Netflix’s global phenomenon Stranger Things is heavily indebted to the culture, music, movies and television of the 1980s, but it sounds as though season 4 could be drawing inspiration from a much more unlikely source, after David Harbour compared the return of Hopper to Gandalf’s resurrection in The Lord of the Rings, which is an interesting comparison to say the least.
The fake-out death is one of the most infuriating and overused tropes in the entertainment industry, something Stranger Things has been guilty of on numerous occasions. Will Byers, Eleven, Dr. Brenner and Hopper have all been subjected to the red herring treatment, but at least in the case of the latter, it was established minutes later that he was alive and well.
In a new interview, Harbour was unsurprisingly unwilling to divulge any specifics, but he did speak at length on how the kindly police chief with a short fuse shares a lot of similarities with an all-powerful wizard from Middle-earth that’s pretty much seen and done it all during a life that’s lasted a very long time.
“I can talk about Hopper. I guess I say this about a lot of seasons, but it’s my favorite season, in the sense that he’s at his purest, he’s at his most vulnerable, in a sense. He’s been, as we’ve seen, he’s in this Russian prison, so we get to reinvent him in a sense. He gets to have a rebirth from what he had become, and we’d always sort of planned this almost resurrection of you have Gandalf dies, Gandalf the Grey re-emerge, and I’m really interested in this resurgence of him. We get to explore a lot of threads in his life that have merely been hinted at that we get to see a lot more of. And there’s some real surprises that you know nothing about that will start to come out in this and play big as the series goes on.
Season 4 is really my favorite season. I just love it. The scripts always get better and these guys, they started out, and Season 1 is so tight and good and intimate in a certain way, it’s so good. And these guys go in different directions, of which the fans have multiple takes on, but I will say, the writing continues to be of its particular, specific genre, whatever they’re doing each season is just extraordinary. And this, again, we top it. Like I feel it’s a big, beautiful season. I can’t wait for people to see it.”
Hopper the Grey returning from a Russian gulag to set the plot in motion would be an unusual thread, but perhaps creators the Duffer brothers are intent to shake up the formula for season 4 of Stranger Things. We still don’t know when we’ll get the chance to see it, with star Finn Wolfhard hinting that it might not be until 2022, and three years is a massive wait between new episodes in the modern TV climate. But at least we know that Hopper will be getting some much-needed backstory, having largely existed as a reactionary presence so far, albeit a massively popular one.