The Stranger Things series three finale closed with the tragic ‘self-sacrifice’ of fan favourite character, Hopper (David Harbour), in order to cease operations of the Russian Lab technology attempting to re-open the gateway to the Upside Down.
The Battle of Starcourt Mall unfolded above – the forces of Hawkins facing the Mind Flayer in the episode’s showdown, meeting the end of Billy (Dacre Montgomery) and the pivotal loss of Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) powers.
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The narrative was left with many potential openings following new cast editions, the Byers’ relocation, and El losing the foundations of her character. So, what is officially confirmed for Stranger Things 4?
A central fan theory focused on series three’s post-credit scene and its reference to “an American” in Russian custody. With Hopper’s fate in question, many connected the dots and suspected this to be David Harbour’s beloved Hopper.
Streaming giant Netflix officially gave credit to the theorising in early 2020, with a 50-second teaser titled From Russia With Love…, showing a group of Russian military personnel overseeing prisoners working on a rail track, ending on a shot of a familiar face, Jim Hopper.
Stranger Things’ answer to Marvel’s Tom Holland, David Harbour, has already confirmed that the return of his character will precede a massive reveal in relation to his backstory, explaining at Liverpool Comic-Con: “I know specifically that in Season Four we will give you a big, huge reveal about Hopper’s backstory… one of the things that I’ve known since the first frame of the first shot… It’s my favourite thing about him”.
Eleven, are you listening?
The 6 May teaser – set to be one of four – Eleven, are you listening? is entirely set with a backdrop appearing to be Hawkins Laboratory, the setting of Eleven’s haunting past of testing and experimentation on her abilities.
The teaser shows children donning gowns and shaven heads, reflective of some of the first shots we see of Eleven, ending with the camera panning down a hallway of closed doors, lingering on one numbered ‘11’, as Dr Brenner (Matthew Modine) is heard saying: “I have something very special planned for you … Eleven, are you listening?”
Littered with easter eggs and possibly significant motifs, many have weighed in on the teaser’s narrative indicators, including a potential Eleven origin story.
Fans have also speculated that the events of the teaser could be set in the present, theorising that Dr Brenner survived the Demogorgon attack of series one, continued his gifted child experimentations, and recaptured his star subject, Eleven following the loss of her powers – both theories providing many potential avenues for the season’s events.
The Beginning of the End
Show star David Harbour has had a central hand in explaining what fans can expect from the season, including that the anticipated Stranger Things 4 will set up a definitive ending. Alongside the introduction of new concepts and casts, Harbour disclosed that the story is “tightening and wrapping up in a certain direction to make it have a clear, clean, specific, and definite ending at some point, which I can’t really talk about”.
Though no official synopsis has been revealed, fans have had some hints of the season’s themes from Gaten Matarazzo, the actor behind Dustin Henderson.
Matarazzo explained to Us magazine in March: “I think most would probably say it’s the scariest [series] out of the previous three, which I love because it’s very fun to film”, a concept echoed by fellow cast members and the show’s creators, the Duffer brothers. The duo has also revealed, “a new horror is beginning to surface, something long-buried, something that connects everything.”
Though series four was set to be the final, the Duffer brothers have since concluded that the story will need longer to fulfil its bigger picture, and they know “what the end is, and we know when it is”.
No official release date has been confirmed, however, it is rumoured that the Netflix frontrunner will hit the streaming service in 2022 with Chapter One: The Hellfire Club.