This post contains spoilers for Season 3 of Stranger Things. After two seasons of Eleven and her friends defeating the Mind Flayer, fans of Stranger Things likely expect the kids to defeat any monsters roaming through Hawkins in a cinch. The Season 3 finale destroyed these expectations when the kids teamed with Hopper, Joyce, and Murray to close the gate to the Upside Down once and for all, but this mission ended with several heartbreaking casualties. With one of Hawkins' most trusted figures now dead, what does the Stranger Things Season 3 post-credit scene mean?
What started as a fun frolic through Hawkins summertime in Season 3 of the sci-fi drama turned ugly when local bully Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) had a run-in with the Mind Flayer and became its primary host for its new mission to overtake the town. After victims were possessed, their bodies eventually dissolved and merged to form a stronger, bigger monster that was intent on destroying Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) before decimating all of Hawkins. On top of that, Russians were hiding underneath the new Starcourt Mall and operating a machine keeping the gate to the Upside Down open. Not exactly your typical summer vacation, right?
In a fiery July 4 battle, the kids dodged the Mind Flayer's creation at the mall while Hopper (David Harbour), Joyce (Winona Ryder), and Murray (Brett Gelman) snuck into the Russians' hideout with plans to overtake their control room and hunt down the keys that would help implode the machine. Joyce and Hopper successfully retrieved the keys and reached the base, but the interference of a Russian hit man brought Hopper toward the machine, where the cop managed to shove him into the equipment to his death.
If you cried your way through the intense season finale, you know that Joyce then had no choice but to turn both keys with Hopper still in dangerous proximity to the gate. The resulting blast obliterated him, leading to the episode's devastating conclusion of the Byers family moving from Hawkins and an orphaned Eleven leaving with them. But after the finale credits rolled, a bonus scene implied that the group's fight against the Russians might not be over.
Set in a Russian prison, the scene first showed two guards walking together. One of them reached for a door, but the other stopped him, saying, "No, not the American." The pair ultimately selected a Russian prisoner to meet his end against a new creature undoubtedly from the Upside Down, but is there any significance behind the guards acknowledging an American prisoner?
The finale's emotional delivery of Hopper's long-forgotten speech seems to serve as a closing chapter for the character. With this in mind, the closing possibly shoots down any chance that Hopper somehow survived the explosion and the Russians captured him. As for who else the American could be, the finale offered no follow-up on where conspiracy theorist Murray now was. Mayor Kline (Cary Elwes) was ultimately arrested for corruption, but seeing as he willingly worked with the Russians, perhaps they found a way to retrieve him and punish him themselves. Or, is this person someone viewers and the Hawkins kids haven't met yet?
Co-creators Matt and Ross Duffer have hinted that they intend to end Strangers Things after four seasons, and if it weren't for the post-credit scene, the finale's last moments definitely felt similar to a series finale. Then again, most of today's popular shows have the power to end on their own terms and announce a final season before it even begins, so it feels like this extra scene is subtle reassurance that the kids of Hawkins haven't quite cut off the Upside Down's connection to the real world just yet.
Season 3 of Stranger Things is currently streaming on Netflix.