Stranger Things dropped a surprise teaser on Valentine’s Day along with a big reveal: Jim Hopper is alive, and he’s in Russia. So, what does this mean for season 4? Stranger Things season 3 left many loose threads that fans have been desperately trying to put together since it’s unknown when season 4 will arrive. By the end of season 3, the new and improved Mind Flayer had been defeated again, Eleven was left without powers, the Byers (and Eleven) moved out of Hawkins, and Hopper was killed – or so was believed.
There has been a lot of secrecy around Stranger Things season 4, with only one announcement teaser released back in September 2019, which featured the series’ logo and a big four that suddenly appeared in the Upside Down, teasing that “we’re not in Hawkins anymore”. Since then, there has been a lot of speculation around where the new season will be set in (Russia? the Upside Down?), if it will feature time-travel, and what truly happened to Hopper. Now, after months of countless theories and even some fans losing hope on David Harbour’s return to the series, Stranger Things has confirmed that Hopper is alive.
A new teaser for season 4 revealed that Hopper survived the explosion at the underground Russian lab in Hawkins at the end of season 3 and is now a prisoner in Russia. A mid-credits scene in Stranger Things season 3 finale showed that the Russians have an American prisoner in a base in Kamchatka, and the teaser confirmed that Hopper is that prisoner – and here’s what this means for season 4.
Of course, the first question around Hopper’s survival is how it happened. In season 3’s finale, titled “The Battle of Starcourt”, Hopper, Joyce, and Murray infiltrated the Russian base in order to close the gate to the Upside Down. As Hopper and Joyce were preparing to shut the machine down, Grigori (also known as “the Russian Terminator”) arrived and fought Hopper. The two ended up next to the machine, with Hopper throwing Grigori into it, killing him instantly and creating an electrical barrier that blocked Hopper’s path. With no way out, he nodded to Joyce to close the gate, which caused an explosion and disintegrated all those near the machine. However, Hopper’s body (or what should have been left of it) was nowhere to be found. The mid-credits scene gave fans hope for Hopper’s return, and it paid off in the end.
Now, many viewers have pointed out that Hopper wasn’t where he was supposed to be seconds before the machine exploded. In the moments between Joyce closing her eyes and turning the keys and the machine exploding, Hopper wasn’t on his spot. Many believe that he jumped through the gate and into the Upside Down, while others are sure he found a way out at the last minute, and hid in some sort of safe zone. If Hopper got out through the gate, that would mean there’s so much more to the gates than just being doors to the Upside Down, as they could also have the potential to transport a person to a completely different place – most likely one where a gate is also open. If Hopper managed to hide in a safe zone inside the lab, this means he was found not long after by other Russian scientists, and as he was wearing one of their uniforms, they could have mistaken him for one of theirs and took him with them, as they surely had an evacuation plan ready in case they were caught.
The Russians’ plans will depend a lot on how they got a hold of Hopper. The Russians could see in Hopper someone they can use to get information about Hawkins and the experiments that have taken place there, as well as about test subjects like Eleven, who have displayed different special abilities. He could also be turned into a test subject and thus be part of the Russians’ experiments – after all, they continue to experiment on the Upside Down, as they have a Demogorgon of their own, meaning they managed to open at least one gate. Or, simply, Hopper could be a regular prisoner at a labor camp, and the Russians have no plans for him other than keeping him captive.
Season 3’s mid-credits scene made it clear that the Russians are not done with their plans after their lab underneath Starcourt Mall was taken down, as they continue experimenting on the other side of the world – but Hopper being the American means they will be even more important in the upcoming season. Given that Hopper is a main character in Stranger Things, season 4 will surely spend a lot of time in Russia, following Hopper’s journey there as well as what they’re doing at the Kamchatka base. Hopefully, this will also answer the big mystery of why the Russians are doing all these experiments and what they expect to gain from all of this.
The other big question around Hopper being the American prisoner is how he will go back to Hawkins. With Eleven now powerless, it will be hard for the Hawkins group to know that he’s alive, unless Eleven regains her powers and can track him down (maybe even coming across with Dr. Brenner in the process). Hopper being on the other side of the world opens the door for Eleven (and possibly the Byers) to travel all the way to Russia to save him and bring him back, more so if she regains her powers. Another option could be the gate itself: if it does work as more than an entrance to the Upside Down, Hopper could be brought back through it as well, with the help of the Hawkins squad, maybe even Dr. Owens too.
It’s also possible that all the action in Stranger Things season 4 will take place in Russia rather than Hawkins, as teased in the announcement video, which would also mean at least part of the crew form Hawkins will be present there. Details around Stranger Things season 4 continue to be a mystery, and while the reveal of Hopper being alive seems like it solved one big mystery, it only ended up raising more questions. What’s for sure, though, is that Hopper’s return won’t be an easy one, and it will take the combined efforts of the whole group to get him home safely – and deal with all the threats this new season throws their way, both human (the Russians) and supernatural.
Next: Stranger Things’ Original Plan Was Very Different