Stranger Things Season 3's Ending, Credits Scene, And Season 4 Theories Explained
Stranger Things 3 spoilers ahead!
Stranger Things Season 3 is out now on Netflix, having arrived in full on July 4. If you've already made your way through all of the new episodes and are wondering what's next, be sure to check out our guide to all of the Easter eggs and references that you might have missed. As for the events that took place, and in particular how the ending unfolded, read on for an explanation of what it could all mean for the future of the show.
For such a funny, colorful season of Netflix's hit show Stranger Things, Season 3 ended on a series of pretty massive bummers. All hope isn't lost, though, as Stranger Things 3's ending also gave us some hints about where Season 4 might go.
Spoiler warning: Obviously, we're discussing Stranger Things 3's ending in this article. You've been warned.
Season 3 ended with a three-month time jump directly after the events of the Battle of Starcourt Mall, when the gang faced off directly against Billy and the giant Mind Flayer. Dr. Owens, who you may remember from Season 2, arrived just in time to contribute absolutely nothing, while at some point in the time jump, Mayor Kline was arrested, likely for taking bribes from the Russians. And Hawkins appears to have become somewhat infamous, thanks to the frequent deaths, government cover-ups, and generally nefarious goings-on that take place there.
All that said, Season 3's ending left us with some big questions.
Is Hopper Really Dead?
As far as the residents of Hawkins are concerned, Chief Hopper died in the fire at Starcourt Mall. In reality, he was present down in the Russian lab below the mall when Joyce hit the failsafe on the Russians' Upside-Down machine, frying everyone in the room in huge bouts of lightning.
However, there are a couple of clues that indicate that actor David Harbour will likely return in Stranger Things Season 4, whenever that might happen. For one thing, we didn't see him die--usually a sign that a character isn't actually dead. In addition, Season 3 featured a post-credits teaser scene with another hint:
What happened in the post-credits scene?
The scene that began shortly after the credits started rolling showed a Russian prison in which multiple prisoners are being held. The soldiers approach one door, but one tells the other "Not the American." They move to a different door instead, pull out a hapless prisoner, and throw him in a cage where a Demogorgon--the monster from Stranger Things Season 1--emerges.
The American almost certainly refers to Hopper, who'd been called the same by the Russians earlier in Season 3. It's likely Hopper escaped the explosion under Starcourt, but was somehow captured by Russians in the process.
How did Hopper survive?
That raises the obvious question: How could Hopper have possibly escaped from the massive explosion in the lab that burned everyone else present to a crisp? There's a pretty big hint when you watch the scene: As he realizes he won't be able to escape back the way he came in, Hopper glances pointedly toward the door into the Upside-Down that the Russians' machine is just barely keeping ajar.
If we had to guess--and we do, so here goes--we'd say it's likely that Hopper escaped into the Upside-Down. If Hawkins isn't the only place where the Russians were able to open a door into the alternate dimension--which their captured Demogorgon would seem to indicate--it's possible they found Hopper in the Upside-Down and threw him in the gulag.
Of course, there are other possibilities--we haven't seen Eleven's "father," Dr. Brenner, in a long time, and it's possible he's still alive. But all signs point to "the American" in this case being Hopper.
Why did the Byers and Eleven move away?
Business on Main Street might be booming again since the mall shut down, but Hawkins still isn't such a happy place for the Byers family. Too much has happened there, from Will getting taken by the Demogorgon and possessed by the Mind Flayer to Bob's death by Demodog in Season 2. Hopper revealed that Joyce had put her house up on the market for sale during Season 3, and although she might have stayed if things had turned out differently between the two characters, this was no happy ending for Joyce.
With Hopper "dead," the Byers have absorbed Eleven into their family, which means she has to go with them, leaving Mike behind. And wherever they're headed, it's likely out of walkie-talkie range.
Will Eleven get her powers back?
It's not clear exactly what sapped Eleven's powers at the end of Season 3. Maybe it had something to do with the chunk of the Mind Flayer that burrowed around inside her leg, or something that happened during her confrontation with Billy and the Mind Flayer itself. Or it could relate to the fact that the door into the Upside-Down was finally closed at the end of the episode, although that doesn't quite match up, given how her powers have worked in the past.
More importantly, will she ever get her powers back? Mike seems to think so, and he's likely right. Taking them away at this point makes sense--it will make for a decent Season 4 character arc to watch her slowly regain her abilities, and besides, if she could still put a blindfold on and go questing for anyone she wants to spy on, the question of Hopper's survival would be way too easily answered.
Will we ever see Eleven's "sister" and her merry band of punks again?
Will there be a Stranger Things Season 4 (and beyond)?
Netflix hasn't officially announced it yet, but Stranger Things producer and director Shawn Levy seems pretty certain there will be a Season 4. As he told Collider last year, "I will say we have a good sense of stuff that happens in Season 4. Season 4 is definitely happening. There’s very much the possibility of a season beyond that one, that’s currently undecided."
We can't wait.