Warning: This post contains spoilers for the entire third season of Stranger Things. If you haven’t watched yet, why are you here? Stop reading!
• Stranger Things 3, sadly, has come and gone.
• But how did the third season end?
• We break down what happened, and what it could mean below.
Man, its wild how eight hours can fly when they’re filled with excitement, horror, humor, and a few tears here and there, huh? So, Stranger Things 3 may be history, but it’ll live on our Netflix account for all the rewatching anyone’s heart could ever desire. But, let’s talk about that Season 3 ending for a moment, and just take a second to think about everything that went down at the end there.
So how did Stranger Things 3 end?
Well, that’s hard to put too simply, but, long story short: after all of our major character groupings finally met up (Steve/Robin/Dustin/Erica, Mike/Will/Eleven/Max/Lucas, Nancy/Jonathan, and Hopper/Joyce/Murray) at the Starcourt Mall, they teamed up and took on a variety of roles to battle the Mind Flayer. The monster was incapacitated when the boys attacked it with fireworks, but finally was killed when Joyce and Hopper managed to turn the knobs that shut the Russians’ Upside Down machine off. The key to the machine, as we learned earlier in the season from Alexei (RIP), was Planck’s Constant, a very specific number from the mathematics world. After Murray misremembered a digit, Dustin managed to get the number correctly from his (very real) girlfriend from summer science camp, Suzie.
Not long after this, we see Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser’s character from Season 2) show up at the scene with a team of men. He knows all about the Upside Down, so going forward this should certainly help with their research, and figuring things out, but for now it doesn’t seem to help anyone too much with the actual conclusion.
After this ordeal is concluded, we pick up a little bit of time later. After Hopper’s presumed death following the machine’s powering down (more on that later), Eleven is now living with Joyce, Will, and Jonathan—they are in the process of packing their house up, and preparing to move. Eleven’s powers are no longer working—she can’t even reach a Teddy Bear from the top shelf of the house closet, needing Mike to come and grab it for her.
In a montage, we learn about Hop’s presumed death in ‘a fire,’ but we know it’s something related to the upside down machine. We see Robin and Steve, now very platonic friends, but friends nonetheless, trying to get a job at the video store where Keith (the arcade attendant from last season) now works.
We also see that Mayor Kline, the corrupt mayor from this season, has been arrested and removed from office. Not long after this, Joyce gives Eleven the letter that Hop had planned to read to her and Mike earlier in the season, which ends up being perhaps the most emotional and heart-wrenching moment of the season. As the Byers car drives away, season three comes to a close.
If you feel like shedding a tear or six again, take a look below at the full text from Hopper’s letter:
There’s something I’ve been wanting to talk to you both about. I know this is a difficult conversation, but I care about you both very much. And I know that you care about each other very much, and that’s why it’s important that we set these boundaries moving forward so we can build an environment where we all feel comfortable, trusted, and open to sharing our feelings.
Jesus. The truth is, for so long I’d forgotten what those even were. I’ve been stuck in one place. In a cave, you might say. A deep, dark cave. And then I left some Eggos out in the woods and you came into my life. For the first time in a long time, I started to feel things again. I started to feel happy. But lately, I guess I’ve been feeling distant from you. Like you’re pulling away from me or something. I miss playing board games every night, making triple decker Eggo extravaganzas at sunrise, watching Westerns together before we doze off.
But I know you’re getting older, growing, changing. I guess, if I’m being really honest, that’s what scares me. I don’t want things to change. So I think maybe that’s why I came in here, to try and make stop that change. To turn back the clock. To make things go back to how they were. But I know that’s naive. It’s just not how life works. It’s moving, always moving, whether you like it or not. And yeah, sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s sad. And sometimes, it’s surprising. Happy.
So you know what? Keep on growing up kid. Don’t let me stop you. Make mistakes, learn from ’em. When life hurts you, because it will, remember the hurt. The hurt is good. It means you’re out of that cave. But, please, if you don’t mind, for the sake of your poor old dad, keep the door open three inches.
I see. So who all ended up dying this season?
Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Billy this season. Eleven helped him somewhat snap out of the Mind Flayer’s possession by mentioning his mother, after witnessing the chain of events that led to Billy’s immersion in an endless cycle of abuse. When Billy snapped out of the Mind Flayer’s control, he turned around and faced the giant monster—now made out of a giant mound of human and rat flesh, rather than Season 2’s shadow composition—and held it off long enough to save some of the other kid’s lives. Unfortunately, though, the Mind Flayer stuck its pointy tentacles into Billy a ton, and he was killed.
We also lost Alexei, the Russian scientist/Slurpee lover who helped Hopper, Joyce, and Murray figured out the Russian’s plans with their machine. He was so happy at the fair, but then got shot by the Russian Terminator-guy’s silencer gun. RIP sweet Alexei.
Speaking of that Russian Terminator guy, he was an annoyance to everyone throughout the scene, but finally got taken care of in the finale, when Hopper beat him in a fight, throwing him into the very fast-spinning gears on the Russians’ Upside Down machine. The Russian Terminator was splattered into goo.
Hopper appeared to die in the explosion not long after dispatching with the Russian Terminator, as Joyce had to turn the key to shut the machine off and close the gate. But we’ll have more on that later.
Additionally, we lost some minor characters along the way, mostly people who got possessed by the Mind Flayer, and combusted into fleshy goo—notably the sexist Hawkins Post employees who worked with Nancy and Jonathan. It hasn’t been made clear if the people who this happened to came back to life, so for now we can assume they’re down for the count.
Oh. Yikes. Is there any hope anyone can come back?
Well, as far as our actual characters go, it seems safe to say that Billy, Alexei, and the Russian Terminator will not be back. As the TV rule goes, you can’t assume anyone’s actually dead until you see the body, or see them die. We saw all of those deaths first hand.
That said, we don’t see Hopper’s body, nor do we see anything happen to him. We only see the aftermath, and a newspaper clipping announcing his death. Hmmm.
Was there anything during or after the credits?
Yes. After the first batch of credits, we’re transported to a prison in Russia, where there’s some shady dealings going down. We see two subtitled guards, and one heads for a door: “No, not the American,” the other guard tells him, as they instead enter the next cell down, grabbing a bearded prisoner. That bearded prisoner is not long for this earth—it’s revealed in short order that these Russians have their own demogorgon, and that demogorgon, we can assume, eats this bearded prisoner.
How did they get that demogorgon? Maybe the same way they got — “the American.” It would make sense, given that we didn’t see a body, for that American to be Hopper, and some people whose opinions matter think so, too.