SPOILERS for Stranger Things 3
David Harbour's Stranger Things contract includes an option for a fourth season. Netflix's ever-popular series returned earlier this month with a batch of eight new episodes that forever changed the show's status quo. One of the more shocking and emotional developments in the season 3 finale was the apparent death of Jim Hopper, the Hawkins police chief who's been a main member of the cast since the very beginning. Losing him proved to be very tough for Joyce Byers and Eleven, who both moved away from Hawkins (with Will and Jonathan) as they continue to mourn the tragedy.
The operative word when discussing Hopper's passing is "apparent," since some fans are already theorizing that he's still alive. Not only did viewers not see him die onscreen, the Stranger Things 3 post-credits scene teased the Russians having an American prisoner in their grasp. This gave audiences hope that Hopper somehow survived through mysterious means, but the Duffer brothers obviously aren't going to reveal anything right now. Hopper's fate is one of the key cliffhangers that'll need to be resolved when season 4 premieres, and his contract status with Netflix may provide some clues.
In a Q&A column, TV Line's Michael Ausiello fielded a query about Hopper's future, wondering if the gruff and tough police chief will indeed be back. Here's what Ausiello said:
Harbour's current contract carries him through a potential fourth season (and possibly beyond), but that doesn’t necessarily mean producers will pick up his Season 4 option. FWIW, the latest Vegas odds put the chances of him/her returning at duh.
It's worth mentioning at this point in time, Stranger Things has not been officially renewed for season 4 yet. Of course, given season 3's record-breaking viewership numbers (not to mention, the dangling plot threads from the finale), it seems like a foregone conclusion the Duffer brothers will get a green light in the near future. The prevailing belief is that Stranger Things will wrap up after 4 or 5 seasons at most, so it doesn't overstay its welcome. This means there's still some story left to tell, but whether it involves Hopper or not remains to be seen. At one point, Netflix had wanted to shoot seasons 3 and 4 back to back, but that obviously didn't take place. The Duffers need to iron out the narrative. They likely have a plan, but probably need to sort out a few details.
Stranger Things is no stranger to fake-out deaths. Season 1, remember, ended with Eleven seemingly dying after defeating the monster, only for the season 2 premiere to reveal she's still alive and living with Hopper. So, there's precedent. The trick is finding an organic explanation for Hopper's return and making sure the character's continuation is worthwhile. The police chief died a hero, and his silent farewell with Joyce is one of the more heart-wrenching moments in all of Stranger Things. It would be a shame if that was undercut so fans got more Hopper, but undoubtedly the Duffers are aware of that. If Hopper is to return, it'll definitely matter.
Source: TV Line