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What Stranger Things star David Harbour really thinks about that season 3 post-credits scene

Contains major spoilers for Stranger Things season 3

Stranger Things dropped its long-awaited third season on Independence Day 2019 — and with it came unparalleled excitement from fans, an interesting new narrative, bigger and badder threats, a perfectly '80s soundtrack, a bittersweet finale, and a post-credits scene that left viewers with their jaws dropped and their minds racing.

Anyone who binge-watched Stranger Things season 3 as soon as it hit Netflix is, as binge-watchers are wont to do, trawling the internet looking for an explanation behind it all — particularly that after-credits scene. Stranger Things' own David Harbour, the man behind the chain-smoking cop with a heart of gold Chief Jim Hopper, has now offered to Slashfilm his own thoughts about the scene.

Of course, we can't talk about Harbour's comments without discussing massive spoilers, so please, if you have yet to finish Stranger Things season 3, come back to this article when you have. 

With that warning out of the way, we can get into the meat of it: The finale of Stranger Things season 3 saw Hopper give Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), his longtime friend with whom he was about to rekindle a romance, the a-okay to turn the key and shut off the machine that the Russians had built under Starcourt Mall, knowing that there was no time left to spare and the gate needed to be closed then and there. Hopper was still on the platform near the machine and not in the control room with Joyce, and he made the difficult decision to sacrifice himself and allow Joyce to close the gate as quickly as possible.

Or so it seemed

When it appeared the finale was over, after a few credits rolled, Stranger Things cut to a post-credits scene that takes place at a strange Soviet base in Kamchatka, Russia. Viewers watched as a pair of guards walked past several prisoners, looking to pick a victim to feed to a Demogorgon. When passing in front of the captives' rooms, one of the guards says, "Not the American." They end up selecting someone else to turn into Demogorgon chow, but no one forgot about the explicit mention of sparing an unidentified American's life. Nearly everyone is hoping that the American is actually Hopper — including Harbour. 

Chatting with Slashfilm, Harbour said that Hopper being the imprisoned American at the Soviet base is the most plausible idea, especially since the Russian villains in the third season of Stranger Things repeatedly referred to Hopper as "the American." 

While he couldn't get into details, the actor shared his thoughts about Hopper's life, which could be seen as evidence that he survived the explosion, is still alive, and might be stuck in the Upside Down. 

"I think the tapestry of Hopper is so large and interesting, and I also think that Hopper has karmic debts to pay for how dead he's been for a long time," said Harbour. "We have to decide who this man is... Is he a man of justice? Is he a father? Which one is he? And I think those two things are not always compatible. I don't know that you can stand for values or stand for relationships at the same time. At some point, you're going to have to choose. So I'm interested in that — in him as a human being, if he's faced with that choice, what he would choose?"

Harbour also told ET that Hopper being alive is his "hope," but he knows how wild the notion sounds. 

"It seems pretty crazy though. You know, that machine went off and blew up and Hopper seemed to be trapped there. He did glance around a little bit, but he seemed to be trapped and the machine exploded. And then you cut to, what was it? It starts with a 'K' or something — some town in Russia, right? Where there's some American and there's some other prisoner. I don't know, I mean it seems strange. I don't know how [he would have survived] though," Harbour said, adding that fans should "always hold onto hope" that their favorite characters are alive... except for Barb. Harbour said Barb is very, very dead. 

Everything considered, it's really not out of the realm of possibility to think that Hopper could be alive and might return for Stranger Things season 4 (which hasn't yet been announced as of this writing). We didn't actually see Hooper die, which is a classic fake-out move when characters aren't genuinely dead, and Harbour's musings about the kind of person Hopper is suggests that there's more in store for him. 

If Hopper is still alive (but probably not well), it will be interesting to see how Stranger Things explains his survival and if the series will reunite him with his adopted daughter Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). A Hopper-survived-and-we-tricked-you reveal will definitely satisfy fans of the character who didn't want to see his time end, but it might also taint the emotional send-off the series gave him — with the tear-jerking note he penned for El, read in voiceover before she and the Byers family moved out of Hawkins. 

Only time will tell what the Stranger Things season 3 post-credits scene actually means, if Hopper really survived, and what exactly the Russians are working on now.