Stranger Things 3 returned to the ’80s zeitgeist with a neon shopping mall, a couple of stray Back to the Future references, and a soundtrack for the ages. Of course, all of this comes with disgustingly horrifying monsters and conspiracy theories.
The new season picks up with no immediate threats on the horizon — episode 1 is notably wholesome, digging more into the personal connections between characters than the horror lurking beneath the surface. However, it’s not long before another threat from the Upside Down begins to menace the denizens of Hawkins, with a bit of state conspiracy thrown in the mix for good measure.
While Stranger Things 3 tied up a substantial number of loose ends in the series, it also raised questions to the nature of Eleven’s powers, global knowledge of the Upside Down, and the nature of the monsters that inhabit it. Here are the burning questions we see answered in the season 4 of Stranger Things.
[Ed. Note: Major spoilers for Stranger Things 3 below.]
What happened to Eleven’s powers?
Eleven’s powers have always been at the center of Stranger Things’ biggest mysteries, but by the end of season 3, those powers are nowhere to be seen. It’s not exactly clear where El’s powers went or why she lost them, but the show gives us a few hints to go on.
The most obvious explanation is that the Mind Flayer, and his giant blobby-monster made out of people, stuck one of its many tentacle-mouths on Eleven’s leg. Along with a pretty gruesome wound, the monster also puts a tiny version of itself inside El. While most of the characters seem convinced that the Mind Flayer wants to kill El and maybe even absorb her powers, it seems pretty likely that the tiny version of the blob-monster was slowly sapping Eleven’s powers while inside her leg, especially since the next several times we see her try to use her powers, they don’t work.
As for whether or not El will ever get her powers back, the show remains similarly vague. We see her try crushing a can of New Coke — an unmistakable reference to the scenes of her crushing Coke cans back in season 1 as part of her original training — and we see her trying to move a stuffed bear off a shelf right before she moves away. In both cases, neither object even budges, but the characters are quick to reassure her that her special abilities will return. But who knows, maybe next season El will finally get the chance to be a regular kid, and the gang will have to find a new, less supernatural, way to save Hawkins.
Did Hopper die or is he still alive?
At the end of the season, Hopper sacrifices himself by holding off the giant Russian Terminator man long enough for Joyce to turn the keys and blow up the portal-creation machine. When it explodes, we’re left with the impression that Hopper’s dead. But we’ve all seen enough movies and shows play fast and loose with death at this point to know one specific fact: if we don’t see a dead body, a “killed” character might still be alive.
As a nice extra bit of evidence of Hopper’s possible survival the show went to great lengths to show us a lot of characters escaping from the very room that Hopper “died” in. As we know, if Hopper had just jumped over the railing, it was only about a five-foot drop and he could have pretty easily run away from the explosion.
Another possible theory for his continued existence comes to us in the third season’s post-credits sequence — which we’ll get to a little later.
All things told, it’s probably a little bit more narratively satisfying if Hopper doesn’t come back. His final note to Eleven was a great ending for the character and his arc of accidental fatherhood. So, maybe Hopper is hiding out somewhere, or maybe he was blown into the Upside Down? But it’s okay if he isn’t.
Who is “the American” in the post-credits scene?
In the post-credits scene of Stranger Things 3, two Russian soldiers feed a protesting prisoner to a previously unknown demogorgon. Before that, however, one of them stops in front of another cell door to unlock it before his partner reprimands him, saying: “No. Not the American.”
In this case, “the American” must be someone that we already know. The most optimistic answer (but not the most likely) is Hopper. If he somehow managed to survive the explosion, there’s a chance that he could have ended up in Soviet hands.
The other salient possibility is Dr. Brenner, the scientist who helmed the Hawkins lab experiments. Despite the fact that he got body-slammed by the demogorgon in season 1, we never saw the aftermath. Furthermore, a former Hawkins security guard told Eleven and Kali, both veteran Hawkins lab rats, that Brenner was still alive. It’s uncertain whether or not the claim was a play for more time or the truth, but Brenner’s survival seems likely — perhaps he’s been holed up in Soviet Russia this whole time.
How did the Russians get their hands on a demogorgon?
The demogorgon — or at least, a demogorgon — made a surprise appearance during the season’s post-credit scene. This demogoron is being held in the depths of a Soviet facility in Kamchatka, Russia, presumably being fed wailing prisoners every so often to be kept alive. While there’s a pang of season 1 nostalgia — remember when the monsters were only eight feet tall instead of unbearably fleshy with mind flaying powers? — its appearance raises some questions.
The demogorgon’s existence could potentially be chalked up to the lackluster Soviet experiments that Alexei told Joyce, Hopper, and Murray about. Even with “wrong” keys and geographical limitations, perhaps the Soviets managed to puncture into the Upside Far enough to let a lone demogorgon slip through.
Otherwise, the demogorgon could be the same from season 1 — if Eleven managed to survive the fight where she absolutely annihilated the demogorgon, anything’s possible. It could also be a fully-matured demodog from season 2. We witnessed all of them collapse after Eleven closed the portal and cut off the Mind Flayer from its underlings. However, if a piece of the Mind Flayer survived in Hawkins, perhaps a lone demodog did too.
Is the Mind Flayer dead, or did any of it survive in the human world?
The mechanics of defeating the Mind Flayer itself remain a bit muddy given that the fleshy, spider blob monster in the series was more of a brain than the monster itself, which is still primarily in the Upside Down. The flesh monster collapsed after Joyce and Hopper managed to close the portal by blowing up the “key” machine, thereby cutting off the connection between the Mind Flayer’s mind and the monster it was effectively piloting.
However, it’s unclear as to whether or not the Mind Flayer itself is dead or if any trace of it remains in the human realm. Given that a bit of it managed to survive outside of the Upside Down after Eleven closed the portal in season 2, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for some bit of it still exist.
How many people are left in Hawkins after the Flayed disappeared?
This might be the most confusing and important question from all of Stranger Things season 3, so let’s go back over a few things first. We know that the Mind Flayer was possessing people — as the show calls it “flaying” them. These possessed people, with the exception of Billy, eventually got turned into piles of person-goo and were all absorbed by the Mind Flayer’s blob monster.
So, are all these people just dead now? We didn’t see any of these people come back, and when they got turned into goo it certainly didn’t seem like they were going to be able to reassemble themselves to be even vaguely person-shaped. How many Hawkins residents just died overnight because they were part of the Mind Flayer?
We see several people in the basement lining up to be absorbed, and the Mind Flayer is massive when the monster reaches the mall, so a significant part of the town may no longer be around. It’s even implied that most of the office of the Hawkins Post might have been absorbed leaving the town without its local paper. How many more people might be dead? Whatever the answer is this is certainly going to be something the show has to deal with in season 4.