Stranger Things fans known not to take everything at face value. The Netflix sci-fi/horror series loves a good tease and the finale for Stranger Things season 3 was no exception, leaving us on a cliffhanger that may have opened the doors (or gates) for one big character death. Naturally, in the aftermath of the season’s release on the Fourth of July, all kinds of fan theories have sprouted surrounding the finale for Stranger Things season 3. Let’s dive into the Stranger Things season 3 fan theories.
Spoilers for Stranger Things season 3 below.
Hopper is Alive
There’s one thing that Stranger Things fans know: no body, no death. Or even if there is a body, it may be a fake cadaver created by the U.S. government to cover up their shady dealings. That was the case with Will Byers in season 1 of Stranger Things, that was the case with Eleven in season 2, and perhaps it could be the case for Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour) after the events of season 3. The finale saw Hopper nobly face death when Joyce (Winona Ryder) turns the key to close the gate to the Upside Down, vaporizing everyone in vicinity — supposedly. While we saw the Russian scientists close by get disintegrated into piles of human goo, there was curiously no trace of the Sheriff when Joyce ran over to where Hopper was standing, as one Redditor points out. Sure, he was standing much closer to the machine than the scientists, who were also wearing Hazmat suits, but that would probably not incinerate him completely, right?
And then there’s the issue of the musical cue. Another Reddit post points out that the song playing over Hopper’s emotional letter to El is a Peter Gabriel cover of Davie Bowie’s “Heroes” — the same song that played in the season 1 episode when Will’s fake body was found in the quarry. The song usage couldn’t be an accident, and could perhaps be the creators Matt and Ross Duffer subtly hinting that this death is a fakeout too.
That’s not the last clue. One piece of viral marketing allows viewers to call Murray Bauman’s (Brett Gelman) phone number shown in Episode 6, which leads to a voicemail from the paranoid conspiracy theorist who mentions that he has an “update” for Joyce that’s “not good or bad, but it’s something.” Could this update have to do with Hopper’s whereabouts? But if he weren’t incinerated, where could Hopper be? Here a couple theories.
Hopper is in the Upside Down
The biggest theory is that Hopper somehow ended up getting blown back through the gate into the Upside Down. This would fit with the musical cue reference — in which a character thought to be dead was actually stuck in the Upside Down. And it would be a fitting full-circle journey for Hopper: the character who has rescued others from the Upside Down in the past is now stuck there himself.
But this also presents quite a problem for season 4: Eleven’s lost her powers and will likely be unable to save Hopper if the group do discover that he is stuck in the Upside Down. Could the American hostage in the Russian facility teased in the post-credits stinger be the key to this?
Hopper is the American
There’s another theory that Hopper is the “American” that the Russians refer to in the post-credits stinger, which shows some intimidating Russian military officials picking a hostage to be thrown and fed to a Demadog that they have kept hostage. Perhaps the explosion following the gate’s closure just knocked Hopper unconscious so that he could be whisked away by Russian operatives, or even more ludicrously, perhaps Hopper was blown through the gate and came out on the Russian side where he was captured. It’s all possible, and even more so since Harbour himself hinted that he is “behind the door.” But there’s one more theory that could be likely.
If Not Him, Then Who Could Be the American?
The biggest theory is Dr. Brenner, Eleven’s other father figure and the lead scientist responsible for the gate to the Upside Down getting opened in the first place, is the American being held hostage by the Russians in the mysterious facility. That’s possibly how the Russians found out about the Upside Down in the first place, and why they keep him around to further research the alternate dimension. This would tie up a thread that was revealed in Season 2, when Eleven and Kali learned from Ray Caroll that Dr. Brennan was alive — later confirmed by the Duffer Brothers and executive producer Shawn Levy.
How could this all lead up to season 4? Well, my theory is that Hopper is stuck in the Upside Down, but with Eleven power-less, she has to turn to her first “Papa” and spring Dr. Brenner out of Russian jail to get to the Upside Down once again. Hire me, Netflix.
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