Season 4 Will Be A Time Travel Story

A new teaser for Stranger Things season 4 showed the return of Dr. Brenner, the existence of more test subjects from Hawkins Lab, and Eleven imprisoned at the lab, but it also has more hints at the story being all about time travel. Stranger Things took the world by surprise in 2016 and quickly became one of Netflix’s biggest hits thanks to its combination of sci-fi, horror, drama, and its many references to the 1980s. Fans of Stranger Things are currently waiting for season 4 to arrive, mostly as production had to be halted due to the coronavirus pandemic and because season 3 ended on a big cliffhanger, made worse by a special video released on Valentine’s Day 2020 that confirmed Jim Hopper (David Harbour) is still alive.

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Stranger Things season 1 was all about the disappearance of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) and Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) escape from Hawkins Lab, unleashing a series of strange and dangerous events in the town of Hawkins, Indiana. Season 2 covered the aftermath of Will’s return and the effects of his time in the Upside Down, as well as Eleven’s return. Season 3 took the series on a different path by bringing the Russians to Hawkins, who built an underground lab beneath the new Starcourt Mall, and what they wanted was to open a portal to the Upside Down. By the end of Stranger Things season 3, Eleven, Will, and his family left Hawkins, Eleven was powerless, and Hopper was believed to be dead, but a post-credits scene teased his survival.

Related: Stranger Things Set Up Hopper’s Russia Twist With A Season 1 Throwback

Stranger Things released a teaser in February 2020 that revealed Hopper survived and is now imprisoned in Russia, but aside from that, everything about season 4 has been kept a secret. Now, a new teaser, set in Hawkins Lab, revealed the return of Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) and the existence of more test subjects, along with Eleven locked in a room at the lab. All these details and revelations have made fans consider the possibility of Stranger Things season 4 dealing with time travel, which fits quite well with the style of the show as well as some of its biggest inspirations.

Stranger Things Season 4 Marketing Keeps Hinting At Time Travel

Stranger Things 4 announcement video

The marketing for Stranger Things season 4 began in September 2019 with the announcement of the renewal for a new season, for which Netflix released a short teaser. In it, the series’ logo appears along with a big four and the screen starts to glitch. It then takes the viewer to the Upside Down, where the logo and the four are slowly covered in tendrils and a clock, located on a tree on the left side of the screen, is heard ticking. The teaser ends with the caption “we’re not in Hawkins anymore”, with viewers later learning that season 4 will take them to the Upside Down, Russia, and possibly other places as well.

The clock in the Upside Down made way for various theories on how season 4 will deal with time travel, more so as season 3 had a couple of references to Back to the Future. As Stranger Things season 3 was set in 1985 and Back to the Future was the biggest release of that year, the series made sure to include a couple of nods to it, such as a poster at the local cinema, the Scoops Troop (Steve, Robin, Dustin, and Erica) hiding out in a screening of the movie, and a big part of the final battle taking place in a mall parking lot. Now, the most recent teaser set in Hawkins Lab also has some hints at time travel by paying close attention to a clock and having the ticking of it play over half of the video – and, of course, there’s also the fact that it shows Dr. Brenner, who hasn’t been seen since season 1, the lab, the subjects, and Eleven locked in her room at the lab, all of which are events that should have taken place years ago.

Time Travel Fits With Stranger Things’ 1980s References

Back to the Future isn’t the only inspiration for Stranger Things that deals with time travel. Among the many references to 1980s pop culture in Stranger Things is The Terminator, mostly in season 3, where the character of Grigori (Andrey Ivchenko) was a very obvious reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s famous time-traveling character. Now, the writers of Stranger Things tend to tease fans on Twitter, and back in May 2020, they shared a photo of a board with all the movies they had been taking a look at for inspiration, and fans were surprised to see they weren’t all from the 1980s and there were more modern movies as well. Among those many inspirations are Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, which famously deals with time-travel with a good dose of humor; 12 Monkeys, in which a man is sent back in time to find the virus that wiped out almost all of humanity and help scientist develop a cure; and Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Terminator: Dark Fate. Bringing time travel into the mix in season 4 would fit the series’ style and would feel like a natural step as it’s part of its essence to pay homage to some of the biggest movies from the 1980s, which in turn inspired all those on the list that came in the 1990s and later – and with the characters potentially traveling to other decades, inspirations from other years would make sense as well.

Related: Stranger Things Season 4: All 251 Movie Influences Teased (& What They Mean)

Why Stranger Things Could Involve Time Travel (& How)

There are many things that season 4 of Stranger Things has to solve, and time travel could come in handy for some. First, there’s the mystery of how Hopper survived the explosion and how he ended up in a Russian prison. Fans have theorized that Hopper either jumped through or was pulled by the gate at the Russian lab, which worked as a time travel tunnel and took him either back or forward in time, landing in Russia and leading to his arrest. A popular fan theory suggests the Upside Down is actually Hawkins of the future (a post-apocalyptic one), which would mean that the characters have been traveling through time since season 1.

The newest teaser might also show what time travel will be used for in Stranger Things season 4. As mentioned above, Brenner walking around Hawkins Lab and visiting other test subjects while Eleven is locked in her room at the lab is something that should have happened years ago, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Eleven, somehow, traveled back in time, either in hopes of getting her powers back, solving some of the biggest mysteries of her past, or by mistake. Even though time travel has been used over and over again in movies and TV shows in recent years, it seems like the most natural step for Stranger Things to take in its new season, and as it fits its tone and narrative, fans don’t have to worry about it being too hard to believe or feel like a big stretch.

Next: Stranger Things Season 4 Can Fix The Show’s Worst Subplot

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