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Stranger Things 4 is taking so long because it's 'the most ambitious' season by far

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Aug 4, 2021, 12:28 PM EDT

Like most live-action productions in the spring of 2020, Stranger Things 4 was forced to halt filming amid growing health concerns related to the COVID-19 health crisis. The cameras didn't start rolling again until nearly seven months later in early October. But if it's almost been a year since the cast and crew returned to set, what the Hawkins is taking so long?! Recently chatting with Collider about Free Guy, executive producer Shawn Levy provided a simple reason.

"As much as it pains our viewers that it will have been so long, trust me, it pains Matt, Ross, and I more," he said, referring to the Duffer Brothers, who created the breakout Netflix series. "It is a kind of perfect storm combination of COVID shutdown, slower pace of filming in COVID protocols and health protocols, which are necessary, and coincidentally we chose Season 4 to be by far — and I mean, by far, far, far — the most ambitious of the seasons."

Aside from a few teasers here and there, Netflix has done an excellent job of keeping specific plot details for Season 4 under wraps. All we really know is that the narrative will be expanding beyond the confines of Hawkins, the quaint Indiana town where fans have spent so much time for the last three seasons. In addition, we also know we'll spend some time in Soviet Russia, where Hopper (David Harbour) is currently being held prisoner at a Siberian work camp.

"You kind of know we've got some action in Hawkins, we’ve got some action apparently in Russia, and we have an entire storyline set elsewhere that will soon come to light," Levy teased. "So this is the first season where we have this sprawling geography, multiple location shoots, and we're doing it all against a backdrop of a world that has made filming slower longer in delay. So that's why it's taking so long."

Aside from the returning characters like Hopper and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), the upcoming episodes are also set to feature a litany of newcomers, including '80s horror icon Robert Englund. In a nod to his Elm Street roots, the 74-year-old actor is set to play a convicted murderer. The most recent bout of casting news came during the third day of Netflix's Geeked Week.

While there's no fixed premiere date yet, it's probably safe to assume that Season 4 won't arrive until sometime in 2022. "Season 4 won't be the end," Ross Duffer said last April. "We know what the end is, and we know when it is. [The pandemic] has given us time to look ahead, figure out what is best for the show. Starting to fill that out gave us a better idea of how long we need to tell that story."

Free Guy opens in theaters everywhere next Friday (Aug. 13).