By Megan McCluskey
July 9, 2019

Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Stranger Things season 3.

The final episode of Stranger Things season 3, “Chapter 8: The Battle of Starcourt,” became a devastating one for fans of Hopper (David Harbour) when Hawkins’ beloved police chief sacrificed himself so that Joyce (Winona Ryder) could close the gate to the Upside Down in time to save their kids.

But thanks to a throwaway line in the post-credits scene, some fans are theorizing that Hopper may have somehow survived the explosion in the underground Russian lab. After all, we never actually saw Hop get vaporized after Joyce turned the keys.

Was Hopper captured?

The end credits scene saw two guards retrieving a prisoner from a cell inside what looked like a top-secret facility in Kamchatka, Russia, and feeding him to a Demogorgon. But the moment that viewers latched onto to was when one of the guards instructed the other to leave “the American” in his cell in favor of using a Russian prisoner as Upside Down monster bait.

Is it possible that Hop somehow escaped, was captured by the Russians and is the American prisoner that the guards were referring to? Some fans certainly think so.

Did Hopper escape?

Based on a freeze-frame shot showing a ladder behind Hopper leading down from the room where the Russians’ machine exploded, some eagle-eyed viewers are speculating that Hopper may have escaped the lab in the moments when Joyce shut her eyes before the blast and subsequently been captured by the Russians.

Or is Hopper in the Upside Down?

Others think that the line about the American could be a red herring and that Hopper is still alive, but trapped in the Upside Down. “When Hopper went in to shut off the portal they never showed his death,” Reddit user Strangerthingsideas explained. “My suspicion is he didn’t die and he hopped into the Upside Down entrance because he has been in there before and knows how to survive. They also never showed his dead body or him disintegrating.”

In that case, some fans have proposed that the American prisoner could be someone like Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) — who Stranger Things executive producer Shawn Levy previously confirmed is still alive — or Murray (Brett Gelman).

As for Hopper’s own take on the matter, Harbour says he has no clue as to the truth about his character’s fate.

“I mean, I have no idea,” he told ET when asked if Hopper was the American prisoner in question. “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. 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.”

But he went on to add that there’s no harm in holding out hope for Hopper’s return. “I mean, we should always hold onto hope,” he said. “We should never let go of hope — but Barb is really dead.”

Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven, has also seemed to hint that Hopper could still be alive. “They had prerecorded David and they played it out loud. I didn’t want to read that speech. I didn’t want to hear about it. I didn’t want to rehearse it,” she told Entertainment Weekly of the scene when Eleven reads the speech that Hopper had written to give to her and Mike. “I just immediately wanted to put a camera on me and find the way I react and the way I reacted was pure devastation and sadness, and a distraught child that just lost her father or so she thinks.”

Or so she thinks.” Interesting, very interesting indeed.

Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com.

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