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SYFY WIRE Stranger Things

Stranger Things 3’s emotional finale was inspired by Star Wars’ biggest goodbyes

By Benjamin Bullard
Harrison Ford as Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back

Even though Netflix left dangling a tantalizingly slim thread to keep fans guessing at one key character’s fate, the emotional set piece that highlighted the final episode of Stranger Things 3 was meant to hit viewers right in the feels, according to series creators the Duffer Brothers. 

In a new Netflix podcast that promises to take fans behind the scenes of the show’s retro-packed third season, Matt and Ross Duffer and the rest of the Stranger Things team are revealing little nuggets of insight about how all those 1980s references amount to more than just nostalgia trips and Easter eggs. As kids of the ‘80s generation, they even took some actual story cues from the biggest movie hits of the decade — including the Star Wars franchise.

** SPOILER WARNING: This story reveals key plot details of Stranger Things 3. **

When Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) looks Joyce (Winona Ryder) in the eye before disappearing — perhaps forever — in a fiery underground explosion in the season’s climactic final episode, it’s a decisive moment of self-sacrifice that takes its emotional cues straight from the galaxy far, far away, as Matt Duffer explained.

“We always talk about The Empire Strikes Back. We always wanted to give him [Hopper] a darker ending; we always wanted to give him a Han Solo sacrifice moment,” he said, referencing Han’s “I love you” stare at Princess Leia, before getting a full-body blast of Darth Vader’s carbonite in Episode V

Star Wars’ big, bad sphere of evil also inspired the setting for Hopper’s fateful send-off, which unfolded deep beneath Starcourt Mall in a secret Russian lab where the bad guys drill away toward the Upside Down. “The Death Star is how we referred to our underground Russian military facility that’s deep under Hawkins,” Duffer explained. 

It’s just one of many direct, more than skin-deep connections the new season tries to make with its 1980s sci-fi roots, and there’s a trove of similarly nostalgic lightbulb moments — including a deep look at recreating the feel of an ‘80s mall — buried in the first podcast episode.

You can check out Netflix’s new Behind the Scenes: Stranger Things podcast on your podcast platform of choice, as well as stream each new installment via YouTube. As for the show itself, catch up with Starcourt’s ragtag Scoops Troop — Steve, Robin, Dustin, and “You can’t spell America without” Erica — by checking out Stranger Things 3 over at Netflix.