This summer’s Fourth of July celebrations were marked with fireworks, hot dogs, and the return of Netflix series Stranger Things, which debuted eight new episodes making up the hit sci-fi show’s third season. Everything was bigger this time around, from the action to the budget to the literal ages of the show’s child stars, who are all now firmly into their mid-teenage years but still pretending to be about 12 or 13 in the show.
Overall, fans and critics seem quite happy with how Season 3 played out. The show was in danger of recycling the same old plot devices over and over, but Stranger Things 3 managed to avoid that by showing real character growth for almost every major player and expanding the Hawkins environment in a big way, including the fancy new Starcourt Mall.
Although there has been no official announcement of a fourth season, it seems likely that Netflix will want to keep one of it’s most popular original series going for as long as reasonably possible. Assuming that Stranger Things 4 does eventually become a reality, here are the most burning questions we had at the conclusion of Season 3.
***SPOILER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SOOO MANY SPOILERS FROM SEASON 3!***
Who’s “The American?”
If you stuck around for the credits of the last episode, you were treated to a mid-credits scene from Kamchatka, Russia. The snow-covered wasteland is home to some sort of remote government base, and we quickly learn at least one of its purposes: housing a captured Demogorgon. It looks exactly like the monster that terrorized Hawkins in the first season of Stranger Things, and the Commies are using prisoners to keep the thing fed. Except for one specific prisoner.
“No, not the American,” says one comrade to the other. The logic of TV writing means that line wouldn’t even be included unless the identity of the American prisoner was significant in some way, and there are only so many American characters with unknown whereabouts. Dr. Brenner’s fate is currently up in the air, after Season 2 suggested that he somehow survived his encounter with the Demogorgon. The other likely suspect is Jim Hopper himself, who seemed to get caught in the massive explosion when Joyce closed the portal. However, the Duffer Brothers made a point to show that there was no dead body.
Plenty of fans are already speculating that Hopper escaped somehow, or was inexplicably transported to Russia via the machine’s mysterious powers. Hopefully this cliffhanger gets answered in Season 4, even if the true identity of the American prisoner isn’t Hopper.
Will Eleven Get Her Powers Back?
One of the more interesting twists of Season 3 was that Eleven lost her powers after using them to force a small piece of the Mind Flayer out of her leg. It was a smart decision to raise the stakes, since it’s hard to be overly concerned about the Mind Flayer when the audience assumes El will eventually get the chance to yeet that nasty spider into space, or whatever.
She mentions that her powers are like a battery, and they need to “recharge.” However, they are still absent when the show cuts to its final scenes that take place “Three Months Later.” That’s a long recharge time, and Mike even offers some encouraging words when he sees her try (and fail) to use them to move a teddy bear from a high shelf.
Having a superhero lose their powers is a common plot device in comic books, as it forces the character to confront life as an ordinary human being for once. El’s life has never really been anything resembling ordinary, so perhaps the show will keep her powers in the shadows for a little while longer. Although we suspect she will regain them eventually, and probably in dramatic and uber-important fashion.
Will Dr. Owens Play a Bigger Role in Season 4?
Dr. Sam Owens, played by Paul Reiser, wasn’t seen at all in Season 3 until the very end. He shows up at Starcourt Mall with a large military contingent, but only after the battle is over and the Mind Flayer has been defeated. He then helps engineer a massive cleanup/coverup, keeping all information about inter-dimensional monsters and secret Soviet Union bases from reaching the public.
We know that Owens is, at heart, a good man. He tried his best to help Will when he was possessed in Season 2, and used his vast connections to forge fake documents for Eleven, so that Jim could “legally” adopt her. All we really know about him, though, is that he is high-ranking member of the U.S. Department of Energy, and was assigned to Hawkins Lab to clean up after Dr. Brenner’s disappearance. He knows about the portal and the Upside Down, but is there something else he hasn’t revealed? With his surprise appearance at the end of Season 3, we wonder what part Owens will play in Stranger Things 4.
Is Will Gay?
Honestly, we normally don’t want to get sucked into the depressing politics involved when a fictional character is revealed as gay. It’s weird, and our position is simple: so what if Will Byers is gay? Doesn’t really change his experiences on the show or how we feel about him as a character. But we’ve seen this question thrown around in a few different places this week, and we guess that makes it worth addressing.
During an argument, Mike exclaims “it’s not my fault you don’t like girls” to his friend. It’s entirely possible that this is merely a reference to Will not hitting puberty as quickly as his friends, who are suddenly more interesting in making out (and then making up) with their girlfriends than playing Dungeons & Dragons. However, there’s more to it than that.
One of the original call sheets for the series listed Will’s character someone who was questioning his own sexual identity. There was a throw away line from Season 1 where Joyce mentions that Will’s now-absent father used to call him “queer” and other derogatory names. So it’s not just a single thing that fans are clinging to. It’s now a series of things.
