How Stranger Things 4 Would Be Different If Hopper Had Actually Died

Stranger Things season 4 would have looked very different had Hopper stayed dead at the end of « The Battle of Starcourt ». Hopper’s « death » was almost immediately reversed in a Stranger Things season 3 end credits scene implying that he wasn’t dead but had been captured by Russians. These implications were accurate and Hopper spent Stranger Things season 4 in a Russian Gulag in Kamchatka. Although Hopper is reunited with Joyce and has a dramatic battle with a Demogorgon in Stranger Things season 4, he still seems very separate from the main story revolving around Vecna’s vengeful plot to destroy Hawkins. However, had Hopper not survived Stranger Things season 3 the ramifications for Hawkins could have been huge.

Jim Hopper (David Harbour) is the brash, shoot-first, chief of police in Hawkins and Eleven’s adoptive father in Stranger Things. Although Hopper begins Stranger Things as a deadbeat drunk, he overcomes the tragic death of his daughter as he helps Joyce rescue Will from the Upside Down and then adopts Eleven into his home. Hopper and Eleven’s relationship has its rocky moments due to Hopper’s overprotective attitude, causing conflict between them and later with Mike also. Despite this, Stranger Things season 3 concludes in tear-jerking fashion as Hopper sacrifices himself to keep a gate to The Upside Down closed. Eleven then decides to move away from Hawkins with Joyce and the Byers family, finishing the season by reading a note Hopper wrote but never gave to her about the struggles of being a father.

Although Hopper’s death at the end of Stranger Things season 3 would have been a fitting emotional conclusion to his and Eleven’s arc together, his survival was crucial to the events of Stranger Things season 4. It might have been refreshing to see a mainstay character from Stranger Things die, given that the majority of notable Stranger Things deaths have happened to newly introduced or side characters. Hopper’s story in Stranger Things season 4 also feels somewhat irrelevant to the main plot, but Stranger Things season 4 would have been tragically different had Hopper remained dead. Here’s every way that Hopper’s actual death would have impacted Stranger Things season 4.

Eleven, going by the name Jane Hopper, struggles to adapt to life in California with the Byers family at the beginning of Stranger Things season 4. She is severely bullied at school and particularly by Angela, whose humiliating stunts ultimately drive Eleven to assault her with an ice skate. Eleven is arrested for assaulting Angela and taken to juvenile. Despite Will, Mike and Jonathan’s best efforts, they are unable to see or help her without a legal parent or guardian present. As it turns out, Joyce Byers, who is her legal guardian, is unable to intervene because she is on a plane to Alaska with Murray as they attempt to rescue Hopper from Russia.

The impact of this change could have been drastic. It is hard to imagine that the doggedly determined Joyce Byers would have been prepared to let Eleven be taken away by the police without a fight. At the very least, she would have demanded to see Eleven or would have wanted to know where she was going. A further consideration is that, at this time, both Sam Owens and Lt. Col. Jack Sullivan were both looking for Eleven, with the latter set on eliminating her, believing her to be the cause of Chrissy Cunningham’s violent death. If Joyce had successfully intervened in Eleven’s arrest and transfer she could have bought Sullivan the time he needed to locate and kill Eleven, not to mention Joyce and her children as well. The US Army did break into the Byers household, guns blazing, with little regard for the possibility of killing Mike, Will and Jonathan in the process. Had Joyce taken Eleven home, it isn’t such a stretch to imagine them both being killed in the US Army’s seek and destroy mission.

Joyce Byers intervening in Eleven’s arrest may not have led to their deaths in Stranger Things season 4, but she certainly could have complicated Dr. Sam Owens’ plan to restore Eleven’s powers. Joyce may have intervened in Owens’ attempts to convince Eleven to come with him to the Nina Project in Nevada. Although Eleven, with the knowledge that her friends in Hawkins were in danger, probably wouldn’t have been convinced by Joyce not to go with Owens at all, Joyce would almost certainly have insisted on coming too, complicating the mission further. Given Joyce has a complicated past with Owens, after his dealings with Will in Stranger Things season 2, Owens would have had a hard time convincing her that any of his plans were above board, especially once Dr. Martin Brenner was involved.

Joyce’s potential influence on Brenner and Owens’ plans may well have derailed their mission, especially given the number of times Eleven tries to escape them anyway. Had Joyce managed to take Eleven away from Brenner and Owens, this would have meant that Eleven wouldn’t have regained her powers, learned about Vecna’s true identity as Henry Creel or been able to stop Vecna from killing Max. It also means Martin Brenner would not have died in the Nevada desert, although he almost certainly would have attempted to pursue Eleven more forcefully, which could well have endangered the whole Byers family, particularly given that the US Army was also looking for her.

