When we saw the third season of Strange thingsWe scratched our heads for a few things. For example, why did Elven's powers leave them? Are there still rats in Hawkins? And how will Max explain Billy's bizarre death to her parents ?! Most of all, this was a much more devastating question that we would never have thought of: is Sheriff Jim Hopper dead?
Well, on February 14th, Netflix answered this question with an intense teaser. Jim actually lives. (TBH, we thought he wasn't dead. The real shock is that he's now bald.) The short clip shows him working with fellow prisoners in Russia while the armed authorities monitor them. Understandably, Jim looks really depressed, but before we get any further clues as to what happens, the camera turns off. Of course, this raises more questions, but at least we have a taste of what's to come. So until we get another clue to season four, let's check in episode three of what led Hopper to his big moment of life and death.
In season three, most characters work in four different groups: Will, Eleven, Max, Lucas, and Mike; Steve, Dustin, Robin and Erica; Nancy and Jonathan; and Hopper and Joyce. The latter duo decides to find out why the magnets on Joyce's fridge suddenly stop working. At the end of the season, all groups come together and pass on their individual discoveries and can put everything together. In essence, a group of evil Russian scientists tried to reopen the gate to the upside down in a secret laboratory under the new shopping center in Hawkins. Yes, it is a lot.
Hopper, Joyce and Murray, the conspiracy theorist, decide to go to the laboratory to turn off the large laser beam that opens the gate itself. Just when Hopper and Joyce want to turn the two keys that are required to switch off the laser, an Arnold Schwarzenegger-like super soldier arrives and knocks out everyone's favorite sheriff. Even though Hopper defeats him, it's too late – the laser is about to open the upside down, and Joyce has to make the decision to turn the keys, even though she knows that Hop is evaporating. Cue all tears.
The next thing we know is three months later and Joyce is moving her sons (and eleven!) To a brand new city for a fresh start. Hopper is considered dead since his remains have never been found, which makes sense since he was presumably turned into dust. What is important here is that we have never seen Hop die since Joyce turned away at the last second and the explosion blocked our view. Despite this incredibly warm tribute to Hop in the last episode, this was clearly a point for him to be alive.
What's more is the postcredit scene in episode 8, which has almost confirmed that Sheriff Hopper is still kicking. The footage took us to a prison in a very snowy Russia (the same place we saw in the fourth season teaser) where two soldiers walk down a row of cell doors looking for a particular prisoner. One of them opens a door and his partner says "No, not the American" and then points to the next one in line. They drag this poor prisoner into the basement, where they lock him up in a cage with the OG Demogorgon. Brutally.
What was most important about this scene, of course, was the mention of "The American". Sure, technically speaking, it could have been any old American citizen who was locked up there. However, the show particularly emphasized that "the American" is what the Russian super soldier who has been chasing Hopper throughout the season has always referred to him – never by his real name or by "the sheriff" or any other identifier. Hop's survival was pretty much accepted, but it's nice to have an affirmation.
Needless to say, season four cannot come early enough.