10 Stranger Things season 3 fan theories to turn your world Upside Down

Yes, yes, I know. It’s a curse of this modern age of binging: no sooner has a series ended that everyone finds themselves thirsting for more. Stranger Things season 2 is no exception. Yet with another time jump on the cards thanks to all the actors’ penchant for ageing (thoroughly inconsiderate of them, to be honest), it’s going to be a while before we see the Hawkins crew again. But that hasn’t discouraged fans of the show to already start speculating about what could happen in the next series - here are the best theories about Stranger Things season 3. 


1. Dr Brenner is alive and will be back 

Oh, come on. This one’s obvious. In his brief appearance in season 2, Brenner - or Papa - even asked Eleven why she hadn’t tried to find him. This one telling line hints that even the Duffer Brothers haven’t decided whether he’s dead or not… but he definitely isn’t. Season 1 showed the Demogorgon maul him, but crucially you didn’t see his dead body. Meaning Brenner is ripe for a return. With Dr Owens (the disarmingly charming leader of Hawkins Lab in season 2) looking to have switched alliances to Hopper and Eleven, Brenner could be reinstated as the overseer of the lab in season 3.  

2. Other test subjects are going to appear

This is going to happen, surely. After Eight’s appearance in season 2, the stage has been set for more test subjects to appear on Eleven’s radar. If you think about it, Eight looks like she’s quite a bit older than Eleven in the flashback scene in Hawkins Lab. Their difference in age indicates that children could have been test subjects over a timespan of decades at the lab, so the earliest kids that were experimented upon could be in their 40s by the time season 3 arrives. Perhaps with their own jobs and families, trying to keep their dark past and supernatural abilities hidden. They could even be working for the Hawkins Lab. Now wouldn’t that be something...

3. Hopper’s daughter was a test subject at Hawkins’ lab

Boy oh boy, this one’s a doozy. Did you notice that oddly familiar staircase in season 2, when the group are stuck in Hawkins hospital? Well, it was the same staircase you saw Hopper crying in during the flashback about the death of his daughter in season 1. Which means his daughter, Sarah, died in Hawkins hospital… but it’s never clarified what medical condition killed her. The widespread assumption is cancer, due to her hair loss. But what if she was instead experimented upon by the people at Hawkins’ Lab? How Hopper keeps in his rage when he works so closely with them I’m honestly not sure, but he might not know. Sarah might have visited the Hawkins Lab to undergo experimental drug therapy in an effort to combat her illness. Psychoactive drugs similar to the ones used on Eleven’s mum could have been administered to her while she was hospital-bound without Hopper’s knowledge. Now that would make for one hell of a reveal in season 3. 

4. Terry Ives’ sanity could be stuck in the Upside Down

That moment when Eleven found her mum Terry in the Upside Down was an odd one. Was it just me, or did Terry seem more lucid than we’ve ever seen her before? Unlike her usual behaviour, when she saw Eleven she grasped her daughter’s hand, and said very clearly “no”. After showing Eleven what happened to her, you then see that Terry’s nose is bleeding… just like Eleven and Eight’s do after they use their powers. Coincidence? Perhaps not. The fact that she was able to show Eleven what happened to her could indicate that Terry’s consciousness is more powerful in the Upside Down, and she might have supernatural abilities to match. In season 3 this could lead to the curious limbo between the dimensions being the only space where Eleven can talk to her mum. Sorry, just got something in my eye over here...  

5. Mind Flayer tries to use Eleven as a host 

Seriously, if you haven’t got to the end of Stranger Things season 2 stop reading right now. At the end of the season, Eleven confronts the enormous, eight-legged monster residing in the Upside Down called the Mind Flayer and uses her awesome (in the true sense of the word) psychic powers to seal it back inside the Upside Down by closing the tear between our world at the alternate dimension. So now the Mind Flayer knows Eleven exists. Repeat: now the Mind Flayer, the creature that can possess people and use them as puppets and spies, knows Eleven exists, the kid with an extraordinarily deadly power. Not good. I’m betting that in season 3 the Upside Down’s monster sets its sights on possessing Eleven and using her powers to re-open the tear between the world. Uh oh. 

