In its latest shocking finale, Stranger Things left a number of mysteries for fans to sort through until it returns for a fourth season. Along with Eleven’s powers vanishing and the debatable circumstances of Hopper’s fate, is the lingering question about who is “The American.”
In the post-credits scene of the finale, we return to the Russian facility where the season started. Two soldiers are walking through cells when they come across a first door. “No, not the American,” one says. And they go to a second door and take a Russian prisoner down to feed to the Demogorgon. So, who is “The American” and what does the identity of this person have to do with Season Four and the other lingering questions?
As I’ve already theorized, “The American” could very well be Hopper himself. But in a new interview with /film, David Harbour himself seems to hint that it is definitely Hopper in that Russian cell. Here’s the exchange, according to the writer:
I attempted to delicately get around the fate of Jim Hopper. Harbour, however, came right out and gave it to me straight. “This is the question I’m going to have to dance around–” I began, only for Harbour to interrupt me and ask, “The ending?” “Right,” I said. “Is there a way you can talk about the future of Hopper without…” I trailed off here, only for Harbour to ask: “Well, did you see the post-credits scene?”
I had, of course. And so 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.
Although Harbour has maintained that he has no idea what’s in store for next season, his theory has to count for something, right?
To briefly recap how this could be possible: Since the portal machine the Russians were using effectively opened what they called a door, it’s likely that this door could be used to travel between Earth and the Upside Down or between these machines like one in Hawkins and one in Russia.
But, there’s another person who could very likely be “The American”: Dr. Brenner. If you’ll remember, Brenner was Eleven’s “father,” who raised her in the Hawkins facility to experiment on her powers to use her as a weapon. He was assumed dead when attacked by the Demogorgon at the end of Season One, although in Season Two, Ray Carroll tells Eleven that Brenner is alive.
As a number of fans have pointed out, it’s possible that Brenner is being held by the Russians. That would explain how the Russians knew about access to the Upside Down beneath Hawkins, and it would also account for Brenner’s whereabouts for the last few years. It would make sense for Brenner—after his research is shut down in Hawkins—for him to attempt to continue it in Russia during the height of the Cold War. This also explains how the Russians got such similar technology so quickly and knew exactly how and where to build their facility in Hawkins.
Of course we won’t know until Stranger Things returns for another season: Hopefully Eleven comes home to Hawkins to visit for Christmas very soon.