10 ‘Stranger Things’ Season 4 Theories that Make Total Sense
Netflix’s genre-bending sci-fi show Stranger Things is making a comeback in 2022. And while the streaming service has yet to confirm an official release date, we’ve been combing through plenty of fan theories, from Eleven’s fate to the real meaning behind those cryptic new teasers. Several questions have been left unanswered, but if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that season four will likely have us sleeping with the lights on.
Don’t believe us? Finn Wolfhard (who plays Mike) teased what’s to come during an interview on Apple Music’s Matt Wilkinson Show, saying, “We say it every year, like, ‘This season’s scarier. This season’s scarier.’ This season is truly messed up, and it’s going to freak people out a lot.”
So, what does this mean for Hopper (played by David Harbour), Eleven (played by Millie Bobby Brown) and the rest of the Hawkins gang? Keep reading for ten Stranger Things season four theories you might want to consider.
1. Hopper traveled back in time
Think about it: Hopper's “death” was never portrayed on screen, so it’s possible that he ended up in the Upside Down and emerged in a different time period at the end of season three. Netflix has since released new clips from the ‘50s era, including a season four teaser that shows a newspaper printed “March 1959,” but that's not the only hint that relates to time travel.
One fan pointed out on Reddit that Back to the Future was referenced in season three. (Remember when Dustin and his pals snuck into a packed theater during the movie’s premiere?) Plus, Hopper mentioned wanting to “turn back the clock” in his emotional letter to Eleven. So, it’s possible these scenes told us a whole lot more than we realized at the time.
2. Or he’s actually dead
OK, hear us out. Though we technically didn’t see Hopper die, it’s a definite possibility. This would mean that the teaser, which shows him as a prisoner in Russia, is actually a flashback. One Reddit fan wrote, “He is dead. And he won’t be coming back...at least not in the present. There is a way, I believe, we can get some glorious Hopper content without undercutting his death in season three, and that is via flashbacks.”
“So, my theory is that all the Hopper clips we’ve seen are flashbacks, and the ‘Russian’ thing is all a deception,” the person continued. “This would allow us to develop Hopper as a character, without potentially undercutting his sacrifice.” Fair enough.
3. If he *is* alive, he’ll probably become a villain
While speaking with Deadline, Harbour confirmed that fans will see a darker side of his character in season four. He said, "I’m really excited to let people see these really deep colors in him, because each season we see a different side of him, and last season he was a bit wackier. I loved playing that, [but] now I think he's painted in a bit of a darker palette, and he's able to express these really deep things about him that we haven't really known yet."
This seems to line up with another fan prediction about Hopper being brainwashed by the Russians and becoming a threat. They said, “What if Hopper IS the American in the Russian base? He could be tortured or brainwashed to the point he remembers nothing, make his way to Hawkins somehow and not remember El. That could be a heartbreaking storyline. One of the gang's strongest allies would become their strongest enemy and they would all struggle fighting against Hopper due to their emotional connection to him.” Talk about a gut-wrenching twist...
4. The American is Murray Bauman
As we all know, Murray (Brett Gelman) is the eccentric investigative reporter who lost his job at the Chicago Sun Times because of his far-fetched conspiracy theories. But what if the Russians have been closely watching him the entire time? Maybe they caught wind of his findings—especially when his research and discovery of Eleven’s abilities led him to insist that a Russian invasion was underway. Perhaps this was when they decided to take matters into their own hands.
One fan wrote on Reddit, “If Russians had been monitoring him from his days at the times he would have led them to Hawkins, to the lab, and to Brenner's research. The Russians could have even infiltrated the lab during season two, setting up those camera's we see in season three.”
It’s possible that the Russians kidnapped Murray (who, BTW, speaks fluent Russian) to question him and find out more about the Upside Down. It’s also worth mentioning that he’s nowhere to be seen towards the end of season three.
5. Netflix will incorporate the Chernobyl nuclear disaster
It would certainly be a bold move, but considering the timeline of the series, it’s likely that the Chernobyl disaster could be tied into the Upside Down experiments, either as an unfortunate consequence or as a cover-up to divert everyone’s attention.
As one Reddit user pointed out, the first three seasons took place in 1983, 1984 and 1985, respectively. This means that season four will likely take place in 1986—the same year as the Chernobyl tragedy, one of the largest nuclear power plant disasters in history.
6. Or the Dyatlov Pass Incident
In case you're unfamiliar with the true story, the Dyatlov Pass incident happened in the northern Ural Mountains in 1959, when nine experienced Russian hikers died after mysteriously fleeing their campsite—even though they were barely dressed in subzero temperatures.
Their mysterious deaths led to several theories, including animal attacks, infrasound-induced panic and even military involvement. So, while it wouldn’t be historically accurate, the incident certainly lends itself to possible storylines in season four. Some fans speculate that Stranger Things will alter the story, so that a group of curious hikers encounter something unsettling after they stumble upon Russia’s gate to the Upside Down.
7. Brenner will help Eleven get her powers back
We know, we know—we hate the idea, too. But if you remember, Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine), AKA “Papa,” is the one who trained Eleven and helped develop her powers from the get-go. So, given his experience and knowledge, perhaps El will become so desperate to help her loved ones that she turns to him as a last resort. Even if that means being trapped in a lab again... (Fingers crossed it never actually comes to this.)
8. Or maybe time travel will help Eleven regain her powers
Circling back to the Hopper theory, it’s likely that Eleven will also take a trip back in time, so she can get a better understanding of her powers. Best case scenario, she travels back to her days at the lab, learns everything that Dr. Brenner knows and, ultimately, figures out a way to get her powers back without his help.
9. Eleven will eventually die
When she regains her powers in season four, she’ll have plenty more battles to fight, but something tells us that Eleven will have to sacrifice her life to save all the people she loves. Perhaps it will be a showdown against the shadow monster, or maybe it will happen when she finally manages to close the gate to the Upside Down…for good.
One Reddit user explained, “This would be the ultimate sacrifice and would give Eleven a Tony Stark-like sendoff. It would be a perfect way to end her legacy. She will go from the girl that opened the gate and started all this, to the girl that closed the gate and destroyed the creatures she accidentally set free.”
10. The Hellfire Club will try to turn Eleven against the Hawkins gang
FYI, Netflix is adding four news characters to the cast line-up for season four, three of which are teenagers. According to TVLine, “the adolescent trio range from a metalhead to an entitled jock to a character that sounds an awful lot like the twin of Fast Times at Ridgemont High stoner Jeff Spicoli.” Netflix has already confirmed that one of them, Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn), is the ringleader of the mysterious Hellfire Club. But what exactly is this club, and how will it affect Eleven and her friends? One fan thinks they’ll be a rival group that tries to win Eleven over.
They explain, “My theory is that the new teenage characters have a party like Dustin, Mike, Lucas and Will. But instead of being called the Party, they are called the Hellfire Club and they are going to ask Eleven if she wants to leave the Party and join them instead.”
Netflix has also posted a pic of Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) sporting a Hellfire tee, which leaves one very important question: Did he join the dark side? Guess we’ll have to wait and see…