This Stranger Things article contains spoilers.
Stranger Things season 3 ends with Joyce Byers closing the door on her Hawkins home and taking her family away to recover from yet another loss. The screen cuts to black, the credits start to play and then, something else – is that Upside Down floating debris, or falling snow?
It’s snow, specifically snow falling on Kamchatka Russia, a very remote peninsula in the far east of Russia. The camera glides over what looks like a prison camp to the entrance to a bunker that goes deep underground.
Inside, two prison guards wearing Russian uniforms walk past a row of cells. One goes to open a door but is told by the other “No, not the American”. Instead, they bring out the man in the cell next door, who pleads with them in Russian to not take him, he’s innocent. Ignoring his pleas, they drag him down a lengthy staircase, throw him into a cage and winch open a door through which crawls … a Demogorgon, just like the creature from season one.
The man screams. The Demogorgon’s face petals spring open, revealing its glistening teeth. Cut to black.
Who is “the American”?
If it’s somebody we already know, then there are two main possibilities: Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) from season one, or Jim Hopper (David Harbour). Both are apparently dead but by the rules of television, we never saw their corpses so they’re still in play.
Seeing as Hopper was exposed to the same explosion that turned those Russian scientists to gloop in season three’s cold open, the chances of him having survived are extremely slim but, ahem, stranger things have happened so we can’t rule it out. Maybe Eleven’s powers returned temporarily to protect him? Maybe he squeezed through the opening gate and is currently in the Upside Down?
More likely the American is Dr. Brenner, the evil scientist behind the anti-Russia superpower experiments on baby Eleven and the other kids (we’ve only met two so far, but logic stands that there must have been at least nine others). He appeared to have been killed by the Demogorgon in the season one finale, but in season two, the former Hawkins Lab guard targeted by Kali’s revenge gang told Kali and Eleven that Brenner was still alive. Was it just a delay tactic, or could he have been telling the truth?
How did the Russians get a Demogorgon?
One of season three’s unanswered questions is how the Russians caught wind of all the Upside Down gate goings-on in Hawkins in the first place. Dr Brenner being their prisoner would explain all that. If he somehow survived the Demogorgon attack and was captured by or defected to the Russians, he could have been their source of information all this time.
But where did they get their Demogorgon? Eleven disintegrated the one from the first season, and the season two Demodog pack all died when Eleven closed the gate in season two, cutting off the Mind Flayer ‘brain’ from its progeny on the other side. The season three monster was created from the little bit of the Mind Flayer left on this side of the gate after Joyce exorcised Will in season two, incubated first in rats and fed with fertilizer, then in people fed on chemicals, turning into a very gross, long-limbed, tentacle-mouthed gloopy spider of death.
The real question of course, is how the Russians are planning to use the Demogorgon as a weapon…
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