Stranger Things season 4 has a lot of questions to answer, among those how Jim Hopper survived the explosion at the end of season 3 and how he ended up in Russia. As the Duffer Brothers have been keeping all details about season 4 a secret, fans of the series have been coming up with all types of theories, among those one that suggests the Hopper in Russia is actually a clone. Season 3 of Stranger Things left viewers wondering if Hopper was really dead, who the American prisoner is, and what will happen with Eleven now that her powers are gone and she moved out of Hawkins with the Byers.
With production of Stranger Things season 4 on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, plot details will continue to be a mystery for a while, but Netflix and the team behind the series decided to treat their fans and released a teaser with a big revelation on Valentine’s Day: Hopper is alive, and he’s being held prisoner in Russia. Of course, the biggest questions are now about how Hopper survived and how he became the American prisoner (supposing there’s only one), and fans have come up with all types of explanations.
One of those suggests the Hopper seen being forced to work in a chain gang in Russia is not the Hopper that viewers know so well, but a clone. The theory can be supported by some details from the previous seasons of Stranger Things, as well as by some of the series’ (many) influences and the mystery that is the Upside Down and the creatures living in it. Here’s how Hopper could be a clone in Stranger Things season 4.
The final episode of Stranger Things season 3 saw the main group and their allies divided into three factions: the Scoops Troop (Dustin, Steve, Robin, and Erica), the Griswold Family (Eleven, Mike, Will, Lucas, Max, Jonathan, and Nancy), and the Bald Eagle (Joyce, Hopper, and Murray). The latter group was in charge of infiltrating the Russian lab located underneath Starcourt Mall, and for that, they had to dress as Russian agents. Once there, Joyce and Hopper got to the part of the lab where the Key was (the machine designed to open gates to the Upside Down), and in order to shut it down, they had two turn two keys at the same time, but they were interrupted by Grigori (also known as “the Russian Terminator”). Hopper and Grigori fought near the machine, with Hopper pushing Grigori into the device, killing him instantly but also causing the Key to malfunction and trap him between the semi-open gate and a ray of energy. With seemingly no way out, he signaled Joyce to turn the keys, even if that meant he would die. Joyce did so and the machine exploded, killing those near it. Hopper’s body (or what would have been left of it) was never found, which made fans wonder if he could have survived somehow.
Now that it’s confirmed that Hopper is alive, fans have come up with different explanations on how he survived. One of the most popular ones explains that, when Joyce closed her eyes when turning the keys and the screen went black, that’s when Hopper made one final move to save himself. When the screen went back to the scene, right before the Key exploded, Hopper was not where he was supposed to, which has made fans believe Hopper found a way to escape at the last second. It’s possible that the Russians learned a few lessons from their previous failed attempts to open gates and added a safe zone in case the Key malfunctioned again. With that in mind, Hopper could have found the ladder that leads to a safe area or the shockwave of the explosion tossed him away, falling into that zone. As he was wearing a Russian uniform, he might have been found by them and believed to be part of their team, which is how he ended up on the other side of the world.
Another well-known theory suggests the explosion sent Hopper through the gate and into the Upside Down, where he was trapped for a while. Given that everything about the Upside Down continues to be a mystery, it could have served as a portal of sorts that took Hopper to Russia – and as the post-credits scene of season 3’s finale revealed that the Russians have their own Demogorgon, that means they have successfully opened at least one gate, which could have been Hopper’s ticket out of the other dimension.
Stranger Things has relied a lot on many horror and sci-fi tropes, but it has also had its own twists. Season 4’s could be that the Hopper being kept prisoner in Russia is not the real one, but a clone. The big question, then, would be how and why he was cloned – but it might not be the Russian’s doing. In season 3, viewers followed Billy Hargrove’s transformation after his encounter with the Mind Flayer. Billy was taken to the Upside Down, where he came across with a clone of himself after the Mind Flayer planted a part of itself inside him (as it did with Will in season 2, but in a much deeper level). After that, Billy was under the control of the monster, which brought significant changes in him, both physical and behavioral.
