This Stranger Things Fan Theory Explains How Hopper Is Alive in Season Four
When Season Three of Stranger Things wrapped up, it looked like the Duffer Brothers might’ve finally delivered a much-needed, shocking blow to the show’s huggable OG cast. In the season finale’s boss battle, the mysterious Russian machine explodes—vaporizing a ton of bad-guy minions, but also, it seemed, Police Chief Jim Hopper too.
Top Story: How Rich Is Sharon Cuneta?
The twist ending didn’t last for long: When Netflix released a preview of Season Four in March, we saw Hopper alive and well, working away on a Russian railroad. Now, the question is: What the hell is he doing there? Since that teaser debuted, many have speculated that Hopper will break bad—we’ll get to that shortly—but David Harbour, who plays the chief in the series, just gave us our best idea of what to expect going forward. In an interview with Deadline, the actor hinted that we’ll see Hopper “painted in a bit of a darker palette” in the next season.
"Each season we get to see a different side of him, and last season it was sort of wacky," Harbour said. "I loved playing that, [but] now I think he's painted in a bit of a darker palette and he's able to express these really deep things about him that we haven't really known yet. It's been hinted at, but we don't really know."
Harbour’s hint backs up what fans have been speculating for months: Hopper will turn on the Hawkins gang and become the villain of Season Four—which honestly sounds way more compelling than another slobbering Upside Down beast. As for how Hopper will go from hero to ready to lay the smackdown on Finn and Dustin, fans think it’ll (what else) be the doing of some classic ’80s tropes: Brainwashing or cloning. Reddit user Conor_mc7 theorized the former nearly a year ago:
Ok so since we never see Hopper die on screen, this will be about him being alive in season 4. I know if he survived, it would ruin his sacrifice moment but it could open some interesting doors for season 4. What if Hopper IS the American in the Russian base? He could be tortured or brainwashed to the point he remembers nothing, makes his way to Hawkins somehow and doesn't remember El. That could be a heartbreaking storyline, or even if was brainwashed to be a Russian spy, one of the gangs strongest ally's would be come their strongest enemy and they would all struggle fighting against Hopper due to their emotional connection to him.
As for the cloning possibility—which would see an alternate version of Hopper become a Ivan Drago-esque powerhouse—Screenrant theorized that the Mind Flayer would construct a clone of the detective. That way, the clone could be an on-Earth acolyte for Upside Down villainery, similar to Billy’s arc in Season Three.
Back in March, while speaking at the Liverpool Comic Con, Harbour told fans that Season Four of Stranger Things would dig deep into Hopper's mysterious past:
In season two, Eleven goes into the basement of the cabin and there’s five boxes, one of which has Brenner’s stuff from Hawkins Lab, one of which says ‘Dad,’ one of which says ‘Vietnam.’ One says “New York.” So there are these three things that we’ve established in the season that if we don’t pay off, it means that they’re bad writers. And the Duffer Brothers are very good writers ... It’s one of the things that I’ve known since the first frame of the first shot, and we haven’t expressed it yet. And finally we’re gonna express it in a big way. It’s my favorite thing about him that you guys don’t know about him yet, but it has to do with these backstories of New York, Vietnam, and dad. And I’m really excited for you guys to know more about that, and it relates, of course, to things he’s doing with Eleven and Joyce and things like that.
It's unclear how 'Vietnam,' 'New York,' and 'Dad' relate to Hopper's imprisonment in Russia, but it's possible that cloning or brainwashing could somehow be rooted in his dark past. And, given Harbour has confirmed that his character will be darker in this season, whether it's via cloning or brainwashing, it seems like Stranger Things is setting up Hopper to be its dark new villain.
Unfortunately, Stranger Things Season Four didn't wrap up filming before the global COVID-19 shutdown, so the release—originally intended for early 2021—is up in the air. Though, the writers of Stranger Things just posted a picture of the completed Season Four script, so hopefully production will resume soon.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.