Joyce’s romantic pursuits in Stranger Things have mostly ended in tragedy, with Bob being eaten by Demodogs in Stranger Things season 2 after heroically helping the group escape, and Hopper dying at the end of Stranger Things season 3. If Hopper remained dead and unable to complete his date with Joyce at Enzos, perhaps Murray would have stepped in. Murray is unnervingly astute at picking up on romantic chemistry throughout Stranger Things, but during Stranger Things season 4 his character ironically begins to bicker with Joyce in the same exaggerated way as Hopper does with her in Stranger Things season 3. Had Hopper been gone, perhaps Murray and Joyce’s shared experiences would have led the pair together. After all, if Joyce was caught in a race against time to try and protect Eleven, Murray would surely have been her first port of call. Instead of leaving for Alaska to save Hopper they may have ended in the Nevada desert to save Eleven. Murray and Joyce could have made a couple worth rooting for, albeit a rather eccentric one which, given Joyce’s unfortunate track record, may not have ended so well for Murray.

One of the key details in Hopper’s Russia storyline is the discovery that the Russian military has been experimenting on various creatures and materials from the Upside Down. Not only do they have a Demogorgon, who they feed prisoners to in the Kamchatka Gulag, but they also have several Demodogs and a shadowy substance that appears to be part of the Mind Flayer in shady laboratories. The implications of these discoveries are wide-reaching, with it being possible that Russia has even managed to open another gate to the Upside Down closer to home. However, all of this would have remained a secret had Hopper died below Starcourt Mall. The longer Russia’s nefarious projects had remained under wraps, the more explosive the consequences could have been.

There remains a lot to be uncovered in Stranger Things about what exactly the Russians were doing with so many creatures from the Upside Down, but it seems unlikely that they could have contained the powerful Demogorgon forever. The Russians only learn the Demogorgon’s weakness to fire because of Hopper, and surely sooner or later it would have broken loose, killing the guards (probably including Hopper’s friend, Dmitri, whom he’d have never met) and prisoners and perhaps venturing further afield to cause havoc in the nearby Russian towns and villages. If a gate had been opened in Russia, this also could have led to a catastrophic invasion from the Upside Down, with the Mind Flayer able to extend its reach beyond Hawkins. Perhaps the Russians were also attempting to tame and use Demogorgons as weapons of mass destruction, an equally terrifying prospect. However, thanks to Hopper, who kills the creatures in the Russian Gulag, these fears can be put to rest for now, unless Russia has other dangerous secrets yet to be revealed in Stranger Things season 5.

Eleven may have still regained her powers and participated in the Nina Project in Stranger Things season 4, even with Joyce Byers being in California instead of traveling to Alaska, but none of them could have beaten Vecna without Hopper’s help. In Stranger Things season 4, Hopper, Murray and Joyce break back into the Russian Gulag to fight the Demogorgon, believing that due to its hive mind any damage caused to it in Russia would hurt the Mind Flayer in Hawkins. This can be seen by the fact that in Stranger Things season 2 all the Demodogs die once Eleven shuts the gate to the Upside Down at Hawkins lab.

Although Eleven finds the strength to save Max from Vecna in Stranger Things season 4’s thrilling finale, Eleven isn’t the one who ultimately stops Vecna. It is Nancy, Steve and Robin, combining Molotov cocktails and a shotgun to finish him off, for now. This is only possible because Murray torches the pack of Demodogs attempting to kill Hopper and Joyce in Russia. In afflicting such destruction upon the creatures, Murray disrupts the hive mind and causes Nancy, Steve and Robin to be released by the roots which are crushing them to death. Hopper then kills the Demogorgon at the same time as Nancy shoots Vecna, sufficiently weakening him. Without Murray’s intervention in Russia, Nancy, Steve and Robin would have been killed and Vecna would almost certainly have regained his strength to finish off Max and kill Eleven. It was all connected.

Stranger Things season 4 ends with Eleven and Hopper reunited in their cabin as they and the rest of the group watch the Upside Down begin to ascend into Hawkins through the aftereffects of Vecna’s earthquake. As the group watches the fearful scene unfold in front of them, Eleven and the gang feel a deeper sense of determination and resolve towards defeating the Mind Flayer, Vecna and anything else that may invade Hawkins from the Upside Down. Without Hopper, this reaction may have been more despairing, had the group even made it this far in the first place. Although Eleven calls Dr Brenner « Papa », Hopper is her real dad. Hopper is the one who inspires Eleven, Joyce and the others to keep fighting when the going gets tough.

Hopper is the one who has journeyed from the deepest despair from losing his daughter to the greatest hope and determination in finding Eleven and Joyce as people to care about again. It may still be that in Stranger Things season 5 Hopper dies, but perhaps this time the sacrifice will be to protect Eleven and inspire her to stay strong in her struggle against Vecna. Hopper’s presence in Stranger Things season 5 will inspire both Hawkins and the audience that the Upside Down can be defeated. Had he stayed dead, things not only would have turned out worse in Stranger Things season 4, but they would also have looked incredibly bleak in Stranger Things season 5.