I am a conspiracy theorist at heart. If X-Files has taught me anything it’s to “trust no one”, and trust me (or don’t) — I live by that motto.
I love to read fan theories because they come from the “trust no one” perspective. Did we really land on the moon? There’s a theory to explain why we didn’t. Is the Toy Story theory true that Andy’s mom is the original owner of Jessie? There’s a fan theory that says she is. Theories like these are what make being a fan of, well, fan theories so much fun.
I’d like to throw my hat into the fan theory ring regarding Netflix’s original show Stranger Things. Ready for it? Here goes — it can't get any stranger than this:
Sheriff Hopper is actually a government agent working undercover to assist Dr. Martin Brenner’s research. BOOM! I just blew your mind, didn’t I? I didn’t? OK, I can see that this isn't going to be easy so let me explain why I believe what I do, and let you be the judge.
When we are first introduced to Sheriff Hopper in "The Vanishing of Will Byers," the first episode of the series, it is made blatantly clear that the Sheriff has a problem with alcohol and pills. Hopper's house is littered with empty beer cans, and his place is a mess. The guy was obviously ruined by something, but what? In my opinion, the Sheriff’s lifestyle is reckless because he has a guilty conscious for actively assisting Dr. Brenner’s research. The only way he knows how to cope with his guilt is to get hammered every night and pop pills.
Now you may be thinking that the Sheriff’s drinking and pill popping problem isn’t due to having a guilty conscious, but due to the alleged loss of his daughter as seen in "The Upside Down," the eighth and final episode of the season. Good point, but I’ve watched my fair share of ‘80s horror movies, and I’ve learned that if the death scene doesn’t have any finality to it, then the dead aren’t really dead. Go back and watch that scene with the Sheriff’s daughter and you’ll see that the scene doesn’t have any conclusiveness to it. We see the doctors and nurses working on the daughter, we see the heart rate machine show a flat line, but then the scene cuts away before the daughter is pronounced dead.
My theory is that Dr. Brenner was able to resuscitate Sheriff Hooper’s daughter so that she could be used for the doctor's purposes, and in exchange for saving the daughter’s life, the Sheriff has to work for Dr. Brenner. This is just more of a reason for the Sheriff to have a guilty conscious because he saved his daughter’s life, but has jeopardized the lives of the townspeople he swore to protect.
The Sheriff makes a half-ass attempt at finding Will when notified by his hysterical mother (and possible former lover) that Will is missing. In fact, he tries to dismiss the situation altogether. Think about it: You’ve been the Sheriff of a small town for four years and the biggest problem you ever faced was an owl attacking a woman’s hairdo. Wouldn’t you jump at the chance to do some real police work?
Will’s mother makes the Sheriff aware that she heard Will’s voice coming through her home phone. The Sheriff blows it off as a possible prank and nothing more. He even suggests to Will’s mother that she may have unintentionally made it up because of the emotional state she is in. The guy has no sensitivity to the situation, and instead of consoling, blames the mother for pointing out something helpful. Weird, right?
As the Sheriff starts to investigate Will’s suspicious disappearance with a bit more fervor he is noticing things that none of his other deputies are able to see, or put together. He finds Will’s abandoned bike; he tells his deputies that the security footage at Hawkins National Laboratory (the one run by Dr. Brenner) was falsified; he discovers Dr. Brenner’s questionable background and has to spoon-feed its importance to his deputies — the list goes on and on. The Sheriff is basically trying to come out of the situation looking like the good guy by putting the pieces of the puzzle together, when in fact, he already knows what happened — he just has to look like he's piecing it all together.
The Sheriff discovering that Will’s body was a fake which leads him to break into the Hawkins National Laboratory, and finding the doorway to The Upside Down could be seen as evidence that the shield-wearing vigilante wasn’t working for Dr. Brenner. All valid points, but why doesn't the Sheriff get killed when he is discovered in the lab? Think about it. At that moment, the Sheriff is the biggest threat to Dr. Brenner’s work, but instead of being killed, the Sheriff is drugged and returned home. Why not just kill the Sheriff or fake the Sheriff’s death? Who gains by the Sheriff living? The answer is Dr. Brenner.
The Sheriff failed to tell any law enforcement, even his own deputies, that the body believed to be Will was a fake. Great police work there, Sheriff.
In Episode 8, "The Upside Down," Sheriff Hopper leads Will’s mother to Hawkins National Laboratory after telling her what he found there and that Will is still alive. At first glance, it would appear that the Hopper is helping Will's mom, but I believe he wasn't. Hopper lead Will's mom there so that Dr. Brenner could interrogate her about Will. Dr. Brenner cares about where Will is just as much as he cares about where Eleven is hiding.
Notice that when Dr. Brenner talks to the Sheriff it’s not an interrogation but a negotiation. It’s two businessmen who know each other sitting down to discuss how things are going to be resolved. They both want the same thing — to find Will, have Eleven re-captured, and to keep what happened in Hawkins a secret. Below is a transcript of their interaction.
Dr. Brenner: "Where is the girl?"
Hopper: "You got to give me your word. Nobody is ever going to find out about this, and those other three kids, those boys, you’re going to leave them alone. Then I’ll tell you. Tell you where your little science experiment is."
Notice that Sheriff Hopper refers to Eleven as “your little science experiment.” There is no sympathy in that statement.
The Sheriff gives up the location of Eleven to Dr. Brenner. This is a huge tell that Hopper is not one of the good guys. Why wouldn’t Hopper want to protect Eleven?
Sheriff Hopper tells Will’s mother that he and Dr. Brenner came to an agreement which will allow Hopper and Will’s mother to enter The Upside Down to find Will. Sounds like a great deal, right? Well, it’s exactly what Dr. Brenner and Hopper want. What’s also curious is that Hopper, a law enforcement individual, tells Will’s mother that she can never say anything about Hawkins National Laboratory being involved in Will’s disappearance, or that the government found a doorway to another dimension. OK, sure, that sounds like something a legitimate law enforcement officer would ask.
Towards the conclusion of the last episode Hopper gets into a black car with two men dressed in black. It appears as though Hopper knows the men because Hopper does not say a word to them and willingly gets in their car. These men appear to be the same individuals that worked for Dr. Brenner.
Hopper places Eleven’s favorite food into a box in hopes of smoking her out if she is still alive. Is this an act of kindness? No, remember Hopper referred to her as a “science experiment” and led Dr. Brenner to her. Why now would he show her kindness? This isn’t an act of kindness but a way for Hopper to find out if she’s still alive, and find a way to get her back to her captors to be used for more government experiments.
In my opinion, all signs point to the fact that Sheriff Hopper isn’t the "good ol' boy" we thought he was in Episode 1. I believe that Hopper has been working for Dr. Brenner and the government since we first met him, and maybe you do too. I guess my theory isn't so strange now, is it?
Take a look at the hard-working VFX team that contributed to all the creepy stuff seen on Season 1 of Stranger Things in the Movie Pilot original video below: