The third season of Stranger Things finally premiered back on Netflix in July after fans spent well over a year waiting to find out what happened next after the Mind Flayer cliffhanger. The season upped the intensity thanks to the Mind Flayer finding new and even bigger ways to menace Hawkins. Plus, puberty. The fate of Jim Hopper may be the hottest topic of debate in the aftermath of the season, as the finale definitely seemed to kill him off.
But is he really gone? Stranger Things almost certainly has another season or two before coming to a permanent end, and the second-billed David Harbour was a key part of the action as Hopper. The good news is that the post-credits sequence provided big reasons to speculate that Hop is really alive, and recent comments from co-creator and co-showrunner Matt Duffer may have revealed his fate:
We always talk about Empire Strikes Back – we always wanted to give him a darker ending, we always wanted to give him a Han Solo sacrifice moment.
Stranger Things has frequently included homages to Star Wars over the years, including poor Mike trying to impress Eleven by impersonating Yoda back in Season 1. Following Season 2, Matt Duffer told CinemaBlend that Empire Strikes Back partially influenced the controversial standalone installment that saw Eleven take a detour to Chicago. Interestingly, none of the Star Wars movies were listed among those that inspired Season 3. The choice of Empire Strikes Back and comparison of Hopper to Han Solo could mean one big thing: Hop is alive.
Han Solo really came into his own in Empire Strikes Back, and he was strong and determined as he accepted his fate of being frozen in carbonite in a process that quite easily could have killed him. He even got one of the most iconic lines of the original trilogy when he responded to Leia's confession of love with an emotional "I know." Now, as Star Wars fans know, the emotional pseudo-death scene was followed up in Return of the Jedi with Han being freed from the carbonite and rejoining his pals for another adventure against the Empire. Doesn't something like this sound doable for Stranger Things?
Han Solo's Empire Strikes Back sacrifice was poignant and heartbreaking... up until a few years later, when Return of the Jedi premiered to bring good old Han back into the mix. Interestingly, Harrison Ford has stated that he wanted Han to die after a grand original trilogy sacrifice; David Harbour hasn't said anything similar about Hopper, although he did land a sweet (if mysterious) gig in the MCU. Surely he didn't hate the mustache that much, right?
Unfortunately, we'll probably be waiting until Season 4 -- or at least close to Season 4 -- for confirmation about what happened to Hopper. Stranger Things held off on confirming Eleven was alive for a while following Season 1, and it wasn't until a thrilling trailer released that fans could breathe easily that El would be back. The show technically hasn't been renewed for a fourth season yet, but it will reportedly begin filming later this year, so we really can't count on much as fact just yet. At least we can rewatch the first three seasons on Netflix!