SPOILERS: DON'T SAY WE DIDN'T WARN YOU.
Stranger Things fans have been left to ponder one of the show’s biggest questions so far – does Chief Hopper die at the end of Season Three?
If the final episode is anything to go by, it seems that Hawkins’ chief law-abider has definitely met his end.
The season reaches its dramatic conclusion when a machine used by Joyce to save the town of Hawkins suddenly explodes. While we don’t see Hopper’s actual death, we see a group of Russian spies in HazMat suits turn to dust. However, they weren’t even standing as close to the machine as Hopper, so it’s reasonable to suggest that he’s met an unfortunate end.
And yet, could he still be alive? Let’s check out the evidence.
The resounding fan theory
An alternative theory comes from a post-credits sequence which sees Russian prison guards looking at a cell and mentioning ‘The American’. As fans will know, this is the name that Grigori called Hopper on multiple occasions.
They then quickly move to the next cell, before dragging the prisoner away and putting them in a cage at the mercy of a Demogorgon.
The theory posits that the aforementioned American is in fact Hopper – which could potentially set up his return in Season Four.
Admittedly this nugget of evidence is pretty vague, but there’s even more to it. As Cosmopolitan points out, Peter Gabriel’s cover of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ played in the background when the police discovered a body that was wrongly believed to be Will Byers’.
It’s again used in the finale of Season 3, when Eleven reads a poignant letter from Hopper – which could be a subtle hint that all is certainly not what it seems.
So is he alive, or are they just letting us know that this is how Hopper dies without breaking our hearts by actually showing it?
What have the cast said?
David Harbour, who portrays Hopper, has since weighed in to discuss whether all is as it seems.
He told Entertainment Tonight of the theory: “I mean, I have no idea! [Laughs] I have no idea! I mean that, of course, is my hope too. It seems pretty crazy though.
“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.”
He added: “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 though.”
Discussing the prospect of Harbour still being alive, he admitted: “I mean, we should always hold onto hope. We should never let go of hope – but Barb is really dead.”
While not guaranteeing his return, it’s certainly not the straight up denial that you’d expect…
Stranger Things season three is currently on Netflix.