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It Starts On The Page: Read The ‘Stranger Things’ S4 Finale Script “The Piggyback” By The Duffer Brothers

Editor’s note: Deadline’s It Starts on the Page features 10 standout drama series scripts in 2023 Emmy contention. It showcases the critical role writer’s work plays in a show’s success. All materials (the script and writers intro) were submitted before the WGA strike began on May 2.

In the penultimate fourth season of their Netflix mega hit Stranger Things, Matt and Ross Duffer shook things up. For three years, audiences had became accustomed to seeing their favorite ragtag bunch from Hawkins, Indiana battle evil supernatural forces and ultimately prevail in the finale, including the Season 2 closer, which, along with the series premiere, earned the Duffers both writing and directing Emmy nominations.

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However, Season 4, in which the group faced their biggest threat yet and had to once again journey into the Upside Down to save the world, ended with Eleven & Co’s defeat in the finale, “The Piggyback.”

Written and directed by The Duffers, the episode toggles back and forth between Russia and Hawkins (and eventually the Upside Down), as our heroes make one final attempt at defeating Vecna.

Here is “The Piggyback” script with an introduction from the Duffer Brothers, in which they address the ending twist, talk about how their high school experience inspired Season 4’s top villain and how the cast and crew enhanced what the two had put on the page.

Our finales have typically ended with the evil defeated, or at least pushed away, allowing our characters to catch their collective breath and return to their normal lives. But because this is the penultimate season, we wanted an Empire Strikes Back style ending — meaning, it ends on a down note, with our characters experiencing real defeat for the first time. 

The bad guy wins. Friends (heroes) die, or are badly wounded. We felt this led to some incredibly devastating performances from our cast, as they come face to face with death and loss, a feeling which will cast a dark cloud over the final season. 

Like a lot of people, high school was a very challenging time for us — you’re facing the pressure of figuring out your future at the same time you are trying to fit in, or even just trying to understand who you are. It’s a lot to take on at that age and it can leave you feeling hopeless, like there’s no end to the uncertainty in sight.

This emotional truth was at the center of Vecna. In many ways a physical representation of anxiety and depression, he is an evil force that leeches on youth’s frailty. The devil on your shoulder, the dark whisper in your ear.

We hope that the show ultimately gives hope to kids that, with the help of loved ones, you can overcome anything. You can run your way up that hill, out of darkness and into the light.

During filming, the script mostly went unchanged, although on set, and in the edit, everyone worked hard to make each character moment as impactful as possible. Some of this came from actor improvisation. For instance, in Eddie’s death scene, the simple exchange where Eddie and Dustin tell one another they love each other was improvised by Gaten [Matarazzo] and Joe [Quinn] during filming. Lucas screaming for Erica to help as Max dies in his arms was similarly an idea that came from Caleb [McLaughlin]. 

Our editor Dean Zimmerman heightened the moment of Eddie’s decision to fight back by slowing down the footage and adding flashbacks. Our music editor, Lena Glikson, cut a remix of “Running Up That Hill” into the final battle in a way that just took our breath away.

It was just many, many moments like these from our cast, crew and post-production team which, hopefully, brought further emotion and humanity to the words on the page.  

Click below to read the script.

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