WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Stranger Things Season 3, streaming now on Netflix.
Stranger Things Season 3 ends on an explosive note, as the usual resistance from Hawkins, Indiana, fend off the returning Mind Flayer. Following the possession of Billy Hargrove and the attack by the Flayed, it's left to Chief Hopper, Joyce Byers and Murray Bauman to seal the rift to the Upside Down at the secret Russian facility deep beneath Starcourt Mall. That killed the monster, but also resulted in the apparent death of Hopper (David Harbour).
However, the finale, while heartbreaking, is hardly neat and tidy, with the post-credits scene only adding to the pile of questions that has accumulated over the course of eight episodes.
WHO IS "THE AMERICAN"?
The post-credits sequence returns to the secret Soviet facility in Kamchatka in which the Russians attempted to open a rift to the Upside Down in the season premiere. Failure there led to them create the secret lab beneath Starcourt Mall, as an interdimensional gate had already been opened in Hawkins.
As two soldiers approach a row of prison cells, one tells the other not to take "the American," and they instead drag out a Russian. Fans immediately began to speculate whether the man in the other cell is Hopper, who somehow survived when Joyce shut down the reactor three months earlier, triggering an explosion.
Some have speculated Hopper was sucked into the Upside Down, and then extracted somewhere else by the Russian. New theories suggest it could even be Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine), as we didn't see the Demogorgon kill him in Season 1. Either way, that the Russians have an American and are keeping him (or her) alive is enough to keep fans guessing.
HOW DID RUSSIA GET A DEMOGORGON?
The prisoner is fed fed to a Demodog, which we know is the final phase before the creature turns into a Demogorgon. Seeing as Erica (Priah Ferguson) and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) spotted a cage and a huge electric prod in the Starcourt lab, it could be this beast was extracted through the small rift opened in Hawkins, and then shipped to Kamchatka.
Some fan theorists believe the Russians may have opened a gate to the Upside Down elsewhere, after learning from their mistakes at Kamchatka, and pulled a Demodog over there. It remains to be seen how the Soviets obtained this monster, but what's even more interesting is how it's surviving without the Mind Flayer's control. Of course, this assumes no more rifts are open. However, if they are, then the Demodog provides another link to the Shadow Monsters ambitions of conquering the real world.
WHAT WAS THE U.S. GOVERNMENT DOING?
The U.S. government has really mucked up its handling of the Hawkins National Laboratory. After Brenner failed in Season 1, Paul Reiser's Dr. Sam Owens took over the MKUltra program, only to close the rift and burn remnants of the Upside Down. However, that went south when Will (Noah Schnapp) was possessed and the Demodogs went on the attack. The debacle ended with Murray exposing the program, but there wasn't any real fallout.
The government did a poor job watching over Hawkins in Season 3, which is shocking, as it was held responsible for the deaths of Barb and Bob (covered up as accidental), and as a result the Russians sneaked into their backyard and used their land to operate another gateway program. Owens & Co. didn't arrive until the finale to mop up Starcourt.
Fans would really like to know who's responsible for this incompetence and also, if the Americans have a plan to safeguard Hawkins and its secrets. It's clearly the doorway to the Upside Down, so it seems Owens might have to reopen business to find a way of ensuring the dark realm is exorcised from the town, for good.
WHAT HAPPENED TO ELEVEN'S POWERS?
After an attack by the Flayed (in the form of the Meat Monster), Eleven was wounded and had to remove one of its tentacles from her foot. That began to de-power her, and she lost her telekinetic abilities in the finale. The season ends with her still not being able to use her powers, so we're wondering if it's physical (as in sort of infection) or psychological.
Given she lost Hopper, too, memories of her mother may be triggering her problems, so we'd like to know how and when her powers might return. If she is still infected, just like Will, Eleven may even provide the Mind Flayer with another avatar to possess.
WHY AREN'T THE PARENTS GETTING INVOLVED?
At some point, the parents of Hawkins have to get called out, as their kids are always neck-deep in so many disasters. First, there was the high-school brawl with the Demogorgon, then we had numerous assaults in Season 2 by the Demodogs, which culminated with the Hawkins Lab incident. Do the cops never inform these parents where their kids are?
Season 3 ends with everyone coming to the mall to pick up their children, and you have to recognize the common denominator. These kids, and whoever is helping them cover up the incidents, are actually endangering the other members of their families. Karen Wheeler actually sees Joyce and Hopper fleeing from a Russian hitman at the Fun Fair, and it should be obvious to her the Byers are nothing but trouble.
For Karen to notice that, yet be oblivious to her own children's activities, is ... puzzling. It's definitely a mystery how, after three seasons, the parents could be this blind, beyond mere plot convenience. Hopefully, they're integrated better into Season 4 better are a little less clueless.
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.