Warning: This post contains tons of spoilers for Stranger Things 3.
Stranger Things 3 ended with a Marvel-like credits scene that teased not only the direction that season four might take but the survival of a certain fan-favorite character. With the Russians continuing their interest in locating the Upside Down — and perhaps weaponizing its Demogorgons — the biggest reveal of that post-credits clip came when one Russian guard referred to an unseen prisoner as simply “The American.” We have our theories on who that faceless patriot could be, so we’re placing bets on who the mysterious hostage is and how they factor into the show’s fourth season.
The American Is Sheriff Jim Hopper
Stranger Things 3 ended with a character death that shocked fans. Sheriff Jim Hopper — who had spent seasons babysitting this ragtag group of geeks while they ventured to an alternate universe, investigated secret government experiments, and busted covert Russian ops — sacrificed himself to destroy the machine underneath the Star Court Mall that was slowly opening the gate to the Upside Down. Losing the Hawaiian-shirted character should’ve caused fans to take the streets and riot, but there’s reason to believe Hopper might not be as dead as the show would like us to believe. First, we never witnessed Hopper kick the bucket, which is a red flag considering David Harbour is one of the biggest stars of the series. Second, we never saw the gory aftermath of the explosion (the machine should’ve turned Hopper’s innards to goo, but no intestines were coating the metal bridge Hopper was standing on when the blast hit). And third, Eleven’s powers mysteriously vanished right when she could’ve used them to discover what really happened to Hopper in his “final moments.” So it’s a safe bet that Hopper’s not truly gone, but is he the “American” in question? The Russian terminator the good sheriff does battle with throughout season three often refers to him as the “American,” which is why fans believe it might be Hopper in that cell. In fact, it’s that nickname that gives him the best odds of survival for season four.
The American Is Dr. Brenner
The big bad of season one, Dr. Brenner vanished after seemingly being killed by a Demogorgon, but he resurfaced in season two — or, at least, a hallucinated version of him did — as Eleven located her sister and found herself on the run. When she teamed up with Kali to track down Ray, a lab technician who performed shock therapy on her mother, she discovered “Papa” might actually be alive. It could’ve just been the desperate attempt to save his own hide, but Ray told Eleven he knew where Brenner was and could take her to him. Later, Kali uses her powers to conjure Brenner, who taunts Eleven, questioning why she never looked for him using her powers. We haven’t “seen” Brenner since, but the character feels like he still has a part to play in this story and Eleven deserves her final reckoning with the man who made her who she is. It would make sense in Brenner was the “American” in the Russian cell because it would answer a lingering question from season three: Just how did the Russians know about the Upside Down, and how did they know to build a weapon that could open the gate to that other world? They also knew to come to Hawkins, where the wall between our world and the Mind Flayer’s was weakest. These all seem like secrets that Brenner could leverage to save his life, were he captured and tortured by a foreign government.
The American Is Eleven’s Biological Father
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding Eleven’s origins remains her parentage. Season two explored her link to her mother Terry, a young woman who became involved in Brenner’s trials, unknowingly became pregnant, and had her baby stolen from her by the lab before Brenner caused her to go catatonic. Eleven experiences this by decoding the loop that Terry seems to be stuck in following her psychotic break (witnessing how her mother became involved with Brenner and his experiments), but she never learns who her true father is. Plenty of fans believe Brenner impregnated Terry to see if the abilities gained from the serums they were testing could be passed on naturally, but it’s entirely possible that Eleven had a different biological dad. Perhaps he was also involved in the experiments in some way and the Russians have somehow captured him, leading to their discovery of the Upside Down and Hawkins. It’d be nice to have that question of El’s paternity answered either way, with a new character introduced or Brenner returned, before the series ends.
The American Is Murray Bauman
Murray Bauman became an influential character in season two of Stranger Things, helping Jonathan Byers and Nancy Wheeler investigate the government lab responsible for Will’s disappearance and Eleven’s existence. He resurfaces in season three when Hopper and Joyce Byers turn to him for assistance in figuring out what the Russians are up to in Hawkins. He’s the only guy they know who speaks Russian and can translate for Alexie, the scientist they’ve captured. Murray ends up helping Joyce and Hopper destroy the machine opening the gate to the Upside Down, surviving the blast with Joyce and then going off the map three months after the destruction of the Star Court Mall. We don’t see Murray again, although fans could call his telephone number soon after the show dropped to hear a voicemail from him telling Joyce he found “something” she might be interested in. Maybe that something is news of Hop’s survival and imprisonment in Russia, or maybe that something has led the Russians to capture Murray themselves. After all, he’s got valuable information they’d want if they’re trying to open a path to that alternate universe in the Motherland.
The American Is A New Character
Stranger Things loves introducing fans to new characters who quickly become integral to the ongoing story. They did it with Bob Newby and Billy Hargrove and Robin. So, why wouldn’t they welcome a fresh face to the show’s fourth season, one that becomes a red herring to distract from the question of Hopper but also connects to Eleven, the Upside Down, and the ongoing conflict driving the action this time around? We won’t know more until next year, of course, but the theories shall continue.
‘Strangers Things 3’ is currently streaming on Netflix.