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Biggest unanswered questions in Stranger Things 3

Ever since it premiered in 2016, Netflix's massive hit show Stranger Things — created by the Duffer Brothers and starring a cast of talented young actors alongside veterans like Winona Ryder — tells the story of the sleepy town of Hawkins, Indiana, and the "strange" happenings that keep occurring there. The story kicks off with the disappearance of young Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) who's being held captive in a frightening parallel dimension called the "Upside Down." Soon enough, Will's family and friends must tackle supernatural beings like Demogorgons as they try to save their loved ones and their town from certain doom.

The highly anticipated third season premiered on July 4, 2019, and for viewers who took the time to sit down and devour the season immediately upon its release, they were rewarded with a new battle against the demonic Mind Flayer and the continued antics of Hawkins' favorite creature-fighting teens. However, the season definitely left fans with plenty of questions in its aftermath. From Russian interference to missing powers, here are the biggest unanswered questions in Stranger Things season three. Spoilers for the entire season to follow!

Who is the American in the Stranger Things post-credits scene?

Obviously, the biggest lingering question from the third season of Stranger Things comes from the post-credits scene (which is actually a first for the series). As the third season comes to a close, it feels like the show is providing closure for every character, but think again. Just after the credits begin, the show takes us to the wintry climes of Russia. After all, the Russians served as the season's main villains (not counting the Mind Flayer), so this doesn't come as much of a surprise … but there's still one shock waiting in store.

As soldiers in the Russian bunker decide which prisoner they'll dispose of next, they come to a windowless door. But just as one soldier prepares to open it, the other stops him, saying, "No. Not the American," leading them to choose a frightened, Russian-speaking prisoner instead. So who could "the American" be? The likeliest theories point to the American being Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour), currently presumed dead after an explosion at the Russian base in Hawkins. But until a potential season four airs, viewers will have to wait and see if their beloved Indiana police chief was captured in the aftermath of the Russian invasion.

What are the Russians doing with a new Demogorgon?

The Russians might have an American in their underground bunker on their home turf, but they've also got a brand new torture device — their very own Demogorgon, which devours some random prisoner rather than "the American" in the post-credits sequence. It makes sense that, in setting up a new season, Stranger Things would return to one of its original monsters and create a conflict that could drive a fourth season, but it's still confusing to consider how the Russians scooped up this creature in the first place.

Throughout the third season, the Russians keep trying to open the Gate to the Upside Down that Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) closed at the end of Stranger Things season two, but it seems as if they took a party favor with them when they left Hawkins. However, the question remains: Did they transport a Demogorgon from Hawkins, or did they figure out a way to genetically create a new one? Either way, it seems like they've had this guy for a while, because when Robin (Maya Hawke) and Steve (Joe Keery) are being held captive in the Russian compound, a cage and cattle prod are clearly visible. And since there aren't any other animals wandering around down there, it makes sense the cage was used to imprison the Demogorgon while the Russians had the Gate open. Regardless of how they got the creature in the first place, the Russians are clearly amassing a supernatural army, which is pretty bad news for our American friends.

What's going on with Eleven's powers?

Ever since her season one introduction, Eleven — now known as "El" — has been one of the most formidable characters in TV history. Gifted with telekinesis and other psychokinetic abilities, El was raised as a supernatural guinea pig, enduring experiments and testing until she escaped the facility to try and find freedom. After befriending Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and his friends as they look for Will in season one, El figures out how to live life as a normal teen, butts heads with her adoptive father, Hopper, and pursues a romance with Mike, all while learning how to harness her incredible strength.

However, during season three, El's powers seem to weaken steadily as she attempts to find Billy (Dacre Montgomery), who's leading a group of brainwashed townspeople under the influence of the sinister Mind Flayer. During the final Flayer battle, El's powers weaken to the point where they disappear completely, and three months after they manage to defeat the Upside Down demon, they're still gone. Though Mike reassures his love that they'll probably return, El isn't so positive, and neither are audiences. Why did they vanish at all, and will she ever get them back? Though it might be related to an injury she sustained in her leg while fighting the Flayer, that's still unconfirmed, so the fate of her powers remains up in the air.

What was happening with the rats in Stranger Things season three?

