The creators behind ‘Stranger Things’ talk about the dramatic end to season 3 and what potentially lies ahead for season 4….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
MASSIVE SPOILERS LIE AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED STRANGER THINGS 3
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the conclusion of ‘Stranger Things’ season 3 after Police Chief Jim Hopper sacrificed himself for the sake of stopping the Russian made machine that was meant to re-open the breach between our world and the Upside Down.
The final episode saw the kids battle back against a giant Demo-monster created by the Mind Flayer specifically built to kill Eleven since her powers had been used against them twice previously. In the end, Billy Hargrove, who had been possessed by the Mind Flayer all season long, stopped the monster from killing Eleven by taking the brunt of the attack from the monster set out to kill her.
Once the doorway to the Upside Down was closed, the creature and the Mind Flayer were cut off, which brought both of them to their ultimate demise.
Sadly both Hopper and Billy gave their lives for the sake of saving the world from the evil forces crossing over from the Upside Down not to mention the nefarious Russian faction hellbent on reopening that breach between the two worlds.
There are still a lot of questions surrounding the conclusion of ‘Stranger Things’ season 3, not the least of which is whether or not Hopper actually survived after it appeared he was killed when he stopped the machine cutting a hole to reach the Upside Down.
While we never actually saw Hopper die, anybody standing near that machine was vaporized and turned to dust — as we witnessed with several Russian scientists at the beginning and the end of the season — but we never actually saw our beloved Hawkins’ police chief turn into dust.
In the post credits sequence, we travel to Russia where the science team continues their work and that’s when a series of holding cells are introduced and one person in captivity is called ‘The American’. That’s the same title the Terminator-like Russian goon named Grigori kept calling Hopper throughout ‘Stranger Things’ season 3 but there’s still no confirmation that he was the person in that prison cell.
The prisoner who was eventually removed was then thrown into a different fenced in area where he was fed to a growing Demogorgon being raised by the Russians.
Obviously, Matt and Ross Duffer — creators behind ‘Stranger Things’ — aren’t going to actually reveal whether or not Hopper is still alive but that tease at the end with ‘The American’ held prisoner by the Russians was left specifically vague so the audience would be forced to guess about his fate.
“You definitely should not assume anything,” Matt Duffer said when speaking with EW. “The line that Russian guard said is purposely intended to spark debate. We need people to ask the very questions that you’re asking.”
Needless to say, a fourth season of ‘Stranger Things’ (assuming the show is renewed, which is almost a no brainer at this point) would address the Russian experiments, the real purpose behind what they’ve been doing and the identify of that mystery American being held prisoner.
“Assuming there’s a season 4, obviously the question of who that American is in that cell and then also what they’re doing with the Demogorgon, that is a tease,” Ross Duffer said. “We try to tee up some season 4.”
Another major departure for the conclusion of ‘Stranger Things’ season 3 was Eleven not being the person to save the day after her own battle with the Mind Flayer’s monster left her wounded and eveutally without powers.
When the season ended, Eleven still couldn’t move anything with her mind and she was forced to rely on her friends to help stop the creature sent to kill her. According to the Duffer brothers, that was absolutely on purpose because Eleven had been made so powerful through the first two seasons that it would have just been too predictable if she saved the day yet again.
“We didn’t want an ending again this year where Eleven comes in the last second and holds out her hand and saves the day,” Ross Duffer said. “Moving into season 4, how much more vulnerable does that make our characters in a group? Inevitably, evil resurfaces that they can’t just lean on Eleven to come in and save the day.
“We think it ups the scare factor in a big way.”
The other major twist in the season finale was Joyce Byers picking up and moving her family out of Hawkins, Indiana, which has been the focal point for the show for all three seasons. Joyce leaving means her sons Jonathan and Will are going with her not to mention Eleven, who joined the Byers family following Hopper’s apparent death.
The absence of those characters in Hawkins immediately changes the dynamic of the story for ‘Stranger Things’ season 4.
“We didn’t want to box ourselves into a corner,” Ross Duffer said
“And after this much tragedy and insanity, you’d think a family would consider moving,” executive producer Shawn Levy added. “So it was time for them to do just that. But the other more arching aspiration was an ending that felt filled with the possibility of what might come next.”
With season 3 of ‘Stranger Things’ wrapped, there are already some plans in motion for season 4 once Netflix inevitably renews the series.
The Duffer brothers have said in the past that they have a specific idea in mind for how long this show should go on and it’s likely not going to exist beyond season 5, although that could change depending on how the story plays out.
Right now, the Duffers have ideas in mind for ‘Stranger Things’ season 4 but nothing too specific until the writer’s room opens up again to really begin crafting the next major story for the series.
“We don’t want to write ourselves in a corner so we try to have these early discussions with the writers just to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up to go in the right direction,” Ross Duffer said. “We don’t know a lot, but we do know a lot of the big broad strokes. At the end of season two, we knew about Billy. We knew that the Russians were going to come in. We didn’t know the mall and stuff, but again, we know these big broad strokes.
“That’s sort of where we are in season four. We have the big broad strokes. It’s just now about filling in those lines in the details. We’re pretty excited about where it’s potentially going to go. Again, like we said, it’s going to feel very different than this season. But I think that’s the right thing to do and I think it’ll be exciting.”
Perhaps the biggest departure for ‘Stranger Things’ in season 4 will be broadening the scope of the show with the focus not necessarily staying in Hawkins the entire time.
With the Byers family moving away to an undisclosed location, that immediately opens up the opportunity for the show to stretch its legs into a new town not to mention the Russian threat that will still be looming now that their plot at Starcourt Mall has been foiled.
“I think the biggest thing that’s going to happen is it’s going to open up a little bit, not necessarily in terms of scale, in terms of special effects, but open up in terms of allowing plotlines into areas outside of Hawkins,” Matt Duffer said.
“Assuming there’s a season 4, obviously the question of who that American is in that cell and then also what they’re doing with the Demogorgon, is a tease,” Ross Duffer adds. “That’s obviously going to play a huge role in a potential season four.”
Because ‘Stranger Things’ hasn’t officially been renewed yet by Netflix, no work has started on the series but it’s not likely going to take long for the streaming service to give the order for more episodes.
Timing for the fourth season could also be tricky because ‘Stranger Things’ season 2 debut in October 2017 but season 3 didn’t land on Netflix until July 2019 so it could be another long wait until the show returns. Add to that, stars like Millie Bobby Brown and Finn Wolfhard have both booked a lot of acting gigs in recent months that will likely keep them busy outside of ‘Stranger Things’ whenever the show does prepare to go back into production.