When Stranger Things first premiered back in 2016, Chief Hopper made an unlikely hero. As Hawkins’ town sheriff, he was a drunk who would rather do what was easy than what was right. But when Will Byers disappeared, Hopper stepped up. And when a little girl who only knew herself as "Eleven" needed a home, he provided. By the end of Season 2, fans were chanting for Hopper to wind up with Will’s mom Joyce ("Jopper-shippers"), and Season 3 suggested maybe it might happen. But things never turn out the way characters wish, and in Stranger Things Season 3, Hopper wound up disappearing, perhaps for good. Warning: Spoilers for Stranger Things Season 3 follow.
This season Hopper and Joyce wound up a little bit like Nancy and Jonathan in Season 2, bickering pretending they don’t have feelings for each other. Unlike Nancy and Jonathan, who wound up getting it on and turning into a couple by season’s end in 2017, Hopper and Joyce weren’t so lucky. Their first "date" went awry when Joyce got distracted over the demagnetization of the tchotchkes on her fridge. Any hope of a second date went wide when Hopper revealed he knew Joyce was trying to move out of Hawkins.
By the time Murray did his patented "just sleep together already" speech, the group was already on their way back to Hawkins, with no time to waste in finding their kids. Any further attempts at a relationship would have to wait until after the Upside Down was closed.
Unfortunately, for that to happen, both would have to survive. Once Hopper wound up fighting Grigori, the Russian assassin who has been trying to take him out since the season’s third episode, in the room where the gate to the Upside Down stood open, chances were he wasn’t going to make it. Joyce tried to wait, but with the Mind Flayer attacking the Starcourt Mall, she couldn’t hold out.
Hopper may have survived being attacked by Grigori, but there’s no time for him to get to safety. He nods to Joyce to close the gate, save the kids, and let him take his chances. She shuts down the machine, closing her eyes against the explosion inside the room.
When Joyce turns back and looks, the gate is closed. Hopper is gone.
Where did he go? Is Hopper dead? It seems unthinkable. Perhaps, like Will before him, Hopper was sucked into the Upside Down. Maybe he’s alive, trying to survive in a nearly uninhabitable world, where Eleven will one day rescue him from.
But there’s a third option, one that the show throws out there in the coda. Once again the show returns to Russia, as two soldiers walk down a hall. One stops, but the other shakes his head and keeps walking. "No. Not the American."
What American? Could it be Hopper? But how?
Turns out, in the same containment unit, they also have a Demogorgon, clearly plucked from the Upside Down. Could Hopper have been rescued and returned to Earth, only to find himself stuck inside a Russian prison?
Perhaps that’s the set up for Stranger Things 4...
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