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Stranger Things 3’s post-credits scene kickstarts a key mystery

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The series’ fourth season will have some explaining to do

a young woman holds out her hand while performing telekinesis Netflix

Stranger Things 3 brought a mall to Hawkins, Indiana, along with new conspiracies, romance, and of course, plenty of slobbering monsters and Upside Down nightmare fuel. While the fight is temporarily over, the season’s post-credits scene widens the scope of the series past Hawkins and onto the global stage.

The end-credits moment also brings back a familiar antagonist while raising questions about mysterious deaths from the series three seasons — this isn’t a credits sequence you want to let Netflix skip over.

[Ed. note: Major spoilers for Stranger Things 3 below.]

Stranger Things season 3 - the kids at a mall Netflix

After shutting down the Soviet “key,” defeating the Mind Flayer, and exposing the Soviet lab beneath Starcourt Mall, the Hawkins crew takes a few months to recover and grieve. When the Byers (and Eleven) make the move out of Hawkins, it’s a teary goodbye. For now, the monsters are gone and the fight is over — however, if there’s anything that Stranger Things has taught us, it’s that the peace won’t last.

The post-credit scene takes us to an unnamed facility in Kamchatka, Russia. Deep underground, two soldiers enter a prison corridor. One approaches a door to unlock it, but the other reprimands him: “No. Not the American.” They move on to the next door, pulling out a man and dragging him down a flight of stairs kicking and screaming. As they throw him in to a caged-in chamber, he continues to protest, declaring his innocence and begging to be let out.

It’s hard to blame him, because as one of the soldiers winches open the door, a Demogorgon emerges to devour him.

A demogorgon emerges in a cell in Russia.
Time to yeet out of there!
Netflix

Like most post-credit scenes, this sequence raises more questions than answers them. The two most salient are: Who is “the American,” and how in the world did the Russians get their hands on a Demogorgon?

The optimistic answer is that “the American” is Jim Hopper, who theoretically sacrificed himself at the end of the third season so that Joyce Byers could shut down the Soviet machine beneath Starcourt Mall. However, that’d be a bit of a stretch, even for Stranger Things: the opening sequence of the season spared no gore in showing the machine operators’ torn-apart bodies after the machine exploded the first time. Given that Hopper was standing directly next to the machine as it exploded, his survival seems unlikely. Despite this, we never saw his body, so ... anything goes.

The more realistic possibility is Dr. Brenner, the scientist who led the experiments in Hawkins and was potentially killed in season 1 after a full, adult Demogorgon went for his face. However, in season 2, a former Hawkins laboratory guard told Eleven and Kali that Brenner was still alive. While it’s uncertain if that was just a delay tactic or the truth, the possibility still stands and could potentially shed some light onto the Soviets’ discovery of the upside down in the first place.

The Demogorgon could potentially be chalked up to the early Soviet experiments trying to break into the Upside Down. Alexei described the keys across Russia as “wrong” — they relocated to Hawkins because the barrier between worlds was weak and healing. It’s possible that the Soviets succeeded in opening a portal that a Demogorgon came through.

Less likely is that the Demogorgon from season 1 somehow survived or that one of the Demodogs from season two survived the closing of the portal. Eleven absolutely eviscerated the first Demogorgon, and all of the Demodogs theoretically died after Eleven closed the portal and cut them off from the Mind Flayer in season 2. Eleven managed to survive her fight with the Demogorgon and the Mind Flayer survived the closing of the portal — stranger things have happened.

Ultimately, the post-credits scene expands the crisis of the Upside Down past the boundaries of Hawkins, Indiana. In the tradition of ’80s sequels, it seems the mythology of Stranger Things is getting bigger and bigger.