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Stranger Things need to give Hopper and Eleven a happy ending

I'm going to cry either way, so at least make the tears mean something

Stranger Things Hopper and Eleven in season 3
Image credit: Netflix

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Since the show first showed up on Netflix back in 2016, each season of Stranger Things has had a longer and longer development time. Either because of the pandemic or a series of strikes effectively shutting down Hollywood, each season has been followed by a longer gap, meaning we’ll have been following the chaos of Hawkins and the Upside for nearly a decade before the final season finally comes out. And, judging by each season so far, not everyone is going to make it to the end.

This is fine, of course. Shows need stakes and those stakes need to escalate to maintain dramatic tension. When monsters from beyond space and time start sneaking into your dimension, it is going to get messy. I’m willing to offer up almost any character to the proverbial chopping block in the interest of keeping my rapidly dwindling interest in Stranger Things alive… except for Eleven and Hopper. Those two need some semblance of a happy ending together, or the show starts to fall apart.

This isn’t just me playing favorites with characters, though. It goes to the heart of what Stranger Things is really about - and that is the idea of found family. This theme is present in the way Will, Dustin, Mike, Lucas, and Max bicker and fight but ultimately come together, and in the way that Jonathan, Nancy, and Steve seemingly adopt the younger misfits to try to keep them safe in the face of an apparent apocalypse. Hopper’s relationship with his adoptive daughter with psychic powers, Eleven, is the clearest manifestation of this dynamic and it is crucial to making the rest of the show feel worthwhile.

Stranger Things Hopper and Eleven in season four
Image credit: Netflix

Their relationship is probably the most at risk from the writers as well. Not even the cast themselves seem to know exactly how Stranger Things will end, but Millie Bobby Brown has given vague hints at what happens to her character as the curtain closes on one of Netflix’s signature series. The look she gives a UK talk show host when asked if Eleven gets a happy ending is subtle but definitely there.

I am fully preparing myself to have a whole host of emotions at the end of Stranger Things as either Hopper or Eleven sacrifice themselves to save the world from the Upside Down because Netflix and the Duffer Brothers know that it will collectively destroy us all. It will be the easy way to create a memorable ending that will have everyone talking, but I’m not convinced it will make for a good ending.

Stranger Things Hopper and Eleven in season 2
Image credit: Netflix

For the better part of a decade, Stranger Things has been hammering home the importance of found family and how these relationships are just as important as any other bond. Keeping Eleven and Hopper apart, either through death or some sort of dimensional rift, would cheapen that theme for the sake of an easy emotional moment. Sure, I’ll be a blubbering mess afterward, but the feeling would pass quickly because it ultimately wouldn’t mean anything.

Eleven and Hopper deserve to stay together in their unusual but heartwarming family unit when Stranger Things finally ends, even if that ending is bittersweet. And, after almost a decade of waiting, fans deserve something more substantial than a cheap kick in the feels as a goodbye.

Netflix's Stranger Things is heading into its grand finale - of the main show that is. While you wait, make sure you've watched all of the franchise (including the spinoffs in books and comics) with our Stranger Things guide, know who the Stranger Things season 5 cast, and what Dustin actor Gaten Matarazzo things would make the show better (more deaths). .