Stranger Things has always trafficked in gross imagery, from bodies in the Upside Down to Will vomiting up slugs, but the third season set a new, disgusting standard for blood and gore, starting with Hawkins' rat infestation. Whether or not you suffer from musophobia, it's still pretty revolting to watch as groups of rodents gather in a basement and explode into piles of blood, guts, and bones in order to create the extremely repulsive Mind Flayer.

Eventually, the Flayer moves well beyond rats, consuming entire human beings to create its physical form, but how and why the process begins with the rats is still a mystery. Even though the Hawkins kids figure out the Flayer's victims consume various chemicals in order to create a new kind of substance, why were the rats so attracted to the Flayer in the first place, and how did the creature direct them to the fertilizer that sustained and ultimately killed them? We may never know, and if that means we don't have to watch exploding rats anymore, that's totally fine with us.

What's happening with Dr. Brenner?

Season one's main antagonists was Dr. Brenner, played by veteran actor Matthew Modine. The head of the Hawkins National Laboratory, Dr. Brenner raised Eleven in his lab, although "raised" might be the wrong word, considering he essentially tortured her so that he could investigate her powers and hone them for his own use. However, during season one, it seemed as if Dr. Brenner met a sticky end when he showed up at Hawkins Middle School to collect El, only to be seemingly devoured by a rogue Demogorgon.

Viewers might've assumed the not-so-good doctor perished right then and there, but they would be wrong, according to producers Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen. In an interview with Collider after the second season, Levy and Cohen directly confirmed that Dr. Brenner is alive and "out there" … so where is he, and what is he up to? Some viewers have surmised that Dr. Brenner may be the "American" in the Russian compound, but no matter where he is, there's always the possibility that, depending on Modine's schedule, Brenner could return to the series to try and recapture poor El.

Is Hopper dead or alive at the end of season three?

Whether or not Hopper is "the American," the biggest question pertaining to his character is whether or not the police chief is dead. During the final episode, Hopper apparently died while he, Joyce Byers (Ryder), and Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) successfully closed the Gate, only to cause an enormous explosion. After her adoptive dad supposedly died in the blast, an orphaned El goes to live with the Byers family. This only gets more heartbreaking when Joyce gives El a letter that Hopper wrote before his untimely exit, telling her that even though it's hard for him to see her growing up and pursuing a romantic relationship with Mike, he's there for her.

However, this is Stranger Things, and in the absence of a body, fans will always wonder whether or not the character is actually dead. For his part, David Harbour has been leaving little Easter Eggs on his Instagram. But from a pure plot standpoint, it would make sense to bring Hopper back into the fray in Stranger Things season four, considering his budding relationship with Joyce, as well as his loving father-daughter relationship with El. Honestly, audiences probably haven't seen the last of Hopper.

Where did the Byers family go?

If there isn't a fourth season of Stranger Things, there will be plenty of questions left unanswered. However, the third season finale did provide perfect closure for the series just in case it's not renewed. In the aftermath of Hopper's death (or disappearance), Joyce, Will, El, and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) decide they've had just about enough of Hawkins, and pack up their home — which has been the site of plenty of happenings ever since the Upside Down opened up — to set off and start over somewhere else.

But the question remains: Where exactly did the El and the Byers family go when they left Hawkins? Judging by the heartbroken reactions from their friends, it doesn't seem as if they're staying nearby, but the show specifically doesn't say where the Byers family is settling next. Fingers crossed that it's not Pittsburgh, the setting of El's ill-advised and much-maligned breakaway episode in season two.

Is Will safe if he's not in Hawkins?

Out of all the kids in Hawkins, Will Byers has always been the biggest magnet for the evils coming from the Upside Down, especially since he was the first one to fall victim to its effects. During the first season, Will spent most of his time alone in the Upside Down, and he clearly wasn't safe by the second season, where he was possessed by the Mind Flayer. By the time the third season starts, he starts feeling uneasy at random moments, indicating he's still connected to the Upside Down and can feel when the monsters are on the move.

With the Byers family heading out of Hawkins, it seems as if most of the characters might finally be safe, but is that true for Will? Now that the Demogorgons have gone international, it doesn't seem as if the Gate will ever truly close for good, but it remains to be seen whether or not Will can escape the Upside Down's clutches simply by moving out of Hawkins.

