Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Stranger Things season 3.
For the first time in its history, Stranger Things has a post-credits scene - and it reveals how the story will continue. Stranger Things season 3 ended with many of its loose ends tied up but it seemed ready to tease what is coming in the next season with this informative yet mysterious final scene.
There were two big threats presented to the town of Hawkins during Stranger Things season 3. The return of the Mind Flayer was confirmed before the season even began. Additionally, it was believed a new Russian threat would also figure into season 3 and that ended up coming to fruition, too. As season 3 made clear, these threats were not as separate as they initially seemed. The season 3 finale dealt with both the Mind Flayer and the Russians in Hawkins and it seemed like any questions about these threats had been answered.
The Stranger Things season 3 post-credits scene manages to raise even more questions about these threats and how they will become even more connected in season 4. Furthermore, what is shown during the post-credits scene has the ability to forever change the Stranger Things main characters. It may be a brief scene but with at least two big storylines being teased, Stranger Things season 4 will have to address it when it returns to Netflix.
What Happens In Stranger Things Season 3's Post-Credits Scene?
Shortly after the credits roll on Stranger Things season 3, there is a post-credits scene. The scene opens on an exterior shot of what looks like a Russian military laboratory or prison (or a combination of both) located in Kamchatka, Russia. The camera cuts to two Russian guards walking into a secured area where a row of prison cells are. One guard pauses in front of a door before the second tells him, "No. Not the American," and points to the next door. The guards pull out a Russian prisoner, clearly afraid of what is about to happen. The guards take the prisoner deep underground into a caged room. The prisoner begs to be released. One guard opens a steel door inside the room and as it opens, a pale, full-sized Demogorgon emerges. The Demogorgon crawls out, stands up, opens its mouth, and attacks the frightened prisoner.
Who Is The American?
It's played like a throwaway line, but make no mistake: the Russian guard revealing they have an American in their custody is important and will play an important role in Stranger Things season 4; mentioning "the American" wouldn't have been included otherwise. So, who is the American?
The most logical answer is that the American is Jim Hopper, who died in the Stranger Things season 3 finale. It may be hard to believe considering the season 3 finale showed Hopper on the wrong side of the Russian's machine working to open the Upside Down gate. When the machine exploded, we saw a group of people in hazmat suits who rushed into the room just moments before getting obliterated in the blast. Wouldn't Hopper have been killed instantly, too? Season 3 made it clear Stranger Things is not afraid of showing people dying or bodies being destroyed in particularly gruesome ways (see: the Mind-Flayer killing Billy with its clawed legs in the Starcourt Mall food court or the Mind-Flayer's human drones turning into piles of goo before merging with their host's true form). It doesn't make sense that Hopper's body would be the only one not shown because clear visual confirmation of a character's death is the established pattern.
Stranger Things will likely reveal in season 4 that the Russians have accidentally created a machine that is capable of teleportation as well as opening the Upside Down gate. Admittedly, there is no precedent for teleportation in the world of Stranger Things. However, introducing a new sci-fi element into a story where alternate dimensions exist and a young girl can make Coke cans crush with her mind wouldn't be weird.
Consider this: season 4 will probably take place in 1986 or 1987. Also, Stranger Things loves pop culture references and frequently includes story beats based on '80s movies of the time or showing them during an episode. David Cronenberg's The Fly, released in August 1986, hinges on protagonist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) conducting experiments involving teleportation. With all of this in mind, it is entirely possible this plot point from The Fly would serve as inspiration or be referenced as a means of justifying teleportation in season 4. Cronenberg has already served as story inspiration in season 3, so why not use his work as a reference again?
How Did The Russians Get A Demogorgon?
It's not explicitly stated in Stranger Things season 3, but it seems the Russians wanted to re-open the gate to the Upside Down because when they had done it before, a Demogorgon made its way through. It wouldn't take long for the Demogorgon to show off its abilities as a predator, making it a very useful tool for the military.
The makes for further confirmation of what the Russians were doing in Hawkins in season 3. In episode 6, "E Pluribus Unum," Russian scientist Alexei reveals the military's intention to open the Upside Down for their own uses. They came to Hawkins because the gate had been opened once before and "was still healing," thus making it easy to re-open. Opening the gate means gathering more Demogorgons like the one in the post-credits scene. Erica also mentions during this episode that there could be yet another Demogorgon in the Russians possession, as evidenced by the steel cell.
All of this means that in season 4 there will be a continued Russian presence and the story will likely focus even more on the Upside Down's gate reopening. If season 4 does return to the Russians and their plans for the Upside Down, it will have to go even deeper into the Russians' intentions aside from just getting back into the alternate dimension. Answering how the Russians discovered the Upside Down existed in the first place, how the Russians located Hawkins as the location of another gate, and how exactly the Russians intend to use the Demogorgons in the future will all have to be addressed.