What really happened to Hopper in ‘Stranger Things?’

Stranger Things Hopper
Image via Netflix

Stranger Things has no shortage of fan-favorite characters – Dustin, Lucas, Mike, Will, Eleven, and Max. You name it. With an all-star cast of top-notch characters, it’s hard to narrow that down to just one or two favorites. Unless, of course, you’re Jim Hopper

Over the course of the show’s three seasons, Police Chief Jim Hopper has gone from a gruff, rough around the edges man who isn’t afraid to raise his voice to a father figure to Eleven and the group of nerds who, well, still isn’t afraid to raise his voice, but that’s what gives him his charm. Over the course of his time on the show, we’ve come to see how protective he is of the ones he loves and how he’ll stop at nothing to do what is right, even if that means putting himself in harm’s way.

That is exactly what happened in season three of Stranger Things when the Soviets invaded Hawkins, Indiana, to rip open the gate to the Upside Down that Eleven and her friends had closed the season before. In doing so, they unleashed the Mind Flayer and the wrath of the Spider Monster, subjecting the town of Hawkins to mind possession from the Mind Flayer. Then, in a last-ditch effort to save the town – and the world – Hopper did what he does best, and he put others above himself.

What really happened to Hopper?

David Harbour as Jim Hopper in STRANGER THINGS.
Image via Netflix

As Mike, Will, Dustin, Lucas, Eleven, Max, and Billy fight off the Spider Monster in the Starcourt Mall — later deemed The Battle of Starcourt — Hopper and Joyce sneak underground as undercover Soviets and attempt to shut off the laser beam that’s ripping the gate to the Upside Down open and thus keeping the mind-body connection alive between the Mind Flayer and the Spider Monster. 

Hopper fights the Arnold Schwarzenegger-looking Soviet and, in the process, lands himself on the other side of the glass barrier to Joyce and the control panel. Not only that, but in killing the burly Soviet, Hopper effectively gets himself trapped on the other side of the laser beam, meaning he can’t escape before Joyce closes the gate. In a heart-wrenching scene, Hopper looks over at Joyce with tears in his eyes and nods for her to turn off the laser, even though it will explode and kill him in the process. 

Here’s where things get interesting. Joyce shuts her eyes, flips the switch, and right before the machine explodes, the screen goes black. The Duffer Brothers clearly wanted our eyes to be ‘closed’ for those few seconds, too, because even though it appeared that Hopper and everyone standing in the vicinity of the laser was killed, we later learn that wasn’t the case. 

In the end credits, we are taken to Kamchatka, Russia, where we see a Soviet prison. We learn that the Soviets have a Demogorgon of their own somehow and are using the prisoners as food for the creature. One of the Soviet guards reaches to unlock a cell door, but the other guard cuts him off and says, “not the American,” leading us to believe that Hopper is behind the door. 

In the teaser trailers leading up to season four, we learn that Hopper is, in fact, trapped in Russia as a prisoner, but how he got there is a big question mark. Are we to believe that in those few seconds before the laser machine exploded, the Soviets grabbed him and whisked him away? It’s possible, but we need more information. More so, was the “American'” the guards referred to truly Hopper, or could it have been Dr. Brenner? After all, in season two, chapter seven, ‘The Lost Sister,’ we learned he is still alive.

But we digress. Either way, when Hopper reunites with Joyce, Eleven, and the Hawkins nerds – because we know he will – we just might finally learn how on earth he escaped the deadly explosion and what the Soviets have lurking up their sleeves.