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Hopper's Tragic Daughter Backstory Was Always Planned in Stranger Things

Stranger Things season 4, volume 1's monologue by Jim Hopper is discussed by David Harbour, who goes into further detail about his daughter's sad past

When Matt and Ross Duffer's nostalgic series arrived on Netflix in 2016, viewers met James "Jim" Hopper, Hawkins' (borderline) alcoholic police chief who, despite his harsh exterior, is a very kind person. Stranger Things season 1 flashbacks illustrate the chief's despair by revealing the loss of his 7-year-old daughter Sara due to an unknown disease, as well as his subsequent divorce. Hopper has a new sense of purpose in the fight against the Upside Down's Demogorgons and Mind Flayer courtesy to his surrogate daughter/telepathic superhero Eleven and Joyce Byers. Stranger Things season 4 opens up with Hopper in a frigid Russian jail, hoping to be rescued while he and his fellow inmates prepare to fight a Demogorgon. "Chapter Five: The Nina Project" sees Hopper at his lowest ebb, telling Dimitri about how his unit unintentionally manufactured the ingredients for Agent Orange in Vietnam. Those who worked in his unit had children with congenital impairments and other ailments. Sara was given the news that she had cancer.

Harbour discussed how Hopper's season 4 monologue makes him partly culpable for his daughter's death in a recent interview with The Wrap. Further expressing Hopper's enormous remorse was always part of the goal, according to the actor. Here's the rest of the quote:

"It’s something that the Duffers and I had discussed from day one of the pilot—what’s up with Sarah’s cancer? Because I’ve always been interested in this “Memento” idea of a man chasing himself, as being the ultimate nemesis of himself. I just love that idea. I was like, “Why does he feel so guilty about Sarah’s death? It’s cancer, nothing in his control.I was like, “Well, let’s make it a tangible thing. Let’s make it physically toxic and poisonous and actually responsible for her death.”

We have this backstory throughout, but I wasn’t sure that we’d ever get a chance to play it. It was just one of these things that we knew I could pay little homages to in various ways with emotion, but it wasn’t something I ever thought I would actually say. Then we had this opportunity, and it was really exciting to read it after they wrote it. It was beautiful, and the great thing about this season is Hopper barely speaks in the first four episodes. It’s basically him breaking his ankles, trying to get out of chains, and then eating peanut butter and curled up in bed or doing pushups in a cell. He doesn’t say anything.

Then he gets back, and he’s at his lowest point, and he just unleashes. It’s almost like a flood of this mess that he’s been keeping inside. I like the randomness of it. There was something about this that didn’t make sense that he was saying it right then, and there was something quite emancipating about, you’ve done this thing, you got out and then you’re right back to where you started. It was like you’re carrying around this weight, and you just have to rip that out and just let it fall where it falls. It was about the fact that he finally was at his lowest point and had to release his dark secret. Almost like a weight, he had to just shed it."

Hopper has been torturing himself in the Russian jail by rethinking his life choices. After being tormented and not speaking for several episodes, it's only natural that he'd open up about the trauma he's been dealing with since the first season of Stranger Things. As if cancer wasn't horrible enough, the fact that Stranger Things chose to relate Sara's condition to Hopper's background was startling. Joyce and Murray save Hopper and Dimitri from the Demogorgon at the end of Stranger Things season 4, volume 1, but they remain imprisoned in the Russian jail. Not only will the four have to escape the jail, which looks to be full of mysterious occurrences, but they'll also have to find a route back to their families, since Steve and Nancy are now dealing with Vecna.

Source: The Wrap

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