Warning: Plenty of spoilers ahead for the third season of Stranger Things!
There's a new enemy afoot in season three of Stranger Things: Russians who want to open the gate to the Upside Down that Eleven closed. With the introduction of the villainous Russian scientists and soldiers, the Duffer Brothers play off of '80s Cold War tensions — and let's be honest, the collusion debacle in today's headlines. But as Winona Ryder would say in Heathers, what's their damage? The answer, a monstrous one shall we say, lies in the postcredits scene after the final episode of season three. Let's break down the Russians' involvement throughout the Stranger Things third installation to get the full picture of what's going on.
The third season opens with the Russians trying to open the gate. A severe Russian general tells a scientist named Alexei that he has one year to get the experiment to work. While being kept as Hopper and Joyce's captive, Alexei explains to Murray, their translator, that the Russians wanted to use a key to break through a doorway to another world, aka the Upside Down. The Russians then discovered that location was vital and that the gate was once opened before in Hawkins, IN, thus building a secret base beneath Starcourt Mall. Alexei reveals that the gate is opening. (And, as we see, allowing the Mind Flayer to invade Hawkins.)
Sure, we know the "how," but why the Russians wanted to open the gate is less clear. Power? Information? Wreaking havoc on the United States? It looks like it's a little bit of all three. By the end of "The Battle of Starcourt," Joyce manages to close the gate, tragically losing Hopper when the key exploded. (Maybe.) Sealing the gate closed the Mind Flayer's mind from its body, thus steering Eleven and the other children out of danger.
But as the postcredits scene shows us, the Russians aren't quite out of the picture yet. In Russia, guards take a prisoner (not the American one) straight to a cage with the Demogorgon. While there's no definitive answer, it looks like the Russians, after managing to obliterate Starcourt Mall in the States, wanted to learn more about controlling and managing the monster by setting up shop in Hawkins. We'll just have to see how the story unfolds in season four.