Spoilers ahead for Stranger Things 3. Well, it's happened: Hopper died on Stranger Things, and we all should have known it was coming. David Harbour warned us in a 2017 interview with Mashable that Hopper wasn't safe. In fact, he went as far as to say his character was "very, very killable," though Hopper wasn't really "killed" in Stranger Things 3 — he actively sacrificed himself. That being said, the end credits scene hints not all hope is lost; Hopper could still be alive.
At first, in Episode 8, it looked like Hopper was really, truly dead. The only way to close the gate to the Upside Down was for Joyce to blow up the machine holding it open — and Hopper was trapped in the room with the machine. He gave her a sad smile and a nod to signal that he was OK with the decision. He would sacrifice himself to save Hawkins and their children.
This all played out almost exactly as Harbour hinted in his Mashable interview. "[Hopper] doesn't always make the best decisions," he said at the time. "The fundamental aspect of Hopper's personality is that he's not about self-preservation, he's about justice." Because of his dedication to justice, Harbour continued, "He's willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good."
That's certainly what he did in the finale of Stranger Things 3 — and the town of Hawkins remembered him for his act of selflessness. A newspaper clipping shown in the final episode seemingly confirmed Hopper's fate. "Hero Chief Dies in Fire," the newspaper headline read along with a short piece on how he died:
"Hawkins mourns the loss of Police Chief Jim Hopper, who perished in the line of duty on July 4th in the Starcourt Mall fire, which claimed the lives of at least 30 others. 'He was a good man. He will be greatly missed,' says Deputy Phil Callahan. 'There's no doubt in my mind that he was doing the right thing and attempting to save someone in that fire. To me, he will always be a hero.'"
But did he actually die? There was seemingly no body found after the gate closed and the machine exploded, and on TV, if we don't see a body, that usually means the person is still alive — especially when you consider that end credits scene. At the end of Stranger Things 3 we're shown a prisoner in Kamchatka, Russia being dragged into a cell, where a Demogorgon is sicked upon him. Before bringing the man to the monster, though, one of the Russian guards said, "No, not the American." The prisoner in the cell next to "the American" was chosen instead. Which American is this? Could Hopper have been found alive by the Russians after the explosion? Did they transport him back to Russia? Are they going to basically feed him to a Demogorgon, or do they have even more sinister plans?
Let's be real, Hopper is an essential character to Stranger Things. If the show was really going to kill him, wouldn't he get a very clear, final death scene? Wouldn't there be a body? Just saying, until/unless Stranger Things 4 proves otherwise, fans can hold onto some hope that Hopper is still out there. Even if he may be out there in a Russian prison.
Until the next season, though, there are plenty of places to watch Harbour: according to his IMDb page, he's slated to be in three movies. The first, Frankenstein's Monster's Monster, Frankenstein, is a Netflix mockumentary in which Harbour uncovers lost footage from his father's Frankenstein play. That debuts July 16. He's also set to be in the Chris Hemsworth action movie Dhaka, and play a yet-to-be revealed character in the upcoming Marvel movie Black Widow.
So while Hopper and his mustache may be gone for good (or just trapped in Russia), at least you can still get your Harbour fix while you await his potential (let's be real, inevitable) return to Stranger Things.