How can Stranger Things continue with the characters in different places?

Even though it's probably better for the Byers family to get the heck out of Dodge and escape Hawkins once and for all, it might not be the best move for the show. After all, the series has always relied on the fantastic dynamic and friendships between the kids and teens of Hawkins, as well as potential romances between their parents.

The third season leaned into the fact that all of the child actors are growing up, with the likes of Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Nancy (Natalia Byer), Max (Sadie Sink) all forging intense bonds with their friends and even embarking on romantic relationships (Mike and Eleven paired up, as did Lucas and Max, and Nancy and Jonathan continued their previous relationship). However, with the Byers family and Eleven far from Hawkins, this dynamic could seriously shift, and if it does, will it help or hurt the show? Will the series be able to survive if the characters are spread throughout different places, or will it have to bring the Byers back and reunite everyone in order to keep the momentum going? Nobody knows just yet, but if season four happens, fans can only hope they'll get to see their favorite characters together once again.

What's happening with Dr. Owens?

Played by Aliens actor Paul Reiser, Dr. Sam Owens begins his tenure in Hawkins in Stranger Things' second season, coming in as a replacement for Dr. Brenner at the laboratory after the bad guy is assumed dead, post-Demogorgon attack. Though it's not initially clear whether Dr. Owens is a good guy or a little too similar to his predecessor, he's instrumental in helping Will escape the possessive clutches of the Upside Down in the second season, and he even ends up injured by the Demodogs during his attempt to protect Hawkins from the open Gate. Eventually, he even helps Hopper adopt Eleven, showing that he really is a sympathetic character after all.

For most of the third season, it didn't seem like Dr. Owens would appear, but at the very last moment, Reiser reappears in his role to save Hawkins at the last possible second. During the battle against the Flayer at the Starcourt Mall, the doctor-ex-machina makes a surprise appearance with the Army, but it's too little too late, and he ends up assisting the government in a cover-up story that claims the mall was demolished in a fire. With this narrative thread firmly in place, the "good" doctor's reappearance raises some questions about his next steps. If he returns, what role could Owens play in a fourth season?

Will Stranger Things reveal another LGBTQ character?

The fourth season of Stranger Things introduced a new character, Robin (played by Maya Hawke), who's immediately paired up with Steve. At first, she seems like a new love interest for Nancy's floppy-haired ex-boyfriend. However, during a post-drugging discussion in the bathroom at the Starcourt Mall, Robin reveals that she's actually gay, making her the first Stranger Things character to officially come out.

This was a huge step in representation and diversity for the series, which has only addressed heterosexual romances thus far, but based on a line from the third season, some fans hope a major character might make a similar admission in the future. Season three has Will feeling left out as his friends all pair up, leading to an argument where Mike accuses Will of "not liking girls." As far as actor Noah Schnapp is concerned, it's up to the audience to decide whether that means Will is gay or just not ready for dating. But going forward, we're all wondering if Stranger Things will make another huge stride for the LGBTQ community on TV.

What does Murray's voicemail greeting mean?

Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) serves as Stranger Things' resident kook, but whether he's helping Joyce and Hopper hold a Russian scientist hostage or playing a pivotal role in shutting down the Russian compound, he's absolutely crucial in the third season. And as a survivor of the compound explosion, Murray is there to help Joyce in the aftermath of losing Hopper, but it looks like everybody's favorite conspiracy theorist isn't done assisting our heroes just yet.

After season three aired, David Harbour began posting cryptic numbers on his Instagram that seemed to match Murray's phone number in the show, and eventually, Gelman joined in on the fun, posting the number in its entirety to his own Instagram. If you call the number (which is 618-625-8313), you can listen to the voicemail greeting, which has Murray saying, "Hi, you have reached the residence of Murray Bauman," before yelling at his mother, just in case it's her. Then, he says, ""If this is Joyce … thank you for calling. I have been trying to reach you. I have an update. It's about, well, it's probably best if we speak in person. It's not good or bad, but it's something." Ultimately, he screams at anyone who's not Joyce or his mother for finding his number and calling, but the question remains: What does he need to tell Joyce? Is his update about Hopper, the Upside Down, the Russians, or something else entirely?