6. Steve becomes Hopper’s deputy at the police station

This one is straight from appleparkfive on Reddit. Steve - God bless his glorious head of hair - is a bit stuck at the moment. He doesn’t have Nancy, plus he obviously resents the idea of just going to work for his dad’s company, so some might think Hawkins is a dead end for him. Apart from his new status as adoptee-mum to Lucas, Dustin, Will, Mike, and Max, that is. Seeing how much Steve took to looking after the kids in season 2, I bet he’s going to stick around to keep an eye on them. And what better place could there be for him than by Hopper’s side as deputy Sheriff of Hawkins? This would give us not only a priceless double-act, but would also make Steve’s protective streak his job. Plus he knows about all the secret supernatural goings-on of Hawkins, so he’d be able to accompany Hopper during his meetings with the Government (with a capital G) which would save Hopper the trouble of having to keep most of the top-secret police work to himself. I want this duo. So. Badly. 

7. Erica somehow knows about the Hawkins Lab experiments

Spotted by someone on Reddit, Erica appears to have an… interesting choice of drawings on her wall. Namely, a sunflower and a rainbow. Before I get too tied up in what this could mean (or whether it’s just a little trolling on behalf of the set dressers), here’s a refresher: the thing that Terry Ives, Eleven’s mum, recites over and over is a combination of words: “Breathe. Sunflower. Three to the right, four to the left. 450. Rainbow. Breathe. Sunflower”.

So you can understand why the appearance of rainbows and sunflowers on Lucas’ sister’s bedroom wall is a little alarming. It could be coincidence. On the other hand, it could be possible that one of the children that was experimented upon is somehow known about in the Hawkins Elementary School playground. If one younger than Eleven was experimented upon, they might have been enrolled in the School after being taken out of the Hawkins Lab programme, where they’d spread tales about the different rooms in the Lab. There’s no evidence for that being the case, but I can’t help but wonder...

8. The Upside Down is a living being

I’m not alone in having so many questions about the Upside Down. What is it? Why does it look like Hawkins? How did those creatures get there? How does it work? OhYesIDidd came up with their own theory: the Upside Down is alive. The Mind Flayer is an embodiment of its will, hence its curiosity about our dimension and its eagerness to infect Hawkins. The Demogorgons are either parasites or akin to white blood cells, cleaning the Upside Down of ‘infections’ - i.e. humans. The vines that are strewn around all over the gloomy dimension (as well as the one that worms itself into Will) could be its nerves or veins that are hard-wired to consume anything foreign and turn it into energy. So according to this theory, everything in the Upside Down could be alive - and hellbent on destroying Hawkins. Shudder. 

9. Every time Eleven uses her powers her health gets a little worse

Eleven’s nosebleeds are a common sight in Stranger Things by now. But what if they’re a sign of something much, much worse? Like… internal bleeding? Obviously every time she uses her powers they exert quite a big strain on her, otherwise her nose wouldn’t start gushing. Marvelman02 voiced their concern than Eleven might even be dying without knowing it. In season 3 this scare could lead to Eleven reducing the amount she uses her powers, but when the Upside Down threatens Hawkins again she has to sacrifice herself very heroically by using them one last time… come on, that would make for great television. 

10. Bob is from Derry, Maine and met Pennywise when he was a kid

Okay, so this isn’t exactly related specifically to season 3 but it’s simply too clever to ignore. Remember sweet, kind Bob Newby superhero? His tale of the creepy Mr Baldo, the clown from the local fair, kind of reminds people of something. Like Pennywise the clown from It movie. From the way that Mr Baldo offers the young Bob a balloon to his particularly unnerving voice, it sounds suspiciously like...well, It. That’s not all, either: Bob hails from Maine, where It comes from (specifically, Derry). Could it be that he actually came from Derry, encountered It, and left? Upon leaving Derry, its inhabitants memories of the creature inevitably fade… so this is a distinct possibility, especially considering the Duffer Brothers’ love of Stephen King. One that makes me want to invest in a nightlight, but a possibility all the same. 

Zoe Delahunty-Light

While here at GamesRadar, Zoe was a features writer and video presenter for us. She's since flown the coop and gone on to work at Eurogamer where she's a video producer, and also runs her own Twitch and YouTube channels. She specialises in huge open-world games, true crime, and lore deep-dives.