By Maggie Fremont
July 04, 2019 at 03:00 PM EDT
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Warning: This article contains major spoilers from Stranger Things season 3. Read at your own risk!

As people end their Stranger Things season 3 binges, there will be lots to discuss: Will Eleven ever get her powers back? What are the Russians doing with a Demogorgon? Will Steve Harrington ever find the love he truly deserves? But without a doubt, the biggest mystery looming over the end of season three is whether or not our beloved Hawkins Chief of Police Jim Hopper is really dead. Even just typing that sentence makes me want to weep while sliding down a wall, but alas, this is the reality we are facing. By the time season three wraps up, everyone within the Stranger Things universe seems to believe Hopper (David Harbour) is truly gone (and with Eleven’s powers on the fritz, she can’t even go searching for him to prove otherwise), but we, the audience, are privy to some additional information the citizens of Hawkins are not. Since so many of our Stranger Things heroes like going through the facts in order to draw conclusions, let’s go through some of the evidence both for and against Hopper being dead and gone.

Evidence Clearly Proving Jim Hopper Is Dead, I’m Sorry:

– Let’s talk about how he “dies,” shall we? Just as Hopper and Joyce are about to turn the keys that make up the two-man system to stop the giant laser machine the Russians have built to reopen the Gate to the Upside Down in Hawkins, Hopper’s season 3 pain in the ass, a giant Russian mercenary named Grigori attacks him for like, the 1,000th time. The two men have a final showdown that takes them both down to the platform right next to the machine. Hopper ends Grigori by shoving his head into the machine. It’s cool, but it also causes the machine to go haywire, and electricity and energy spewing from the machine traps Hopper on the platform. He gives Joyce a tearful nod, knowing that she has to close the Gate and he’ll die in the process. She turns the keys and the machine explodes. Hopper is gone. 

– In Episode 7, as Alexei — the man who helped build the machine — is explaining how to destroy the machine to Murray Bauman, he warns him that when they do this, you must make sure you’re nowhere near the machine — it will literally turn people into dust. In fact, when Joyce turns the keys, we see several Russians in HazMat suits enter the room and turn into dust when the machine explodes. And they are further away from it than Hopper was. So that’s not great!

– The letter Joyce finds in Hopper’s uniform pocket from his botched heart to heart with his daughter and gives to Eleven to read, all about how Eleven changed his life and urging her to live her own life, to feel both the good and the bad, certainly feels like a goodbye, doesn’t it? It’s poignant and heartbreaking and would be a nice final word for such a beloved character SHOULD IT BE HIS LAST.

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Evidence Clearly Proving Jim Hopper is Still Alive, Keep the Faith, People!:

– Okay, so Hopper gives Joyce that tragic nod, she turns the keys, the machine explodes, and then after the chaos dies down she checks the platform and he is gone. Sure, he could’ve turned into dust, but why would they show the HazMat people turn to dust and not one of the main characters of the series go out the same way? If we didn’t clearly see his death, we shouldn’t be so easily convinced it happened. SHOW ME A BODY! Or, uh, body dust, as it were.

– In the post-credits scene, we are taken to a shady-looking prison in a snowy Russia. The two guards walk past several cells until one stops at a door to open it and the other guard corrects his partner: “No. Not The American,” he says, and they move on to the next cell where they pull out some other prisoner and feed him to a Demogorgon (I KNOW). Could “The American” refer to almost anyone? I mean, I guess, but also, no. Throughout the entire season, our giant henchman friend Grigori has only referred to Hopper as “The American.” Using that name here has to be a signal that Hop has somehow found himself locked up in a Russian prison. It has to be him.

– Hopper and Joyce still haven’t gotten together. Yes, they made plans for a date, but, sorry not sorry, you don’t just build up three seasons worth of sexual tension to not have the romantic interests share at least one passionate kiss before one meets his or her untimely demise. You just don’t! That story has been left completely unfinished and these two seem ripe for a sweepingly romantic reunion. 

So, what evidence do you find most compelling? Have we seen the last of Jim Hopper or did he somehow survive that explosion? I mean, ahem — stranger things have happened, right? You’re welcome for that.

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