No season of Stranger Things has been without casualty, but the two major deaths at the end of the series’ third season are the biggest yet. Like, really big. (This is the part where we tell you there are major spoilers ahead regarding the ending of Stranger Things season 3.)
SPOILER WARNING: We’re not kidding, we are going to spoil the heck out of this season in the next paragraph.
First, Billy (Dacre Montgomery): A tragedy, but a death for a good cause. Billy spent the season possessed by the Mind Flayer, and in the final moments of the big battle, he regained his consciousness as Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) reminded him of the childhood memories she’d seen while doing some of her supernatural exploring earlier in the season. Billy remembered who he was, and he ultimately sacrificed himself to stop the Mind Flayer.
Billy was not a good dude — he pretty much spent the entirety of season 2 being a violent, abusive jerk — but after seeing how he became that way in Eleven’s glimpses into his past, it was satisfying seeing him tap into his humanity and realize what he needed to do for the greater good. He won’t exactly be missed — again, he was a real d-bag — but his abs might be, at least for the thirsty moms of Hawkins.
Second, and most devastating of all, Hopper (David Harbour). Yes, Hopper! We’ll pause here for a moment of silence, particularly for this season’s fabulous Tom Selleck mustache–patterned shirt combo.
OK, back to the saddest moment of the series — yes, even sadder than the flashbacks to Hopper’s daughter or Eleven’s past — when Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper locked eyes as they realized what had to be done to close the newest gateway to the Upside Down, which was hidden in the secret Russian bunker deep underneath the Starcourt Mall. Joyce had the power to press the button to close the door, but Hopper was standing next to the opening and would immediately be incinerated if she did.
Both Joyce and Hopper knew what would happen if she closed the gateway, but they also knew what would happen if they didn’t. And as Hawkins Police Chief, Hopper wants to protect the greater good — and ensure the safety of his daughter, Eleven. So he nodded to Joyce, knowing they’d never get to have dinner like they’d planned, and she pulled the metaphorical trigger.
Here’s the thing, though: We never saw what happened to Hopper after that. Joyce returned to the surface and broke the news to Elle (with a super-sad, wistful look), and subsequently gave her the practice heart-to-heart speech he’d written earlier in the season that turned out to be a lovely goodbye letter, filled with advice for her future — the one he ensured she’d have by sacrificing himself in that bunker. But what actually happened to him?
While the emotional ending would’ve played perfectly well if Hopper’s fate were final, this is Stranger Things — and a mid-credits scene revealed that maybe it wasn’t a death that we saw. Deep inside a Russian prison, two guards took a prisoner from his cell, making sure he was “not the American.” The American, hmmmm? Who could that be referring to?
Why, Hopper, of course. Think about it: when the feds finally got to Hawkins, the Russians had disappeared without a trace. How did that happen? It shouldn’t be too far-fetched of a leap to assume that maybe they took Hopper with them.
Though the ending of ST3 seemed quite permanent, with the Byers family and Eleven leaving town, the Duffer brothers have said that they’d envisioned four seasons for the series. Which means that season 3 might not be the end after all, and a fourth season, potentially, could include a discovery that Hopper is still alive and then trying to get him back from the Russian prison where he’s theoretically residing. Hypothetically.
Either way, this can’t be the end of Hopper and his exquisite dad bod — whether in flashback or in the flesh, Stranger Things wouldn’t be the same without him.
What did you think of the ending? Do you think it’s Hopper in that Russian prison? If so, do you think he’ll escape or will those resourceful Hawkins kids and their elder siblings, parents, and friends find their beloved Hopper and hatch a plan to rescue him? Tell us in the comments!