In Jim Hopper’s letter to Eleven in the Season 3 finale of Netflix’s Stranger Things, Hopper wrote, “I know you’re getting older, growing, changing.” Just like Eleven, all of the kids are all getting older and growing (most noticeably, Mike). Just like the kids, Stranger Things is changing.
*Warning: This article will include major spoilers. You’ve been warned.*
As I’ve said in previous reviews, Stranger Things is an extremely fun and enjoyable show that successfully balancers nostalgia with science-fiction and horror. The Season 3 finale was a great ending to a delightful third season. The final scene depicts the Byers’ family packing up and moving out of Hawkins (FINALLY!) to start a new life. Joining them is Eleven, who lost her father, Hopper, when Joyce shut down the gate room, which disintegrated everyone in the room including Hopper.
Let’s just skip to the elephant in the room for Season 4. (Season 4 has not been officially confirmed, but it’s a stone-cold lock to happen.)
Is Hopper alive?
That’s the million-dollar question. There are a few ways to tackle this. You either believe a) Hopper is alive, b) He’s is dead, but will be brought back to life or c) Hopper is dead.
How is Hopper still alive? There are a few clues that support the idea that our beloved Police Chief of Hawkins is still breathing. Look at his adopted daughter, Eleven, as someone who we thought was dead by was instead trapped in the Upside Down. When Dr. Owens enters the gate room, the gate to the Upside Down is still open. Just like Eleven, there’s a chance Hopper made his way into the Upside Down and is trapped there, which is the most likely option of the “Hopper is alive” theories.
Then, there’s Hopper’s letter. The letter was beautifully written and so heartfelt that it brought a tear to my eye. I urge you to reread it again and when you do, you’ll see that a few sentences are clues to his whereabouts.
- “I’ve been stuck in one place. In a cave, you might say.” – The Upside Down?
- “But, please, if you don’t mind, for the sake of your poor old dad, keep the door open three inches.” – See the photo above.
Does this mean Eleven has to rescue Hopper in the Upside Down? Maybe. Plus, we never see Hopper’s body when he “dies.” He doesn’t vaporize onscreen. It goes back to the old saying, “Never found the body” TV trope. If the viewer doesn’t see the death, it tends to mean that the person might still be alive.
Then, there’s the post-credits scene in Russia. Two soldiers are walking through cells when they come across a first door. One says, “No, not the American.” And they go to a second door and take a Russian prisoner down to feed to the Demogorgon. Is this American, Hopper? It might be, but I believe it’s Dr. Brenner, who we learned is still alive in Season 2.
Now, there’s Option B. Hopper is dead, but he’s going to be brought back to life. Huh? Does Eleven now have the ability to raise the dead? Last time I checked, she doesn’t have that power. However, there’s an ’80s pop culture reference that was seen in the third season of Stranger Things that could be the key to Hopper’s resurrection. That reference is Back to the Future.
Great Scott! We can go back in time to save Hopper! I don’t believe the kids of Hawkins have a DeLorean, but that doesn’t mean time travel can’t play a part in the show. Notice how the final two scenes are edited. When Eleven reads the letter during the montage, the kids are seen saying goodbye to each other and drive out of Hawkins. However, when she finishes the letter, Eleven brings out her stuff to the truck and the kids say goodbye to each other. Perhaps this editing is a clue about time travel and Season 4 will explain that time travel is possible and necessary in order to save Hopper.
Finally, the last possibility is that Hopper is dead and not returning. Fans would most certainly be upset if Hopper was dead, but his death would be of the utmost significance and shape the remaining 1-2 seasons of the show. Once again, look at Hopper’s letter to Eleven when he says, “I don’t want things to change. So I think maybe that’s why I came in here, to try and make stop that change. To turn back the clock. To make things go back to how they were. But I know that’s naive. It’s just not how life works.” The themes of change and growing up were hammered down in Season 3. Things changes whether we like it or not. Hopper could be dead and whether we like it or not, there may be nothing we can do about it. That’s life.
Even if Hopper is dead, I don’t see David Harbour leaving the show entirely. Harbour is too important and valuable to remove from the show completely. Maybe Hopper will be used in flashbacks all next season or perhaps he’s some ghost dad from heaven. Dead or alive, Hopper’s future remains unknown but his impact on the show will never be forgotten.