Taking Will and Billy’s cases as examples, and following the aforementioned theory of Hopper being thrown into the Upside Down during the explosion, the Hopper in Russia could be a clone created by the Mind Flayer. The purpose of a Hopper clone in this case would be to continue with the monster’s plans of taking over this dimension, more so after its past attempts have failed because of Eleven’s intervention. Cloning Hopper specifically would also help the Mind Flayer attract Eleven, given the strong bond between them, allowing it to get its revenge after all those times Eleven got in the way. The Mind Flayer has been getting stronger, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it perfected its plan following its most recent defeat, including now the use of a clone.
However, if Hopper survived thanks to a safe zone in the lab and was mistaken by a Russian scientist and taken to Russia, then the purpose of a Jim Hopper clone would be different. Hopper knows too much – about Hawkins Lab, the Upside Down, the monsters, and the Russians – and the Russians are still experimenting on the other dimension and the creatures living in it. Cloning Hopper would not only help them get the information they need and use him however they need, but also help them get their hands on Eleven, whose powers would be very useful to them. The Russian guard’s line of “not the American” could then refer to the scientists keeping Hopper alive to clone him, so he couldn’t be the Demogorgon’s dinner.
Stranger Things is heavily influenced by many sci-fi and horror films from the 1980s, among those classics like John Carpenter’s The Thing and the Star Wars films. The Thing has already been referenced in Stranger Things – a poster can be spotted at Mike’s basement and Lucas mentioned it when explaining why he liked New Coke – but its influence in terms of narrative and more hasn’t really been felt yet. Viewers were quick to point out how the season 4 teaser had big The Thing vibes: set in a snowy, isolated place, where a dangerous and mysterious creature is being kept (in this case, the Demogorgon). Some even found some similarities between the strange noise/”scream” heard at the end of the teaser and the sound the creature from The Thing made.
Carpenter’s film followed a group of American researchers in Antarctica who came across with a parasitic extraterrestrial life-form that assimilated and imitated other organisms. The creature began to attack the group and pose as some of them, making them paranoid as they could no longer trust each other, as it was very difficult to know if the person next to them was the real one or “the thing”. Stranger Things could be following the steps of The Thing in season 4 and bring clones to the mix, with Hopper being the chosen one to introduce this concept in the series, causing (even more) conflict and paranoia among the group.
Of course, there’s also Star Wars, which also has its own clones. They were genetically engineered with the purpose of killing and dying to defend their makers. Clones in Star Wars had tragic lives, as all they knew was the battlefield and weren’t really treated like human beings. Though it appears that all clones were gone by the time the original trilogy begins, the sequels went back to the concept of cloning by revealing Palpatine had cloned himself. The Star Wars universe is in constant change, but that doesn’t mean the Duffer Brothers can’t borrow the idea, even if it wasn’t really present in the Star Wars films from the 1980s. Some fans have found similarities between Hopper and Han Solo’s arc, and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is among the many influences for Stranger Things season 4, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they take these influences beyond the iconic 1980 film.
As mentioned above, the consequences of a Hopper clone would depend on who created him and with what purpose. If it’s the Mind Flayer’s doing, it would mean that the group’s encounters with it are far from over, and that the creature has once more evolved – and even worse, it now has at least one more gate from which it can begin to take over this dimension. If the Hopper clone is created by the Russians, the “bad guys” could get easy access to very important information about Hawkins, the lab, and its residents, especially those the Russian scientists came across with. Both scenarios would represent a big threat to Eleven, as both can be used as bait: the Mind Flayer wants revenge, and Eleven can easily fall when seeing the Hopper clone, and the Russians could really use her powers in their experiments.
Of course, some of the biggest questions are if and how people would realize that they’re not dealing with the real Hopper. Going back to The Thing, cinematographer Dean Cundey has teased that he added a subtle illumination to the eyes of uninfected characters, a hint for viewers to know who was real and who was a clone. Stranger Things season 4 could have its own subtle hint, which only those truly observant and those who know Hopper very well would notice. As for the real one, he could be either trapped in the Upside Down or being kept prisoner by the Russians, though under heavier surveillance than the rest. A Hopper clone would add more conflict and drama to Stranger Things, and as its still unknown when season 4 will be released, fans will surely continue trying to find explanations to some of the series’ biggest mysteries.
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