David Harbour Waited Years To Deliver Hopper's Emotional Monologue In Stranger Things 4

Thanks to a wink in the season 3 end-credits scene, followed by a teaser trailer confirming the speculative suspicions, "Stranger Things" fans already knew to expect David Harbour's return as the small-town cop turned Russian hostage, Jim Hopper. Much harder to anticipate was just how different his fourth outing as the beloved character would be. 

When he first arrived on the scene, dismissing Joyce Byers' claims of a missing child, Hopper was just another lazy TV sheriff, drinking on the job and embracing any opportunity to shirk his responsibilities. Then a magic girl escaped a government facility, monsters started emerging in the woods, and his world turned (pun intended) upside down. And as it turned out, Hopper was much more complicated than he seemed — he has a pretty solid (i.e. tragic) reason for being bitter and alone. Having lost his daughter to cancer, Hopper is too haunted to keep building connections. It's something that Harbour put a lot of thought into, as he recently shared when chatting with Variety:

"I really liked the film noir idea of — it's sort of [like] in 'Memento,' where a man is chasing himself. We have this idea with Hopper: He's a cop, so he sees things pretty much good guys, bad guys, pretty black and white. There's a situation with cancer where his daughter dies. It's cancer. What can you do, right? Who can you lock up when a tragedy like this happen? Then what he really starts to do is go back, and the real bad guy is himself."

This made season 4 especially exciting for Harbour, who looked forward to having Hopper address his internal conflict aloud.

Hopper's big monologue

The big moment comes during season 4's fifth episode, "Chapter Five: The Nina Project," when Harbour delivers an emotional monologue that not only details Hopper's pain after losing his daughter but connects it to the relationships he's been struggling to maintain with El (Millie Bobby Brown) and Joyce (Winona Ryder). Tearfully, he declares, "everyone I love, I hurt." Regarding this scene, Harbour said:

"I really liked the idea with him that there's an actual poison in him. He is the poison, and feels that anyone who gets near him is infected with this thing. I feel like that's why he had to lock himself away, it's why he had to drink. To make him literally toxic, in a way, I thought was such a great metaphoric choice."

Unfortunately for Harbour, finally getting to read this moment in the scripts didn't mean his wait was over.

"Then, lo and behold, it takes us six years to get to the actual shooting of it. They wrote that, and then I had two and a half years to sit there and, like, wait to do it. I read that scene two and a half years ago, and then Covid happened, then they started up with different stuff, and we didn't shoot it until late in the season."

Harbour added that it was "a big part of [his] consciousness" for much of the time in between, as he waited to return to set. This certainly wasn't the first time Hopper has moved the audience to tears (resuscitating Will in the first season remains a big, kleenex-worthy highlight). Plus, Hopper capped off season 3 with a written heart-to-heart with El, where he finally expressed his reasons for being a total jerk all season-long. But this was only on paper — in an earlier episode, when time came to read his letter and actually express himself to El and Mike, he chickened out. 

Season 4 has been touted the scariest season yet, and what's more terrifying than fessing up to your feelings? Not to mention how thoroughly worn down Hopper is four seasons into this show. Hopefully this gives him the catharsis needed to gear up for a fifth go-around.

"Stranger Things" season 4 is now streaming on Netflix.