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What happened to Hopper at the end of Stranger Things 3? Is he in the new season?

We go over where Stranger Things left off with Hopper and if he’s in season 4.

David Harbour attends Netflix’s “Stranger Things” season 4 premiere at Netflix Brooklyn on May 14, 2022 in Brooklyn, New York. Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

In the three years since audiences last visited the town of Hawkins, fans have formulated theories as to what would be next in store for Stranger Things Season 4. Aside from Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and the rest of the crew, fans have also wondered exactly what happened to Hopper (David Harbour) since his last appearance. After the end of Season 3 teased an “American” prisoner in Russia, hints at Hopper’s backstory could shed light on exactly how he returns in the newest season.

Stranger Things 4: What happened to Hopper?

After Stranger Things Season 3 ended with the Battle at Starcourt Mall, Hopper had seemingly sacrificed himself in order to close the portal to the Upside Down. The rest of the crew in Hawkins and the town itself surely believed it, but upon a closer look, there may have been hints that foretold Hopper’s eventual return.

Right before Joyce (Winona Ryder) destroys the machine underneath Starcourt Mall, we see Hopper standing just to the left in clear view. But in another shot when viewers see the machine malfunctioning, Hopper is suddenly nowhere to be seen. From a greater point of view, eagle-eyed viewers will notice that there is a ladder leading down from the machine’s platform in the lower-left corner.

Given the fight taking place in the scene and the stakes at play, it is arguably a “blink and you’ll miss it” observation.

When Joyce turns the keys to shut down the machine the screen turns to black for close to six seconds, leaving the subsequent events up to interpretation. In those six seconds where we are left in the dark, it is entirely possible that Hopper managed to climb down the ladder and escape towards the Upside Down. In doing so, Hopper may have likely been caught by the Russians and taken back as a prisoner. Thus, the theory ties into the end teaser with the “American” prisoner being mentioned in one of the Russian holding cells.

There is also the convenient timing of Eleven’s powers being lost simultaneously as viewers are led to believe that Hopper is gone as well. Surely Eleven could have used her abilities to try and seek out Hopper’s whereabouts if he did indeed escape into the Upside Down, but given that her powers have seemingly been lost she can only be led to believe that Hopper is really gone.

With the Russians having explored entering the Upside Down themselves, it is more than likely that they crossed paths with Hopper and took him as a prisoner.

From the hints in the Season 3 finale to confirmations of Hopper’s return in the trailer footage itself, there is an entire backstory to be explored that will explain his return. With not one but two volumes for Season 4 on the way, viewers should expect a thorough explanation for the many fan theories circulating out there.