Stranger Things is a lot of… umm… things. It’s sci-fi. It’s mystery. It’s action. It’s a conspiracy drama. But most all, we think, it’s a classic coming-of-age story in the same vein as IT, Stand By Me, or even The Sandlot. If coming to terms with being a gay teenager in the 1980s is part of Will’s journey, then so be it.
Will Robin Get a Girlfriend?
Will’s potential sexual orientation isn’t the only LGBTQ+ moment in Stranger Things. After multiple episodes of teasing a relationship between Steve and Robin, co-workers at Scoops Ahoy, it’s eventually revealed that Robin is actually a lesbian. Steve, to his credit (and fully in line with complete switch from grade-A douchebag in Season 1 to honorable babysitter in Season 2), accepts the news with humility and instantly switches back into “best friends mode.”
Robin, played amazingly by Maya Hawke (that’s Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurmans’s daughter, if you’re not aware), was easily one the brightest spots of Season 3. With Stranger Things showing they are willing to address those awkward teenage romances between main characters, plus the speculation about Will’s sexuality, there’s no reason that Robin can’t be included in future young love storylines. On the other hand, the Duffer Brothers could use Robin’s revealed sexuality to show how different it was to be gay in the 1980s compared to now. The show is about children who feel like they are outsiders, and Robin certainly qualifies more than ever now, given the show’s 80s setting and fictional location of a small town in the Heartland of America.
Will Suzie Return?
Speaking of girlfriends, here’s a bit of a similar question. When Dustin returns from Camp Know Where claiming to have found a girlfriend who is both beautiful and ultra nerdy, his friends are all skeptical — especially when he drags them up to his radio tower to contact her, only to be met with nothing but static from the other end.
Eventually, we learn that Suzie is not only real, but enjoys singing duets of the theme song from The Neverending Story, calls her boyfriend “Dusty-bun,” and knows Planck’s number off by heart. Her appearance in Stranger Things 3 is short, but very sweet. It makes us wonder if the show will try to figure out a way to have Suzie come back next season, which could be a considerable task since she is stuck in Salt Lake City — roughly 1,500 miles from Indiana.
Will Season 4 Take Place in Hawkins?
The final scenes of Season 3 showed the Byers family (now will Eleven in tow) packing up the car and moving to… well, we’re not sure. But definitely out of Hawkins, Indiana. That’s multiple main characters (Joyce, Will, Jonathan, and El) who have now left Hawkins. Considering that Will and Eleven are the two people most connected with the Upside Down (and the horrors within it), we wonder whether the problems will follow them to their new home, or if the show will find a way to bring them back to Hawkins.
We’ve seen the show branch out a little bit over the previous three seasons, including brief stops in Chicago, Russia, and Salt Lake City. Will Stranger Things 4 still take place in Hawkins, or will it start to become a broader tale, telling multiple stories about characters in different locations?
Is There a Time Jump?
Let’s go back to that mid-credits scene for a second. We’re going to ignore the mysterious American prisoner, and bring up a different theory that we’ve seen posted around the internet. What if that scene from Russia was out of place, chronologically? Our instincts tell us that it happened right around the same time as the concluding events of Season 3, because the show has basically followed a normal story telling format, where things are shown in the proper order. But what if it wasn’t?
Some fans theorize that the Demogorgon shown in that scene was actually the same one who terrorized Hawkins in Season 1, meaning that it would somehow escape from it’s cell in Russia (probably back into the Upside Down), and eventually re-emerge in Hawkins. If that’s true, it creates even larger questions about the Russian involvement and all but shoots down the theory that Hopper is the unseen American prisoner.
What Does This Secret Phone Call Easter Egg Mean?
When Hopper attempts to contact the U.S. government from Murray’s safehouse, the show reveals a phone number. Although Murray is furious with Joyce for revealing the number, quick-thinking fans who attempted to call (618) 625-8313 were treated to a nice little Easter egg. Here’s the juicy part, where Murray leaves a secretive outgoing message on his answering machine for Joyce:
“If this is Joyce—Joyce, thank you for calling, I’ve been trying to reach you. I have an update. It’s about—well, it’s about—it’s probably best if we speak in person. It’s not good or bad but it’s something.”
Could this be about Hopper, who may or may not be actually dead? Or is it about something else entirely, a new mystery for the gang to try and solve in Season 4? Knowing Murray and his borderline dangerous paranoia, it could also be about nothing at all.
Will Mayor Kline be Back?
