Netflix's announcement teaser for Stranger Things 4 might be short, but fans are already reading a lot into those precious few seconds of video. The preview — if you can even call it that — simply shows the signature title art being desiccated by what look to be vines from the Upside Down, as a clock hangs on a tree and ticks down in the distance.
The inclusion of a clock here isn't random; the show's official social media feeds have been teasing the significance of a similar timepiece for days now, which means that it will probably be a major factor in the season ahead ... somehow. The only question is, what exactly are they trying to hint at here, and why are we still hearing phantom tick-tocks for hours after watching this thing?
Some fans believe the clock could signal another homage to Back to the Future. That film got some major love in Stranger Things 3's movie theater scene, when Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Erica (Priah Ferguson) took Steve (Joe Keery) and Robin (Maya Hawke) into a showing of the pic. However, the actual plot points of film had little impact on the events of Stranger Things 3, so perhaps Stranger Things 4 aims to remedy that and borrow more from Doc and Marty McFly's time-traveling techniques. Manipulating the time-space continuum would certainly help with the problem of resurrecting you know who — if he's even dead, that is — as well as restoring Eleven's (Millie Bobby Brown) telekinetic powers. And who knows what those crazy Russians are actually up to in that mid-credits lab scene.
maybe the reason back to the future played a part in stranger things season 3 wasn't just because it was released the same year it was set, but time travel is a major aspect of season 4...I mean the new clock teasers are inch resting— 𝖈𝖆𝖆 (@fullsuns) September 30, 2019
However, it's also just as possible that the clock is telling us that there'll be a race against real-time ahead, with characters having to rush to save someone or something before it's too late — and again, here would be another chance to dig back into the Hopper (David Harbour) story because, yeah, that's all anyone really cares about right now.
Look at the pfp, i see a body on the clock, maybe it means something like they have a certain amount of time to save Hopper, I bet El will do her bindfold trick and find out that he is alive— Conor (@MUMindset) September 30, 2019
Other fans have been having a Man-in-the-Moon-style revelation in the wake of this mystery clock business and think the teaser is telling us that someone, probably Hopper, is literally stuckin a clock and needs to be rescued. Hey, stranger things have happened, right?
Of course, it could just be that the teaser is signaling another jump in time. The first season of Stranger Things began in November 1983, while Stranger Things 2 took place in October 1984 and Stranger Things 3 moved the action ahead to July 1985. Those have just been shy of one-year intervals between each, which would make the logical timeline for Season 4 to be set somewhere in early 1986.
If the new season is moving to 1986, and this clock has nothing to do with time-travel, perhaps the clock is hinting at another major pop culture influence for Stranger Things 4. The 1986 film Labyrinth could prove to be an elemental influence on the new season. Like Stranger Things, Labyrinth takes place in a wild alternate dimension with creepy creatures and dangers untold. And it has a similar overall arc, as the central character has to thrust herself into this unknown dimension to fend off the hideous beasts within and save her little brother. Perhaps most tellingly, the character is also under a time crunch, which is signified by a clock hanging on — you guessed it — a tree branch.
It's just conjecture, for now, but perhaps when the Stranger Things 4 teaser tells us, "We're not in Hawkins anymore," it's because we'll be visiting a very different realm of the Upside Down this time, with a few more puzzles and mind tricks than what we've seen before in the series. That'd be one way to keep it interesting, no? Here's to hearing that nagging tick-tock-tick-tock sound in the back of your head until we find out.
Stranger Things Seasons 1-3 are now streaming on Netflix.