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Stranger Things season 4 premiere episode title explained

We've been without the greatest gang of monster hunters 1980s Indiana has ever seen for only a few months, and already Stranger Things fans are trying to figure out what's coming next.

And they aren't the only ones excited for the upcoming season – Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer (better known as the Duffer Brothers) have been dropping hints about the future of the series. In September, they released a teaser confirming Stranger Things season 4, with the tagline, "We're not in Hawkins anymore." (Sadly, the clip didn't offer any hard dates on when to expect the new season, although estimates are putting it at December 2020 at the earliest.) And just recently, the Duffers gave the Stranger Things writers room the a-okay to tweet a photo of a season 4 script, which reveals that the title of the first episode of the new season will be "The Hellfire Club." The caption of the photo read, "Looking for new members... are you in?"

Fans are certainly in to learn as much about Stranger Things season 4 — starting with figuring out the meaning behind this title and looking for clues about what's going to happen to the Hopper-less and geographically divided gang on the new batch of episodes. The end of Stranger Things season 3 left a lot of questions unanswered, especially with the Byers' and Eleven's departure to an undisclosed, hopefully Mind Flayer-free new home — not to mention that post-credits scene. (You know, the one set at a Russian base where a mysterious "American" was being spared the grim fate of being fed to a Demodog. Yeah, that one.)

Here's what the Stranger Things season 4 premiere title could be hinting at.

What is The Hellfire Club?

Back in the day — as in 18th-century England and Ireland — The Hellfire Club was an opportunity for like-minded, wealthy gentlemen to get together, mock old fashioned views of morality, and throw outrageous parties that may or may not have involved drugs, drinks, gambling, X-rated escapades, and satanic rituals. Given that Hellfire Clubs were supposed to be secret-ish societies and because they didn't keep records of meetings, exactly what the members did or discussed is unclear. The most famous Hellfire Club was founded in 1746 by Francis Dashwood, in the town of Wycombe — but there were many others, dating all the way back to 1718.

While these hedonistic meetings are intriguing in their own right, they don't match with the generally family-friendly tone of Stranger Things. It's more likely that the Stranger Things title is referring to the Hellfire Club that appeared in a series of Marvel comics, starting with 1963's The Uncanny X-Men. The comic run takes Dashwood's real-life club and expands it into a worldwide networking group for the super rich and powerful — all controlled by a smaller covert group called the Inner Circle, who attempt to use political influence, economic resources, mercenary forces, and their superhuman abilities to achieve world domination. (Dashwood's club, in contrast, slowly petered out.) The Hellfire Club's greatest enemies are the X-Men, whose eternal fight for peace between mutants and humans doesn't jibe well with the Inner Circle's ambitions to put mutants in charge.

What does this mean for Stranger Things season 4?

We can't know for sure exactly what the Stranger Things season 4 premiere episode title is referring to — what would be the fun in that? That said, we've actually already seen throughout Stranger Things examples of covert operations attempting to harness supernatural powers for world domination — just like the Hellfire Club and the Inner Circle in the Marvel comics

First, there was Project MKUltra's experiments with mind control at the Hawkins National Laboratory, which ran through the first two seasons. Then on Stranger Things season 3, we traveled to the secret subterranean Russian base below Starcourt Mall, where scientists were attempting to reopen the gate to the Upside Down. And thanks to the season's post-credit scene, we know that the Russian operation is continuing far away from Hawkins. 

Could "The Hellfire Club" title be a reference to another group trying to harness the Mind Flayer's powers for their own interests? Based on the comics, that would make the Stranger Things kids the X-Men: a small band of misfits trying to protect the world from evil. However, let's not forget that Stranger Things already has a group of outsiders who believe in using superhuman abilities to achieve their own ends: the criminal gang of teens Eleven met on season 2. Could she and the Byers be heading to Chicago for a reunion of sorts?

Puzzling it out is enough to give you a nosebleed, but we'll have to deal with the suspense for now.

Check back with Looper for future details on Stranger Things season 4.