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Warning: This post contains spoilers for the third season of Stranger Things.
Hands up, everyone who spent their Fourth of July at the Starcourt Mall. Season 3 of the blockbuster Netflix series, Stranger Things, premiered over the holiday weekend and immediately became the talk of Twitter. Picking up one year later after the events of Season 2, the new batch of eight episodes pitted our youthful heroes against a series of enemies ranging from mindflaying monsters and Russian invaders to workplace misogyny and their own hormones. They emerge from their many challenges triumphant… but not without some heavy losses. With the fourth — and possibly final — year looming in 2020, here are the burning questions we’ll be pondering until our return to Hawkins.
Is Hopper six feet under?
It’s the death that had social media crying into their cans of New Coke: Hawkins’s scruff-and-gruff police chief, Jim Hopper (David Harbour), seemingly sacrificed himself in a town-saving, mall-destroying, Upside Down gate-shutting explosion. That action was the one moment of unabashed heroism from a character who otherwise wasn’t all that heroic this year. Hopper’s personality shift from adorably grouchy to unpleasantly angry was noted by many viewers, who pointed out that it made his season-long courtship of Joyce (Winona Ryder) seem the opposite of romantic. One could argue that his passing actually benefits their relationship long term, as it gives her yet another reason to put Hawkins in the rearview, while remembering the better version of him. The same goes for Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who can re-read the heartfelt letter he wrote to her and push aside the thought of how he manipulated her boyfriend, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), into lying his way into a break-up.
But let’s be honest… no one outside of Hawkins actually believes that Hopper is gone for good, right? Besides the lack of a body, a post-credits scene all but confirms that Harbour — whose typically active Twitter account has been quiet of late — will return. Jumping from small-town America to a Soviet Union prison, the clip features a pair of guards escorting an unlucky man to death by Demogorgon. Sharing the same cell block as that walking dinner is an American prisoner, whose name almost certainly rhymes with “bopper.” Since we know that the Duffer Brothers love them some ‘80s movies, Season 4 could go one of two ways. In one scenario, it’s 1985’s Runaway Train, with Hopper breaking out of prison and riding the Trans-Siberian Railway back to Moscow. In another, it’s 1988’s The Rescue where Mike and his pals go on a behind-enemy-lines mission. Or maybe NeverEnding Story super-fan Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) can just summon Falkor the Luckdragon?
How will Eleven’s powers return?
Here’s one upside to Eleven losing her telekinetic powers: She’ll save a bundle on Kleenex. Robbed of her abilities by the Mind Flayer, she’s now facing a future as — gasp! — an ordinary teenager. But Mike speaks for all of us when he off-handedly remarks, “They’ll come back.” Sure, he’s technically talking about the Byers family, who are moving, with Eleven, to another town. You don’t need to be psychic to know that he’s really referring to her otherworldly abilities. One likely source of information would be her lost sister, Kali (Linnea Berthelsen), last seen running from the Pittsburgh P.D. in Season 2. That particular plot thread was left dangling in Season 3, but would presumably be part of any final season fabric.
Another potential solution to Eleven’s power problem lies closer to home. Like literally in the next room. Many online are convinced that Will (Noah Schnapp) has powers from the extensive amount of time he’s spent in the Upside Down — powers that have yet to come online, perhaps because of the Mind Flayer’s dampening abilities. With that particular enemy defeated, though, Will could become a real-life wizard and cast a spell that restores his friend’s abilities. We’ll roll a D20 to make that happen.
Have we seen the last of the Upside Down?
It’s been a reliable source of strange things for three seasons now, but maybe the destruction of Starcourt Mall and the death of the Mind Flayer means that the Hawkins-adjacent gate to the Upside Down has been locked for good? With the Byers family relocating to as-yet unspecified new territory, a change of scenery could also mean a change of adversary — and that’s always welcome when a show is getting up there in years. Certainly, we don’t need another season finale that’s all about closing a super-sized portal.
That said, the existence of a Demogorgon in the Russian penal system implies that there’s another access point out there somewhere. And that’s a good thing, too, because it means Hopper has a chance of escape that doesn’t involve tunneling out of prison, Shawshank style. A sizable segment of Twitter is convinced that the police chief jumped into the Upside Down to avoid being blown to bits. And maybe, just maybe, the Hawkins door was left open wide enough — three inches to be exact — for him to pop back through. Our world just turned upside down.
Will Steve ever find true love?
Good hair? Don’t care. That’s pretty much where one-time King of Hawkins High, Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), stands these days vis-à-vis the ladies. Since his senior year romance with Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) imploded, the closest thing Steve has had to a rebound relationship is his bromance with Dustin. And it’s Dustin, by the way, who nudges Steve off the bench and in the direction of his totally awesome Scoops Ahoy co-worker, Robin (Maya Hawke), whose wry cynicism is the perfect emotional (and comic) complement to his earnest goofiness.
But that’s why you shouldn’t trust your love life to a 14-year-old. In one of Season 3’s best scenes, Robin comes out to Steve, dashing any hopes that this Westley has found his Buttercup. (Did we mention that Cary Elwes is the Mayor of Hawkins? As we wished.) But don’t worry — Robin isn’t going anywhere. For one thing, Hawke has emerged as Season 3’s breakout star, which means her Season 4 return is a foregone conclusion. More importantly, she and Steve have begun a beautiful friendship where they can swap movie recs and critique each other’s taste in girls. That sure sounds like happily ever after to us.
Stranger Things is currently streaming on Netflix.
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