Netflix just dropped a short teaser for the upcoming fourth season of Stranger Things, and it reveals a doozy of a spoiler. Police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) is alive and working on a Russian chain gang somewhere in the desolate frozen expanse of the Soviet Union.
(Spoilers for first three seasons below.)
When we last left our plucky teenaged sleuths and their allies, they had successfully beaten back a third attempt by the so-called Mind-Flayer to escape the Upside Down and take over the town of Hawkins, Indiana, where the series has thus far been set. But that victory did not come without a cost: Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) lost her telekinetic powers after being bitten by the Flay-Monster. And her adoptive father, Hopper, sacrificed himself to save the town in the season three finale. Eleven is taken in by Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), and the entire Byers clan moves away from Hawkins.
Series creators Matt and Ross Duffer (collectively the Duffer Brothers) have hinted that season four will open up the storytelling to include plot lines outside of Hawkins, with the Russians and their captive Demogorgon playing a major role. A mid-credits scene following the S3 finale hinted that S4 would delve further into the Russian subplot. Two Russian guards approach a prison door. “Not the American,” one guard says. Instead, the guards drag off a Russian prisoner and lock him in a room with a captive Demogorgon, which proceeds to devour the screaming prisoner.
There was much online speculation that “The American” was a reference to Hopper, who somehow survived the explosion back in Hawkins. We never saw a corpse, after all. (Another option was Dr. Martin Brenner, played by Matthew Modine; a S2 reference hinted he might still be alive.) Clearly those suspicions were warranted with this first teaser.
It’s short and sweet. The teaser opens with a wide shot of a winter wasteland—specifically in Kamchatka, Russia—and the camera gradually zooms in on a military-style encampment, with guards in Soviet uniforms (circa mid-’80s) and dogs patrolling the grounds. Cut to a long line of chained prisoners working on railroad tracks, as the camera view moves down the track to focus on one hooded prisoner in particular. He pushes back his hood to reveal he’s Jim Hopper, with a shaven head. The camera lingers a moment and then goes dark with just a slight chirring sound heard in the background, hinting at the continued influence of the Upside Down.
We still have no idea how this plot point is going to play out or how it fits within the broader narrative for the season. And will all that hard labor on a chain gang transform Hopper’s signature “dad bod”? Honestly, it’s a bit surprising that Netflix chose to drop such a major reveal this far in advance of the new season. But the Duffer Brothers are clearly confident that there are still plenty of surprises in store. Here is their statement:
“We’re excited to officially confirm that production on Stranger Things 4 is now underway—and even more excited to announce the return of Hopper. Although it’s not all good news for our ‘American’; he is imprisoned far from home in the snowy wasteland of Kamchatka, where he will face dangers both human… and other. Meanwhile, back in the states, a new horror is beginning to surface, something long buried, something that connects everything… Season 4 is shaping up to be the biggest and most frightening season yet, and we cannot wait for everyone to see more. In the meantime — pray for the American.”