, in theory, gone.
Stranger Things is among Netflix’s biggest hits, but don’t expect it to have a Marvel-esque episode count in season three. (Besides The Defenders, all of Netflix’s MCU shows have clocked in with bloated 13-episode seasons.) “It’ll be an eight- or nine-episode season,” said executive producer Shawn Levy. “The number of episodes will be dictated by the amount of story that excites us. We now know what is going to happen in season three to every character.”
The idea of an entire episode centered around Billy’s basketball skills sounds entertaining, in theory, but remember what happened when Lost gave the spotlight to Nikki and Paulo? If there’s only enough story for eight episodes, then the season should only be eight episodes (would that it were so simple). Anyway, Levy wouldn’t say much else about season three, although he did reveal, “We’re going to give Will a break. We’re not going to put Will through hell for a third season in a row. He’ll be dealing with stuff, but he won’t be at rock bottom the way we forced the amazing Noah Schnapp to play.”
Maybe the poor guy can finally get a haircut.