Spoilers for Stranger Things 3 follow below.
In a first for the beloved Netflix series Stranger Things, the show’s third season didn’t quite end when the credits started to roll. Instead, following that emotionally devastating finale, Stranger Things 3 had one last surprise in store: a mid-credits scene. And just like those Marvel movies, this one had major implications for what’s ahead.
To briefly recap, Stranger Things 3 ended with our Hawkins heroes closing the second gate that was opened in the monster-riddled Indiana town, this time by those pesky Russians. Indeed, after the U.S. Government agreed to depart Hawkins at the end of Stranger Things 2, a bevy of commies built a massive underground bunker and set about trying to open the gate on their own. But in true U.S.S.R. fashion, it was done hastily and on the cheap, leading to a number of deaths and exploding rats.
After Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) blew up the Russians’ machine that was working to open the gate, which in turn seemingly vaporized Jim Hopper (David Harbour), we saw the U.S. military calvary flying into Hawkins to save the day—too little, too late. Paul Reiser’s Dr. Owens, who we met in Season 2, entered the Russian facility alongside the U.S. soldiers, guns a-blazing, but once they got inside the Russians had all vanished. Room after room was empty, whereas moments ago the Russians were seen scrambling around.
In the Stranger Things 3 credits scene, we’re taken to a snowy Kamchatka, Russia, where we fly over what appears to be a pretty huge facility. Inside what looks like a prison area, two guards walk along a hallway, and while one goes to open a door, the other says, “No, not the American.” He then moves on to the next door, pulls a reluctant Russian man out of a cell, and drags him down a super long stairway. At the bottom, he’s thrown into a cage with… a demogorgon. He is then seemingly eaten whole.
Yep, that’s right. In the Stranger Things 3 credits scene we’re reintroduced to the monster that started it all in Season 1. You’ll recall the demogorgon was the Big Bad of Stranger Things 1, terrorizing the town of Hawkins, killing Barb, and just generally skulking around. The demorogon (which is controlled by the Upside Down-bound Mind Flayer) made its way into our world through The Gate, which Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown)—who at that time was the subject of crude scientific experiments—accidentally opened. At the end of that season, Eleven disintegrated the demogorgon inside the Hawkins school, but at a cost—she herself evaporated and was sent to the Upside Down.
You may also recall that in Stranger Things 3, while Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and Erica (Priah Ferguson) were trying to escape the Russian facility underneath Starcourt Mall, Erica spotted a cage that looked to match the dimensions of the demogorgon. So what happened here, it appears, is that a demogorgon made its way out of the gate as the Russians were opening it, but they were able to trap it. When the gate was closed by Joyce and the Americans were rushing in, the Russians were somehow able to exit the facility sight-unseen—presumably with this demogorgon in tow. Or perhaps at that time, the demogorgon had already been transported back to Russia.
Whatever the case, this Stranger Things 3 credits scene leaves us with two major pieces of information. 1. The Russians are still experimenting with the Upside Down and have in their possession a deadly creature from this other world. And 2. They have an unnamed American as a prisoner.
As for the identity of that prisoner, it could be Jim Hopper. While much was made of his death, we never actually saw him disintegrate when the machine was destroyed. We saw other Russian scientists explode into dust, but not Hopper. Now why would the series not show his death if he was really, truly dead? So he was either quickly escorted out by the Russians, or he somehow slipped through the gate into the Upside Down before the machine exploded. The latter is my best guess, as it then sets up a Stranger Things 4 in which Eleven and the gang have to find a way to re-open the gate to get Hopper out, setting up a big confrontation with the actual Mind Flayer.
So who is the American in the Russian prison? Another good guess is Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), the scientist who ran the experiments on Eleven in Season 1 and who’s responsible for the gate opening in the first place. Sure, we saw Brenner seemingly get slaughtered by the demogorgon at the end of Season 1, but bringing him back for Stranger Things 4—which may be the show’s final season—would certainly bring things full circle.
Or perhaps it’s a new character we haven’t met yet. Whatever the case, Stranger Things 4 is all but guaranteed to happen, and the Stranger Things 3 credits scene proves that despite the Hawkins crew’s best efforts, this battle is far from over.
For more on Stranger Things 3, peruse the links to our recent coverage below:
- ‘Stranger Things 3’: Is Hopper Really Dead?
- Here Are All the 80s Movies Referenced by ‘Stranger Things’ in Season 3
- ‘Stranger Things’: Dacre Montgomery on Becoming Season 3’s Big Bad
- ‘Stranger Things’: Joe Keery and Maya Hawke on Season 3’s Scoops Ahoy Crew