I love Stranger Things. That’s not really a novel idea or a spicy hot take, to be fair, considering that it’s the most successful and culturally-assimilated show ever created by Netlfix. But, to my credit, I was riding the Stranger wave long before it became the pop culture phenomenon that it is today, as I remember telling my friends — via a workday G-Chat (do people still use those?) — that we should check out this “80’s monster show.” I was an entertainment writer back then too, so Netflix shows that no one really had a bead on yet were always on my radar slightly before the general public’s.
We had a house at the Jersey Shore that summer, which meant that our Sundays were spent strictly cemented to the couch waging war against the existential dread that is Monday morning. Stranger Things came out on a Friday and on that very Sunday, we crushed all eight episodes — and about 3000 calories in munchie food each — in one sitting. It was glorious.
Little did I know back then that the series would develop into one of the world’s biggest. Nostalgia is perhaps the most powerful drug, folks, and Stranger Things is the cartel. So, now here we are, three seasons and four years later, and Netflix just released the first proper teaser trailer for the upcoming fourth installment. And with it, came the reveal that our big dawg, our thiccc king, our chain-smoking, child-threatening, demon-fighting, Bronco-driving police chief Jim Hopper is alive and… well, not so well, but certainly not in a literal hell, either.
Now, here’s the thing. Actually, let me preface my comments with this: the people behind Stranger Things and at Netflix are far smarter than I. They’ve got marketing departments and focus groups and PR teams and, you know, all that shit. All I have is a laptop, some blue light glasses, and a halfway decent perspective. And from that perspective, I just find outright confirming Hopper’s survival in such an overt manner… odd? Not odd in its execution, but odd in its nature — why bother?
My thinking is two-fold: A) unless you’re a masochist, you’ve likely assumed that Hopper was going to survive somehow. He’s too integral to the show’s overall narrative, and more importantly, who doesn’t fucking love Chief Hopper? Guy spends most of his time smoking cigs, crushing beers, hitting on Joyce Byers, and protecting the planet from other-worldly demonic entities. Could the Duffer Brothers really be leaning into the fact that no one truly bought into Hopper’s death in the first place? Wouldn’t that literally be shitting on their own writing?
And B) it’s not like they need to build hype for Stranger Things. This is Stranger Things we’re talking about, after all. Netflix could pull a Beyonce, not release a trailer and say a word about it otherwise, and then just drop the season out of the clouds without any forewarning and millions of people would still scramble to rearrange their plans for the weekend. They don’t need the stunt marketing of “Hey everyone, look’s who’s back, balder, and grumpier than ever!”
Which leads me to one conclusion: things are not as they seem. There has to be some sort of sleight-of-hand at play here. Something has to have happened to Hopper along the way that will affect him going forward more than the fact that he’s a prisoner in Russia. You might even say that things are… strange.
If not, all they’ve just done is spoiled what was perhaps the biggest talking point heading into season four. And that just doesn’t make any sense. Trust me when I say, Netflix is far too smart for that.
Eric is a New York City-based writer who still isn’t quite sure how he’s allowed to have this much fun for a living and will tell anyone who listens that Gotham City is canonically in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter @eric_ital for movie and soccer takes or contact him email@example.com