Hawkins mayor Larry Kline, played brilliantly by Cary Elwes, was a fun addition to Season 3. The corrupt (but patriotic) politician only had a small part to play, but his connection to the Russians at Starcourt Mall and eventual arrest helped give the events of the show some real-life stakes. Sometimes Stranger Things accidently forgets about the rest of the town while showing us what battles the main characters are fighting, so having Mayor Kline as a link to the greater voting population helped the show scale things up.
We last see Kline being led off by authorities, but his fate after that is unknown. Presumably, simple jail time would not be a fitting punishment for someone who was in bed with the Commies, so it’s more likely that Kline will pop back up in some sort of interrogation room, and even more likely that he we will try to trade his cooperation for some kind of favor from the authorities. He is, after all, a true politician.
Where Are All The Parents?
Maybe this is just nitpicking, but the parents certainly seemed extra neglectful this season. For starters, Joyce and Hopper get obsessed with solving the mystery of the magnets and spend quite a bit of time unraveling it before they even stop to think about where their kids are. Which seems especially odd when Joyce’s son has twice been targeted by interdimensional monsters and Hopper’s adopted daughter has mysterious superpowers. If something fishy was happening in Hawkins, Will and Eleven would have been a good place to start.
It’s not just them, though. Dustin’s mother wasn’t scene at all in Season 3, and Lucas’s parents are also absent. You might be saying to yourself, “Hey, relax. The 80’s was a simpler time, where parents could let their kids roam around in the Summer without worrying much. Especially kids in the 12-to-14 range.”
Okay, fine, we accept a little bit of that argument. But Lucas’s sister Erica, who is roughly 10-years-old, ends up trapped in a secret Russian elevator overnight and not a single adult seems to care that she’s gone for multiple days. What gives?
What Were The Russians Even Doing?
It was very on-theme for Stranger Things to introduce Russian baddies in Season 3, since no 80s-era conspiracy drama is complete without some Cold War overtones. It seems like the Russians were going to help provide some answers about the Upside Down, but those answers never really materialized. There was a short line about them needing to be in Hawkins because the previously closed portal was still “healing,” making it easier for Commie scientists to complete their mission. But what was their mission, exactly?
Were they trying to use the Upside Down to attack America? Were they doing research just for the sake of gaining knowledge, unaware of the dangers? The show never really answers that question, which made the Russian villains a bit one-dimensional. The best bad guys always have well-explained motivations, even if they are twisted. The Russians in Stranger Things 3 seemed to only be the villains because of their nationality, which feels a little thin.
Will Dr. Brenner Return?
We mentioned Dr. Brenner earlier in this article, but he’s definitely worth another quick talking point. Even if he’s not the American prisoner, the hints from Stranger Things 2 that El’s “Papa” might still be alive are worth considering. Think about it — Eleven had long considered Dr. Brenner to be her father figure before she escaped from the Hawkins Lab. Since then, she’s been struggling to figure out how to live a “normal” live with Chief Hopper as her adopted father. Now she thinks that Hopper is dead, and that position of “father figure” is once again a gaping hole in her life.
That could be the opening needed for Dr. Brenner to re-appear in the show. When El took her field trip to Chicago in Season 2, she met another gifted individual who was tracking down former lab employees and making them pay for their crimes of experimenting on children. If Brenner is still alive, he still has quite a large outstanding debt.
Why Do People Even Stay in Hawkins?
Seriously people, time to move. In the past few years, multiple citizens of Hawkins, Indiana have been gone missing or been killed. Children have been possessed, buildings have been destroyed by horrible monsters, fields have been contaminated, a mysterious government lab is obviously doing something shady, and it’s not that hard to see that someone is trying very hard to cover it all up.
As the Cutting Edge teaser at the end of Season 3 suggested, it’s no longer a secret that something is rotten in Hawkins. The brand new Starcourt Mall (which ruined numerous local businesses, by the way) was just destroyed in a massive disaster that no one will talk about. The police chief has died, the mayor was arrested, and dozens more citizens are now dead after being hosts for the Mind Flayer and turning into goop. In a small town like Hawkins, almost everyone would have been affected by these disasters in one way or another.
We mentioned earlier that maybe it’s time for the show to move out of Hawkins as the main setting, and hopefully the next season will at least address how the greater population of the town is dealing with the aftermath of another strange and deadly incident.
What Else Might Be in the Upside Down?
Demogorgons, Mind Flayers, Shadow Monsters, Demodogs, regurgitated slugs, and weird creepy vines. Those are just some of the things we’ve seen emerge from the strange dimension that is known as the Upside Down. What else might be hiding in there?
The Upside Down is essentially an alternate universe, since all the buildings and landmarks are the same. However, it’s populated with strange creatures instead of human beings (which makes us wonder who built all those things in the Upside Down, but maybe that’s not important). Even though the portals between the two worlds are closed for now, it seems likely that there will be more problems in the future. Will there be an even bigger monster to battle in Season 4?