If you haven’t finished watching the third season of Stranger Things you should probably stop reading this article. We’re going to spoil the hell out of the show as we discuss this season and, more importantly, what we think should and will happen next season now that people have left, evaporated, and lost the ability to trade a nose bleed for heroism. Thanks, Russia!
Jason Tabrys: I know we have strong opinions on what went down and what’s coming, but can we at least agree that, while season three was strong, it also extended the show’s familiar premise to its natural end and that the events in the finale set up something new? That’s a good thing, creatively, for the show, I think.
Jessica Toomer: It depends. If you think emotional terrorism is, creatively, a good thing, then yes, the ending of season three marked an exciting new evolution in the storytelling of this show. These characters are growing up and the series needs to grow up with them. That’s the main takeaway I had from how this latest installment wrapped things up. But as someone who likes to milk the nostalgia for all it’s worth, it was tough to see the group separated and the fate of a certain character stamped with a big question mark.
Jason: Hopper. You mean Hopper. We slapped the spoiler warning on this sucker. Be free!
Jessica: It’s too painful to say just yet. But yes, that Hawaiian-shirt sporting sheriff’s ambiguous end has kept me up many a night. So let’s just put it out there. Is Hopper really gone?
Jason: They handled the after-effects of Hopper’s evaporation so well, setting up this chapter break and these character transitions. But I can’t fathom the Duffer Brothers ignoring the fist pump of a Hopper return. It’s a crowd-pleasing move and these guys know how to play to their fans (which isn’t a knock). Whether he’s back or not, however, there’s certainly going to be some kind of on-screen exploration of that question. I can see it consuming season 4. The big questions are: do they keep us waiting or are we going to see Hopper in a cell? And, also, how on earth are these kids going to the USSR to find Hopper? Are we Far From Homing or Police Academy: Mission To Moscowing? What if… what if they’re already there and Hawkins is actually a town in the Soviet Union made to look like a classic slice of Americana? As in the John Travolta/Arye Gross starring ’80s American film classic, The Experts. Whoa.
Jessica: You’re spiraling, man. But anyway, a field trip to the Motherland in the midst of the Cold War — feels appropriately 80s. I have no doubt Hopper’s still alive. We would’ve seen his body’s leftover remnants of goo staining that metal walkway if he hadn’t survived the explosion. But I think, as much as the Duffer Brothers love their fan-service, they like their plot twists more and what better red herring to tease us with than that post-credits scene setting up the ultimate misdirect? I’m calling it now, Hopper is not the “American” in Russia.
Jason: In the Upside Down, then? Trapped in another space, melded with the mall and locked in a Kay-Bee Toys in another dimension with only stale Sbarros to live on? Where is he!? Does he even have access to chips and salsa!?
Jessica: I’d like to imagine he’s enjoying an endless supply of USS Butterscotches at his own private Scoops Ahoy but alas, I think it’s more probable he’s pulled a Byers and gotten himself trapped in the Upside Down. That slit into the alternate dimension looked just big enough to fit a dad-bod through — three-inches big enough — and Hop’s got a better chance of surviving there than in a Russian prison. Those Commie bastards wouldn’t put up with his wisecracks and chain-smoking for too long. And it sets up a nice parallel to season one when Hop was the one rescuing Will from the Upside Down. Maybe all those spores he accidentally inhaled on that mission will help him avoid the curse of Barb?
Jason: Jim Hopper could never be Barb. His internet canonization is earned. But, I do agree that that is a viable scenario, though I’m unsure how the gang is going to rescue him with a de-powered Eleven.