WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Stranger Things Seas0n 3, streaming now on Netflix.
Netflix permits viewers to skip opening and end credits, thus encouraging them to settle in for virtually nonstop binges of fan-favorite series. Therefore, you can be forgiven if, between wiping away tears after the gut-wrenching finale and not wanting to be directed to an Adam Sandler movie, you stopped watching before the post-credits scene of Stranger Things Season 3. If that's the case, go back and watch it now.
The eight-episode season followed two primary threads, split between the secret Soviet facility beneath Starcourt Mall devoted to reopening a gate to the Upside Down, and the effort by the sinister Mind Flayer to infect residents of Hawkins, Indiana, transforming them into an army of what the kids labeled "the Flayed." Those plots come together in the season finale, "The Battle of Starcourt," in which Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), Hopper (David Harbour) and Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman), infiltrate the facility to once again close the gate, while the kids fend off what's effectively a physical embodiment of Shadow Monster formed by the Flayed.
There are losses in the finale, of course: Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery), who spent much of the season controlled by Mind Flayer, sacrifices himself to save Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), and then, most heartbreakingly, Hopper is caught in the explosion of the massive device being used to open a portal to the Upside Down. Hawkins is saved, again, but at an unbearable cost.
Three months pass, but there's no returning to normal. The Byers leave town, just as Joyce had previously intended, only they take Eleven with them, and everyone else remains to pick up the pieces.
As viewers begin to process the devastating ending, the credits roll, only without a prompt to move on to the next series or film. Those who can see through their tears will notice snow falling against a black background. After the initial credits, the scene settles on a base in wintery Kamchatka, Russia, where guards approach a row of cell doors. Most telling is that one soldier tells the other, "No, not the American," indicating he should move to the next cell.
We can hope, if not necessarily assume, "the American" is Chief Hopper, who not only somehow survived the explosion, but ended up thousands of miles away, in a Soviet facility. Why else would the show go out of its way to mention an American?
The other, flashier reveal comes when a Russian prisoner is dragged into a cage, in which he's soon joined by a Demodog, the penultimate stage of the dreaded Demogorgon. It's a callback to Season 2, naturally, but also to an earlier observation by Lucas' scene-stealing sister Erica (Priah Ferguson): While she and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) were making their way through the miles of tunnels beneath Starcourt Mall, she spotted a roughly Demodog-size cage standing empty. It's the Stranger Things equivalent of Chekov's gun; a Demodog better damn well make an appearance by the end of the season.
However, the creature is almost certainly more than a fulfillment of that promise. As we saw in the opening moments of the seasons, the Soviets tried, and failed, to open a gate to the Upside Down in their country, which is why they built the facility in Hawkins. This Demodog couldn't have come that earlier effort. It's more than likely the one suggested by the empty cage beneath Starcourt Mall, or else the result of a subsequent attempt. Either scenario would seem to point to Hopper, and presumably the Russian scientists, not dying in the explosion, but instead being transported to the Upside Down.
And while his stay there, not say nothing of the prison cell, has undoubtedly not been kind to Hopper, we can presume he's fared better than Billy Hargrove.
Created by the Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Priah Ferguson, Cary Elwes, Jake Busey and Maya Thurman-Hawke.