The best Stranger Things 4 theories explained

12 July 2019, 18:43

Nicky Idika

By Nicky Idika

Breaking down the internet's most convincing theories about what will happen in season 4 of Netflix's Stranger Things.

Stranger Things 3 gave fans iconic 80s fashions, an incredible soundtrack, and an emotional ending that we won't be getting over anytime soon. It also gave us plenty to think about ahead of season 4. Is Hopper "the American", is Dr. Brenner alive, and could a certain someone actually be trapped in the Upside Down?

The people want answers but until they get them in season 4, reddit and other fan threads will have fun cooking up convincing theories about what happens next. So, while we wait for the gang to return in 2020, here are the most popular Stranger Things 4 theories explained.

READ MORE: Stranger Things season 4: News, spoilers, release date, cast and everything we know

You know the score. MAJOR Stranger Things 3 spoiler ahead, nerd.


Hopper is "the American"

At the end of Stranger Things 3, we are transported to a Russian jail where unseen prisoners are being held. One of the guards goes to retrieve someone from a cell, but is warned to pick another prisoner. "No. Not the American," he instructs.

With Hopper being gone but no dead body to confirm that he's actually deceased, the most popular theory for season 4 is that Hopper is "the American" in question.

One reddit user writes: "There is no way they just leave him dead after such an ambiguous disappearance. The after credit scene just seals the deal".

The American Stranger Things
The American Stranger Things. Picture: Netflix/Screenshot

Hopper isn't the American but he's in the Upside Down

Another theory about Hopper's whereabouts involve Hawkins' chief of police making an unplanned trip to the Upside Down. The Upside Down has loomed large in Stranger Things lore and it wouldn't be a stretch to guess that the terrifying dimension could make a big come back in season 4.

"Hopper being a veteran Upside-Down explorer, could have taken advantage of the port that was opened in Hawkins which means that Hopper could be alive in the Upside Down," wrote one redditor.

If this is true, it would be a classic case of misdirection. With pretty much everyone assuming Hopper is "the American prisoner", him actually being in the Upside Down could be a great twist, leaving the proverbial door open for someone else to be the prisoner mentioned in the post credits.

Jim Hopper
Jim Hopper. Picture: Netflix

Doctor Brenner is "the American"

The theory that Doctor Brenner could be "the American" is a compelling one. In one reddit thread, fans bring up interesting points, like how the Russians could have known the location of the Gate in Hawkins without some serious insider information.

Brenner's death was never confirmed on screen and he isn't mentioned at all in season 3, which could set the stage for a huge comeback. If you're inclined to believe that Hopper is actually stuck in the Upside Down, Doctor Brenner being the American is looking pretty convincing right about now.

Dr. Brenner
Dr. Brenner. Picture: Netflix/Screenshot

"Keep the door open" means so much more

Hopper telling Eleven to "keep the door open three inches" is a phrase that brings Stranger Things 3 full circle. In the first episode we see Hopper fighting a losing battle against Eleven and Mike's raging hormones–urging them at every turn to "keep the door open three inches".

In the final episode, the phrase reduced fans to tears, as Eleven read the emotional speech her dad prepared.

But, wait. What if "keep the door open" is much more than the mantra of a frustrated father of a teenage girl. What if it's hinting at how Hopper could be rescued in season 4?

One reddit user guesses that the phrase is foreshadowing them needing "to keep the 'portal' slightly opened for him to escape, and/or they'll need to re-open the door to get him back out safely."

Gosh, we love a neat theory like this one.


Season 4 takes place in December

Now, this isn't exactly a massively important theory, but it could hint at when the gang could reunite for their next big adventure.

In the final episode of the season, Mike and Eleven make plans to see each other over the holidays. They're committed to making their relationship/friendship work long distance.

That would be the perfect time for season 4 to pick back up. Hopper will have been gone for 5 months and there is sure to be plenty of growing pains for Mike and Eleven now that they're long distance. Maybe I'm a sucker for a nice reunion, but it would be sweet to have Hop back for Christmas–though our next theory could hint that it actually takes place a little bit later.

Chernobyl could be a part of Stranger Things season 4

Here's your wild card theory! The Chernobyl disaster could get a little shout out in season 4.

Stranger Things 3 ends in the latter part of 1985, which means the Chernobyl disaster (which happened in spring 1986) is mere months away in their timeline. Large parts of the USSR (including Russia) were impacted after the nuclear disaster and, after seeing the post credits scene, it wouldn't be unfair to assume we might be spending some time in that part of the world.