WARNING: This post contains spoilers for Stranger Things season three.
Stranger Things fans, prepare yourselves because it’s likely we’ll be speculating about the fate of a certain Hawaiian-shirt wearing sheriff until the show returns (hopefully in 2020).
Season three of the Duffer Brother’s 80s sci-fi experiment ended with Jim Hopper sacrificing his dad bod for the greater good, destroying a machine the Russians had built to unlock the Upside Down. Hopper was in the lab when Joyce Byers blew the drill to smithereens with Hop seemingly killed in the aftermath. Except, we never saw the good sheriff’s body, which almost certainly would’ve turned to goo and painted the walls of the lab as previous victims of the blast had. We were never even given a funeral, or a chance to truly mourn the character, an odd storytelling choice for a figure as integral to this show as Hopper was.
If TV has taught us anything, it’s that a character isn’t truly dead if they die off-screen, so the choice to have Hopper meet his demise off-camera was already suspect, but now star David Harbour is adding fuel to the fire through, what else, Instagram.
Harbour, who spoke with us about the show’s latest season before its premiere, has kept coy about the fate of Hopper and what his death or disappearance might mean for Eleven and the rest of the gang. He’s spoken about change and moving on, and posted his heartfelt thanks for fans who have loved the character and the show these last few years, but he’s never verified that Hopper did in fact die. Neither have any of his castmates.
Now, Harbour is giving us even more reason to hope that the small-town cop might not be as dead as we feared and he’s doing it through the ‘gram.
A few sleuths on Twitter have noticed that Harbour has been changing up his profile picture on Instagram every day this week to match the phone number that plays a crucial part in the post-credits speculation of season four’s storyline. If you’ll recall, the show gave us a quick glimpse of a Russian prison, where guards where sacrificing inmates to a captured Demogorgon. When choosing the creature’s next meal, one guard tells the other, “Not the American,” a nod fans think means Hopper is being held captive in the Motherland.
Even more reason to believe Hopper might have escaped the grim reaper is the voicemail fans can listen to should they give Murray Bauman’s number a call. The journalist who helped Hopper and Joyce take on the Russians this season revealed his contact info in an earlier episode and if fans dial his number, (618) 625-8313, you’ll hear this message:
“Hi, you have reached the residence of Murray Bauman. Mom, if this is you, please hang up and call me between the hours of 5 and 6 pm as previously discussed, okay? If this is Joyce, Joyce, thank you for calling, I have been trying to reach ya. I have an update. It’s about, well, it’s probably best if we speak in person. It’s not good or bad, but it’s something …”
We’ve wondered if that “update” might be connected to Hopper in some way and now, Harbour is forcing us to obsess even more over the connection. He’s changed his profile picture to a 618 area code over the past few days which seems to match up with Murray’s number and tie to the character’s voicemail.
Does that mean he’s confirming Hop is, in fact, the “American” in the Russian cell? Maybe. We have other theories as to who the poor hostage might be but Harbour likes to mess with us, and we doubt the Duffer Brothers would let him confirm or deny his character’s fate before the show’s next season airs.
Still, if Hop was truly dead, why would the actor who plays him torture us with this social media red herring after the promo tour for season three was already done? Hop’s a chain-smoking grump, but he’s not heartless.