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'Stranger Things 3': David Harbour's Jim Hopper is a key part of the puzzle ahead of season 4

The character has played a pivotal role in the previous seasons and has a lot to deal with in the third installment, in addition to carrying out his duty as Hawkins Chief of Police

This article contains spoilers for 'Stranger Things' Season 3

David Harbour's Jim Hopper is one of the major characters in the horror drama series right from the start and season 3 shows him in a new light. The Hawkins Chief of Police has been known to knock his enemies out cold and also for his insane bravado, but portraying him as a confused parent is a new angle that the Duffer Brothers have given Hopper this season. He is shown to be battling issues with Eleven dating Mike Wheeler.

But that doesn't mean that his cop instincts take a backseat as Hopper is instrumental in figuring out who Hawkins' new enemies are. Soon after the events of 1983 and '84, Russia takes an interest in the phenomenon and sets up a lab under Starcourt Mall, the latest attraction in Hawkins. They use the mall as a front while they build a machine that is capable of opening a portal to the Upside Down. 

The experiment goes catastrophically wrong as it sees the return of the Mind Flayer who then goes on to possess the people of Hawkins. When the heroes learn about the return of the Mind Flayer thanks to Will's heightened senses after his encounter with the creature in the past, they decide to take down the monster once and for all.

The team, however, is split into different groups and it is the group of Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Robin (Maya Hawke) and Erica Sinclair (Priah Ferguson) who figure out that the Russians have infiltrated Hawkins and have set up base to experiment on opening a portal to the other dimension. 

In the final episode, with the entire Hawkins gang united, they make plans to destroy both the Mind Flayer and the lab. Hopper, Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) and Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) form a group and sneak into the lab and attempt to shut down and destroy the device. 

David Harbour's Jim Hopper was a key character in seasons 1 and 2. (IMDb)

The task is easier said than done as the trio are eventually found out. Hopper knocks most of the soldiers unconscious but is pinned down by a Russian secret agent. While he eventually manages to kill him, the time to close the portal is fast running out and he asks Joyce to shut down the machine. The plot ends disastrously for the Russians as they are all vaporized, and it is presumed that Hopper is one of the casualties. 

However, there is a twist in the tale in the credits scene. The Russian military is shown to have somehow managed to pick up a surviving critter monster and they keep it alive by feeding the prisoners they have at their disposal. While choosing one of the prisoners, a locked chamber is shown and the inmate is believed to be an 'American' following a conversation between two Russian military guards. 

Could this mean that Hopper somehow survived and was captured by the surviving Russians? If that is the theory, then as the credit scene suggests, a fourth potential season will come in and maybe we'll see Hopper come back. The final few minutes of the season sees Eleven read a letter that Hopper had written to her concerning her relationship with Mike and as tearjerking as it may seem, there's still a glimmer of hope that Hopper is still out there. 

But until then, his survival poses a big question mark.  Given his popularity with the fans and the pivotal role he's played in the series so far, it is unlikely that we have seen the last of the burly Chief of Police. 

'Stranger Things' season 3 is available for streaming on Netflix.