Naturally, the Stranger Things Season 3 finale probably wants us to assume that Hopper is the American that the Russians have captive in their base in Kamchatka – after all, Hopper was last seen in another Russian base, and when the key exploded, there was no sign of his body. TV has long taught us that if you don’t see a body on screen, a character isn’t really dead – and Stranger Things is particularly sneaky on that front, since we did see a (fake) body for Will back in Season 1 to make us believe he was dead, even though he was only a victim of the Upside Down.
But while we believe that Hopper is still alive after the events of the Season 3 finale, we don’t think he’s the one being held prisoner by the Russians. We suspect that “the American” is actually Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine), Eleven’s cruel “papa.” We last saw Dr. Brenner in the flesh in Season 1, when he was mauled by a Demogorgon in the finale – but as with Hopper, since we never saw a body, there’s no guarantee that the evil scientist is actually dead.
The show reinforced this idea back in Season 2 when Eleven and Kali (aka Eight) sought out Ray Carroll, a former employee at Hawkins National Laboratory who worked under Dr. Brenner, with Carroll insisting that Brenner was still alive despite being attacked by the Demogorgon, much to Eleven’s horror. Perhaps the Russians got wind of Brenner’s experiments and captured him to help assist with their investigation into the Upside Down. He could be in a cell because they no longer have a use for him, or because they are trying to break him and make him more amenable to helping them.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that the American the guards mention isn’t Hopper or Brenner, but a new character who might play a major role in Season 4. Or, since three months have passed between the Battle of Starcourt and the final scenes of the Season 3 finale, perhaps the Russians have managed to kidnap Murray Bauman, since the conspiracy theorist learned a lot about their plans from Alexei (RIP) over the course of Season 3.
We’ll probably have to wait until Season 4 to learn who the American is for sure, but in the meantime, share your theories and predictions in the comments. For more from Stranger Things Season 3, check out our reviews of every episode, plus what we know about the Upside Down so far and 11 amazing times Eleven used her powers. Plus, watch our ending explained breakdown: