Anyone watching the conclusion of the latest iteration of Stranger Things over the holiday weekend got to experience the show’s equivalent of a Marvel mid-credits stinger for an upcoming story. Since season four is basically a given, the showrunners presumably felt very comfortable dropping the following scene into the closing minutes of their series’ third season: We go inside a prison in Kamchatka, Russia (beloved territory of Risk players everywhere), where we watch two soldiers feed a prisoner to a demogorgon—but not before passing over a different prisoner, about whom one of the guards says, “No, not the American.” And David Harbour wants you to know that he understands what you immediately suspected, and no, that would just be nuts.
“I mean, that, of course, is my hope too. It seems pretty crazy, though,” the actor admits in a new interview with Entertainment Tonight, when asked whether there was any chance the mysterious prisoner was his sheriff, Jim Hopper, despite the fact that Hopper was ostensibly blown to smithereens during the climactic fight in the underground Russian bunker, when our heroes destroyed the machine that was being used to try and re-open the gate to the Upside Down. In other words: doubtful. And Harbour sees it like that, too: “You know, that machine went off and blew up and Hopper seemed to be trapped there. He did glance around a little bit, but he seemed to be trapped and the machine exploded.”
And while the man has been a fount of optimism over the years, he’s also got a firm pragmatic streak: “And then you cut to, what was it? It starts with a ‘K’ or something – some town in Russia, right? Where there’s some American and there’s some other prisoner. I don’t know, I mean it seems strange. I don’t know how [he’s alive] though. I mean, we should always hold onto hope. We should never let go of hope—but Barb is really dead.”
In other words, Harbour feels pretty sure that Hopper is dead, and it’s some other American hidden inside that dank cell, because it would just be silly were he to have somehow lived. So, that’s that. Which 100 percent, unequivocally, no-chance-we’re-wrong means it absolutely is Hopper in that cell, because we never saw him die, and this is massive global hit Stranger Things, and give me a break. We’ll see you in Kamchatka next season, sheriff.