Major spoilers for Stranger Things season 4 follow.
Well, after four months of relative silence – outside of some hints from the cast and crew – we’ve actually received some official Stranger Things season 5 news. Revealed as part of Stranger Things Day (which takes place annually on November 6), Netflix revealed the title for the first episode of the sci-fi horror show’s last season: The Crawl.
season 5. chapter one. the crawl. happy stranger things day pic.twitter.com/xCdNLjD7YtNovember 7, 2022
Unsurprisingly, the episode title’s reveal has sent the Stranger Things fanbase into a frenzy, with many theorizing what it’s teasing from a story perspective. We include ourselves among their number, too, as we have our own thoughts about what it could be literally or metaphorically hinting at.
Here, then, are four big theories we have about what the title for Stranger Things season 5 episode 1 means.
1. Run – or crawl – while you can, Vecna
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first, which relates to Vecna, aka Stranger Things 4‘s primary villain.
In the final episode of season 4, Vecna was beaten by Nancy, Steve, and Robin in his Creel House lair. Well, kind of. Stranger Things’ other heroes were inadvertently involved in Vecna’s defeat, although Vecna’s masterplan – to break down the barriers between the real world and the Upside Down – was realized. Hey, we did say Hawkins’ heroes kind of beat him.
Anyway, Nancy, Steve, and Robin defeated Vecna by blasting him out of Creel House’s top floor window using molotov cocktails and plenty of shotgun ammunition. When the trio raced downstairs to finish him off, though, he’d escaped.
Clearly, Vecna has ran – or should that be crawled? *hint hint* – away to heal. He was seriously injured by his opponents and, based on the damage he sustained, there’s no way he could have used his legs or teleporting abilities to beat a hasty retreat.
So, could he have crawled away instead? If he did, maybe the opening episode of season 5 will be partly set around his escape – Vecna dragging himself to safety, tending to his wounds, and recovering before he goes on the offensive again.
Stranger Things has always had its roots in the tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons (DnD). Okay, it’s also heavily influenced by 80s horror and sci-fi movies that the Duffer brothers, the show’s creators, grew up watching, but DnD is arguably its most obvious inspiration.
Since the show’s pilot episode, Stranger Things hasn’t been shy about paying homage to DnD. Just look at Will, Mike, Lucas, and Dustin playing DnD in the very first episode. Or using the name Vecna to describe season 4’s big bad, as well as giving the show’s various creatures other DnD-inspired names, such as the Demogorgon. Or the fact that Eleven, the boys, and everyone else are a DnD-style group playing an actual DnD game in the real world. You get the idea.
The Crawl could be another classic DnD throwback: the dungeon crawl. In fantasy role-playing games (RPGs), such as DnD, a dungeon crawl is a scenario where players traverse a labyrinthine environment to battle monsters, solve puzzles, and earn treasure once they complete said dungeon.
Given how Stranger Things 4 ended, it’s plausible that Eleven and company will head into the Upside Down (the dungeon), battle Vecna and the Mind Flayer (the monsters), and earn their rewards (save the world) by doing so. The Crawl, then, could simply refer to Hawkins’ heroes drawing up their plan to take the fight to Vecna and his allies, before they carry out their mission throughout season 5.
3. Max-ing out
This one is a bit of a stretch, but what if The Crawl somehow relates to Sadie Sink’s character Max?
Fans won’t need reminding that Max will be in a coma at the start of season 5. In the season 4 finale, Max was critically injured by Vecna and only survived thanks to Eleven’s powers. However, Vecna’s attack left Max in a comatose state. Eleven was also unable to locate her in The Void, meaning that Max’s consciousness might have been lost forever.
Or has it? Sink previously suggested she doesn’t know what Max’s fate will be in Stranger Things 5, but The Crawl could give us some indication about whether she’ll live to fight another day. Maybe it’s a reference to her crawling through The Void to search for her friends. Max might do so through using her memories again, just like she did to escape from Vecna in season 4 episode 4. If she’s successful, The Crawl could end with the crowd-pleasing reveal of Max waking from her coma, which would certainly be the pick-me-up we all need after that bruising and tension-riddled season 4 finale.
4. Eddie returns
This one is an even more unlikely scenario than the Max one, but hear us out.
Eddie Munson’s death in the season 4 finale was a hugely poignant moment for fans and the show’s cast of characters alike. Stranger Things 4’s breakout star was overpowered by Vecna’s horde of demobats as he tried to buy his fellow heroes more time, eventually succumbing to his many injuries in Dustin’s arms.
But what if that wasn’t the last we’ve seen of our favorite metalhead? The Mind Flayer and Vecna have form for using people’s memories against them. Heck, the pair have even possessed some characters, such as Max’s brother Billy, and used them as puppets to carry out their nefarious deeds.
Could Eddie befall a similar fate to Billy? It’s a possibility. After all, there’s a telling (albeit tentative) link between Eddie potentially being the Upside Down’s latest human puppet and that Metallica song – Master of Puppets – that Eddie played in the Upside Down in season 4 episode 9.
The iconic song’s lyrics include the line ‘Come crawling faster, obey your master’. Now, this could just be us reaching for a link between Eddie and the title of season 5 episode 1. But what if it isn’t? What if the Mind Flayer/Vecna use Eddie as their next human vessel? It would make for some emotionally charged scenes in Stranger Things 5, not least those involving Dustin, who revered Eddie and will still be cut up about his death in the show’s final season. Basically, just bring Joe Quinn back for another outing, please, Netflix.
The Crawl isn’t the only thing worth speculating on regarding Stranger Things. Here are five spin-off ideas we think Netflix should pursue once the main story has wrapped up. Meanwhile, we’ve also looked at which characters are the most likely to die in Stranger Things’ fifth season. If you’re after less theory-based content, check out these five spooky sci-fi TV sagas you should stream while waiting for season 5 to arrive.