Season four of Stranger Things has been a major hit for Netflix, having garnered acclaim from critics and fans alike. While most enjoyed the season, many were let down by its doom and gloom cliffhanger ending. While previous seasons of Strangers Things ended on hopeful notes, the latest season saw the villain Vecna open a portal to the Upside Down in Hawkins. The finale also ended with Max, who is played by actress Sadie Sink, in a coma after a scheme to stop the villain went awry. In an interview with Felicia Day on Netflix Geeked, Matt and Ross Duffer, the series’ showrunners, explained the creative choice behind such a downbeat ending.

Speaking with Day, Matt reveals that it was always their intention to end season four with the protagonists facing a huge loss. Elaborating, Matt compares the season to The Empire Strikes Back, adding that it serves as a setup for the show’s fifth and final season, which will see the final battle with Vecna and the forces of the Upside Down. While the ending might be dark for most viewers, the original script called for an even greater tragedy. At first, the Duffer Brothers planned on killing Max off before settling for having her be in a coma. Ross explains that they chose this course to leave viewers with more questions, specifically if Max will recover next season.

While Max’s fate remains open, another actor sees the fate of his character as being up in the air as well. Matthew Modine, who has played Dr. Martin Brenner on Stranger Things since season one, says that he is wary about calling it quits despite Brenner’s apparent death in the season’s second volume. Brenner was gunned down by soldiers from a rival faction in the United States government as he attempted to escort Eleven from a top-secret facility. Modine thinks that there is a chance that Brenner might have survived the incident at the end of the season, pointing out that he has survived countless other dangerous situations in the past. Going forward, Modine hopes for a redemption arc for Brenner and a chance for him to make amends with Eleven.