By the time we got through the third season of Stranger Things, we were left scratching our heads about a few things. For instance, why have Eleven's powers forsaken her? Are there any rats left in Hawkins? And how is Max going to explain Billy's bizarre death to her parents?! But above all those was a much more devastating question we never thought we'd ask ourselves: is Jim Hopper dead?
Well, on Feb. 14, Netflix answered that question with an intense teaser. Jim is, in fact, alive. (TBH, we figured he wasn't dead. The real shock is that he's now bald.) The quick clip shows him in Russia, working with fellow prisoners while armed authorities oversee them. Understandably, Jim looks really pressed, but before we get any more clues about what's happening, the clip cuts to black. This obviously brings about even more questions, but at least we have a taste of what's to come. So until we're treated to another hint about season four, let's review what initially led Hopper to his big life-or-death moment in the third installment.
Season three sees our heroes split into four separate groups: Will, Eleven, Max, Lucas, and Mike; Steve, Dustin, Robin, and Erica; Nancy and Jonathan; and Hopper and Joyce. The latter duo decide to figure out why the magnets on Joyce's fridge have suddenly stopped working. By the end of the season, all the groups finally reunite and relay their individual discoveries and are able to piece everything together. Essentially, evil Russians have been trying to reopen the gate to the Upside Down in a secret lab beneath the new mall in Hawkins. Yes, it's a lot.
Hopper, Joyce, and Murray the conspiracy theorist decide to go down to the lab to shut off the big laser beam that's opening the gate themselves. Just as Hopper and Joyce are about to turn the two keys that are required to shut off the laser, an Arnold Schwarzenegger-like super-soldier arrives and starts beating the sh*t out of everybody's favorite police chief. Even though Hopper bests the goon, it's too late — the laser is about to open up the Upside Down, and Joyce has to make the decision to turn the keys, even though she believes it'll vaporize Hop in the process. Cue all the tears.
The next thing we know, it's three months later and Joyce is moving her sons (and Eleven!) to a brand-new town for a fresh start. Hopper is presumed dead, thought to have been turned to dust, since his remains were never found. What's important to note here is that we never actually see Hop die since Joyce turns away at the last second and the explosion blocks our view. So, despite that incredibly heartfelt tribute to Hop in the final episode, there was at least one point in favor of his still being alive.
What's more is the postcredits scene in episode eight all but confirms that Chief Hopper is still kicking. The footage drops us into a prison in a very snowy Russia (the same place we see in the season four teaser), where two soldiers walk down a line of cell doors looking for a certain prisoner. One of them goes to open a door, and his partner says, "No, not the American," then gestures to the next in line. They proceed to drag that poor prisoner down to the basement, where they lock him in a cage with the OG Demogorgon. Brutal.
What's most important about this scene, of course, is the mention of "the American." Sure, technically any old American citizen could be locked away in there. But throughout season three, the show makes a point of highlighting that the aforementioned Russian super-soldier always refers to Hop as "the American" — never as his actual name or "the chief" or any other identifier. So Hop's survival was pretty much assumed, but it's nice to have confirmation.
Needless to say, season four can't come soon enough.