This article contains spoilers for Stranger Things seasons 1 – 3.
It has been almost three years since the season 3 finale, but with today’s news that Stranger Things season 4 is arriving on Netflix on May 27, 2022, fans of the show are all the more eager to check in with the Hawkins gang and their battle against the Upside Down. Netflix also announced that season 5 will be the show’s last outing, which means there are a limited number of episodes left to get answers to some long-held questions. There are a few issues in particular that the series should address in the coming season in order to truly be ready to wrap things up in the fifth and final run.
The mystery of what happened to Hopper is perhaps the most obvious cliffhanger that Stranger Things season 4 must address, and it is the most likely issue to actually be resolved. Joyce had to make a difficult decision in order to destroy the Soviet Key that was being used to open the portal between dimensions, but the sacrifice she and Hopper made appears to be more of a question of what the USSR does with its prisoners who know too many secrets, not about how one survives the deadly energy discharge of the Key. Early teasers proved that.
It’s likely we’ll get to see how Hopper managed it, but now there’s the question of how the experience will change him and what he’ll do now. He’s grown a lot since we first met him as a bored, alcoholic cop in the first season of Stranger Things, and his transformation will no doubt continue. The season 4 posters indicate we may see several locations in the coming story even within the U.S., and with the mention of several others Keys still in existence in the Soviet Union (not to mention a demogorgon prisoner), there may still be plenty of clean-up to do.
But what do the superpowers hope to achieve? When the Hawkins National Laboratory first started working with children like Eleven, their intentions were much more clear. MK-Ultra sought to foster powers such as clairvoyance to spy on the communists. But once the Upside Down was accidentally opened as a result of El’s incursions into this nebulous psychic realm, the goal seemed to shift. Dr. Brenner and others in seasons 1 and 2 of Stranger Things wondered how they could use this other dimension as a weapon against the enemy.
Like anything else during the Cold War, each side wants what the other one has, no matter how dangerous. The American race to the moon in the 60s, after all, was as much about one-upping Sputnik as it was about scientific advancement. But does anyone in the intelligence community actually believe the Mindflayer and its minions can be exploited? The Starcourt Mall fiasco may convince cooler heads to try and put the genie back in the bottle, but not only may it be too late for that; there may also be those who still believe the deadly forces of the Upside Down can be harnessed.
Of course, the Mindflayer may have its own ideas about that, and it would be nice to know if there’s more at stake besides a hostile takeover of Earth. El created a fissure between our world and the Upside Down, and now that the creatures of the other dimension have had a taste of this alternate universe, they want to consume it. Is that it, though? What if it’s more nuanced than that? In Stranger Things season 3, El and the Party were targeted specifically by the Mindflayer, almost as though vengeance, not just self-preservation, were at play.
The Upside Down is essentially just behind the veil of our own world. That’s how Will was able to manipulate the lights to communicate with Joyce or use Castle Byers as a measure of protection in Stranger Things season 1. Is the native dimension of the Mindflayer and its minions all used up, in a sense? Does the vibrance of our world somehow feed the creatures of the Upside Down beyond just the ability to create a Spider Creature out of spare parts? It would be nice to have further clarification on the nature of the beast, so to speak.
Stranger Things has a way of adding new questions to the mix each season, and when the show returns in May, it’s likely to continue that tradition. But now that the Duffer brothers know that the series is ending with season 5 (and they say they’ve had a plan for how the story ends since the beginning), they hopefully can start to provide some closure for some of the mysteries surrounding the circumstances of the overall supernatural conflict… before “things” get any “stranger.”