Everything we know about Stranger Things season 4

Stranger Things season 3 is officially a year and a half behind us. If you’re like nearly 20 million other Netflix subscribers, you probably binged all eight episodes over the July 4 weekend when they premiered in 2019. A Stranger Things-themed mobile game may or may not be holding you over. But in theory, Stranger Things season 4 is in the can and ready to go.

While Stranger Things 3 left us with a whole lot of questions, we have a trickle of info when it comes to the next season. To help you miss the Upside Down, the Hawkins residents, and the Scoop Troop a little less, we’ve gathered all the information we actually do know about Stranger Things season 4, and what the series might look like after the season 3 finale.

[Ed. note: Major spoilers for Stranger Things 3 below.]

Season 4 still doesn’t have an official release date … yet

Stranger Things season 4 technically started filming early in 2020, but thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic was forced to shut down and didn’t restart until late in the year. With the whole schedule pushed back, the fourth season didn’t make the 2020 release date, so is now likely due out later in 2021 (previous seasons have debuted in summer and fall). But while we’ll probably see all our favorite Hawkins residents sooner rather than later, we still don’t have an official date for the show’s return.

Season 4 won’t be the final season

In a 2017 interview with New York Magazine, the Duffers stated that “we’re thinking it will be a four-season thing and then out.” But since then, The Duffers have told The Hollywood Reporter that the pandemic changed their plans a little bit.

“Season four won’t be the end,” Ross Duffer said. “We know what the end is, and we know when it is. [The pandemic] has given us time to look ahead, figure out what is best for the show. Starting to fill that out gave us a better idea of how long we need to tell that story.”

A man stands in a 1980s Soviet uniform in front of a glowing background with a machine on the left side. His expression is fond. Netflix

Hopper is alive (or The American), at least according to David Harbour and also one of the show’s latest teasers

In the closing moments of Stranger Things season 3, the cast of characters mourned the loss of Hopper. But a post-credits teased a mysterious American locked away in a Russian prison — was it Hopper? The assumption from most fans was that Netflix and the Stranger Things cast and crew would keep the meaning of those moments pretty close to the chest. Then something odd happened: In an interview with SlashFilm, David Harbour basically confirmed that Hopper is the American locked away in the Russian Prison.

“I straight-up asked: is that Hopper behind the door? According to Harbour, that’s the most likely scenario. Throughout the season, the main Russian baddie refers to Hopper as ‘the American,’ and having another Russian refer to the mysterious prisoner in the same way was the big giveaway,” the SlashFilm story reads.

Since then, Netflix has given us a slightly more concrete answer in its “From Russia With Love” trailer for the show, which reveals a Russian prison camp with Hopper working in the snow. While it’s nice to know that he’s still alive, this does leave open plenty of questions how about exactly Hopper’s going to get back to Hawkins … or how a band of children is going to make it to Russia to rescue him.

One thing we know for sure, is that this season will delve more into Hopper’s backstory than any before it, at least according to the always talkative Harbour, in an interview with People.

“You really do get to see a lot of his backstory of who he was as a warrior in a sense and sort of the mistakes he made in the past come back to visit him,” said Harbour.

A woman stands in a door frame, looking longingly at the camera. Netflix

Robert Englund joins the season 4 cast

That’s right, the original Freddy Kreuger himself is joining the cast of Stranger Things. According to Netflix’s announcement, Englund will play a character named Victor Creel who is locked in a psychiatric hospital after gruesome murders in the 1950s, which isn’t far off from the origins of his iconic Nightmare on Elm Street character either.

The Byers family and Eleven have moved out of Hawkins

The end of Stranger Things 3 brought some major familial rearrangements. Following Hopper’s “death,” Joyce adopts Eleven into the Byers clan. We had gotten some nods to the family leaving earlier in the season after learning that Joyce had put her house on the market. However, it’s implied in episode eight that she would consider staying, particularly in light of her romance with Hopper coming to a head.

Given Hopper’s disappearance and the danger the family can’t seem to shake, Joyce made the decision to pack up and leave Hawkins. This led to some teary goodbyes between Jonathan and Nancy, Mike and Eleven, and Will and his friends. It also fundamentally changed the way that the series works for future seasons: even in the midst of international schemes and Cold War espionage, Hawkins, Indiana remained the center of the universe.

With the Byers and Eleven, the lynchpin character of the entire series, out of Hawkins, there will have to be some character wrangling in season 4. However, season 3’s post-credits made a nod to the global scale of the Upside Down conspiracy — perhaps this is a natural move to expand the scope of Stranger Things out of Hawkins as well.

A demogorgon emerges in a cell in Russia. Netflix

The Russians have a Demogorgon

The post-credits sequence of Stranger Things 3 revealed that not only are the Russians in possession of an American prisoner, but they also have a pet Demogorgon that they keep fed with prisoners.

It’s currently unclear where the Demogorgon came from, although it’s possible that it managed to slip through the gate during one of the Russians’ early failed experiments prior to relocating to Hawkins. It’s also possible (but perhaps less likely) that it’s the same Demogorgon that Eleven defeated in season 1: while Eleven appeared to have completely disintegrated the monster, she also managed to survive the encounter. Increasingly less likely is that the Demogorgon is a matured Demodog from season 2 — however, all of those appeared to drop dead once their connection with the Mind Flayer was cut off.

At the very least, the Russians’ possession of a Demogorgon in addition to their militaristic efforts to break through to the Upside Down imply that they’re intending to weaponize the creatures. While one Demogorgon has the capacity to terrorize a small American town, it may not be as big of a threat on a global scale. Whatever the intended use, a Russian Demogorgon means that the series has gone global, in whatever form that manifests in season 4.

“I think the biggest thing that’s going to happen is it’s going to open up a little bit,” Stranger Things creator Matt Duffer told Entertainment Weekly. “Not necessarily in terms of scale, in terms of special effects, but open up in terms of allowing plotlines into areas outside of Hawkins.”

A young man and woman stand at a counter. The man is smiling widely, the woman is looking forward unamused. Netflix

Steve and Robin work at Family Video now

Steve and Robin spent the vast majority of Stranger Things 3 in goofy sailor uniforms. Now, they’re ditching their jobs at Scoops Ahoy (because, uh, the entire mall is toast) and picking up another gig. In one of the funnier sequences after the battle of Starcourt, the pair apply for jobs together at a Family Video. Keith, formerly of local Hawkins arcade The Palace, interviews both of them by asking their top three movies. Steve manages to spit out Animal House, Star Wars (accompanied by some hilarious Ewok noises), and Back to the Future. Keith rejects him, but after some persuading from Robin, both of them are presumably hired.

Between Steve’s goofy attitude and Robin’s dry sense of humors, the dynamic duo was easily a highlight of the third season. The sailor uniforms they spent the season in were a highlight as well: Joe Keery, who plays Steve, told Entertainment Weekly that “[the suit] really is perfect for the character. It’s such a good grounding tool. You know? You couldn’t ask for something more perfect.” While the Scoops Ahoy vein of humor won’t carry over to season 4, hopefully Steve and Robin’s chemistry will.