Stranger Things season 3 left a lot of questions waiting to be answered in season 4, among those the identity of the American prisoner in Russia, who might well be a test subject from Hawkins Lab. Season 3’s finale had one last surprise in the shape of a post-credits scene set in a Russian base in Kamchatka, where viewers learned there’s an American prisoner in a cell. This, combined with other mysteries left by the series in previous seasons, have made way for a bunch of theories on who the prisoner really is.
The Duffer Brothers have a lot of explaining to do in Stranger Things season 4, such as whether Eleven will regain her powers or not, what the real intentions of the Russians are, and if Jim Hopper is truly dead or not. This last one, along with the mystery of the American prisoner, have made fans believe that Hopper was somehow caught by the Russians and is now living in a cell on the other side of the world.
At this point, and with the writers obviously not sharing any details, there are many possibilities regarding the American, who might not necessarily be someone previously introduced, and instead a new character that still holds a connection to Hawkins and the experiments done by Dr. Martin Brenner.
What We Know About The American
Stranger Things season 3’s mid-credits scene showed two prison guards in Kamchatka choosing a prisoner to feed to a Demogorgon. One of the guards says “not the American” and instead goes for a different man. This simple exchange was more than enough to fuel the imagination of fans and prompt all types of theories. As mentioned above, the most popular one suggests Hopper is the prisoner, and how he got there depends on the theory you read. The most common explanation is that he jumped through the gate to the Upside Down at the last second, and somehow ended up in Russia.
Another popular theory says the American is Dr. Brenner, which makes a lot of sense when taking other details into account. “Papa” was last seen at the end of season 1 when he was attacked by the Demogorgon, and he was presumed dead. However, it was later confirmed that he’s alive, but his whereabouts haven’t been revealed or teased. Fans believe Brenner was captured by the Russians and has been working for them, which would explain why they know so much about the Upside Down and know how to deal with a Demogorgon. Brenner is a valuable asset for the Russians, and that’s why he shouldn’t be fed to the Demogorgon.
Russian speaking fans have pointed out that the American is a male character, which further rules out Barb as a candidate (yes, there are some who believe she’s there, even though her dead body was shown in season 1). Of course, there’s the possibility of the prisoner being someone who hasn’t been introduced yet but is very familiar with Brenner’s experiments and their consequences.
Theory: The American Is A Hawkins Lab Test Subject
A fan theory, posted on Reddit, suggests the American prisoner is actually a Hawkins Lab test subject, like Eleven and Kali. The author explains that the scientists at Hawkins Lab were able to open the gate thanks to Eleven’s psychic powers, and at the beginning of season 3 it was shown that the Russians were struggling to open a gate on the other side of the world, which is why they traveled to Hawkins. But if they had a Demogorgon, it means that they were finally able to open a gate in Russia, and they could have achieved that with the help of someone with psychic abilities.
The author adds that the Russians somehow learned about Eleven’s abilities and how these helped Brenner and company open the gate, and so they kidnapped one of the test subjects so they could open their own gate. Eleven was responsible for the gate that was opened in Hawkins, although it was all accidental: during an experiment, while she was in “the void”, she made contact with a Demogorgon, which accidentally opened a gate to the Upside Down. Stranger Things hasn’t really explained how the Upside Down works, so it’s unknown if there are ways to open a gate to the other dimension that don’t require big machines and people with psychic powers.
Now, Brenner is confirmed to be alive, but he’s not in Hawkins. It’s very possible he has been working with the Russians since the last time the audience saw him, but that doesn’t mean he is the American. Brenner could be voluntarily working with them and guiding all their experiments on the Upside Down. He would obviously know that a way to open a gate is with the help of a person with special abilities, as he witnessed Eleven opening one in the past, and it would have also been easier for the Russians to “kidnap” a test subject from Hawkins Lab with some inside help – aka Brenner.
What This Would Mean For Stranger Things Season 4
Stranger Things season 2 revealed that there are other test subjects from Hawkins Lab that are still alive, most notably Kali. Sadly, she and the rest were ignored in season 3 – but making the American prisoner one of Brenner’s test subjects would open the door for Kali’s return and even the introduction of more subjects. Stranger Things season 4 will reportedly add four new characters, out of which three are teenagers, so it’s fairly possible that those three characters will be test subjects, either American or Russian... or both. Nobody said the Russians couldn’t be experimenting on people from both sides of the world.
If the American comes from Hawkins Lab and therefore has his own special set of skills, he could also be of big help to Eleven. By the end of season 3, Eleven had lost her powers, and it’s unknown if and how she will get them back. Kali taught Eleven to harness her anger at will, thus having better control of her powers, so she – along with other characters also from Hawkins Lab – could help her get her powers back. Not to mention the American being a test subject from Hawkins would help expand on the experiments, their effects, and Brenner’s true motivations, as well as on the Russians' plans. It’s still unknown when Stranger Things season 4 will be released, but it certainly can’t come soon enough – and until then, fans will continue to try to answer all the big questions as best as they can.