Hopper looking concerned

At long last, "Stranger Things" is back. After a longer-than-usual absence, it might be hard to remember what happened last season, but Season 4 wastes no time diving into the conflicts left hanging when Season 3 came to its shocking conclusion. All of your favorite "Stranger Things" characters are back, along with plenty of new faces, and this time their adventures are bigger than ever. Season 4 tells a story that goes far beyond Hawkins, one which could have consequences for the entire world.

At the beginning of the season, Hopper is in Russia, Joyce, her kids, and Eleven are in California, while the gang back in Hawkins is having a hard time adjusting to high school life. Everyone’s situation gets even more complicated almost immediately as a new threat rises from the Upside Down to terrorize the people of Hawkins. Some of the mysteries of that alternate reality are becoming clearer, and Season 4 finally starts answering some of the show’s biggest questions. However, Volume 1 of Season 4 still leaves plenty of mysteries on the table for fans to try and piece together on their own. Here are the biggest unanswered questions that will carry "Stranger Things" into the second half of its fourth season.

How did Hopper get to Russia?

Hopper standing in snowy tundra

In Season 3’s epic finale, Hopper sacrifices himself to close a gate to the Upside Down. It is one of the most shocking moments of the entire show and one of the few times that a central cast member was killed off. However, even then there were some hints that fans hadn’t seen the last of Hawkins’ police chief. More than six months after Season 3 ended, Netflix released a teaser trailer for "Stranger Things" Season 4 that revealed Hopper not only survived the explosion but also ended up in Russia.

The first part of Season 4 spends quite a bit of time with Hopper as he’s interrogated by Russian soldiers and sent off to a prison camp. Hopper befriends a less-than-loyal prison guard and begins plotting his escape. Through all of this, the show stubbornly refuses to explain exactly how Hopper traveled from Hawkins to Russia. The answer likely has everything to do with the mysterious connection between Hawkins and the Upside Down, and fans can only hope that Volume 2 of Season 4 will finally provide some answers.

Can the people Vecna has trapped in the Upside Down be saved?

Vecna connected to Upside Down tendrils

A new big bad has made its way from the Upside Down to Hawkins to terrify the town. The gang calls this new threat Vecna after the dark wizard in a "Dungeons & Dragons" campaign who can cast curses on his foes. Vecna is causing his victims to have vivid hallucinations, and when those horrible visions become strong enough, he uses his powers to crumple their bodies and remove their eyeballs. These are some of the most gruesome deaths in all of "Stranger Things," but there might be a way for Vecna’s victims to be saved.

When Max is pulled into the Upside Down during one of Vecna’s imposed visions, she gets an insightful look into what the wizard appears to be doing. Max sees the bodies of Vecna’s victims strung up on pillars, and later the group wonders if Vecna is using them to increase his own psychic powers. In "Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab," One tells Eleven that his victims are still alive in his mind. Is it possible that the same is true of the people he killed as Vecna? If so, there might be a way to save everyone retroactively.

Can the gang break Max’s curse?

Max sitting with crossed arms

Vecna’s curse is terrorizing the entire town of Hawkins. Anyone afflicted with the curse begins having visions tied to their past trauma. Threaded throughout those visions are images of an antique grandfather clock. After seeing the clock several times, anyone with the visions comes face-to-face with Vecna himself. In the vision, Vecna grabs his victim’s head and does something to their mind. Meanwhile, in the real world, the victim’s body is lifted into the air and crumpled like a ball of paper before the eyes get removed. The violence of the murders, and the seeming randomness of those targeted, sends the entire town into a panic.

The main "Stranger Things" gang becomes even more concerned with stopping the attacks when one of their own is afflicted by the curse. Max thinks that her hours are numbered when she starts seeing Vecna’s visions. Her friends realize that by playing music at the peak of Vecna’s attack, Max is able to find a way to escape the vision and survive. Unfortunately, that doesn’t break her curse entirely, and Max remains a target for Vecna. Hopefully, they’ll find a true cure for the curse in Volume 2 of Season 4.

How did the Russians capture the Demogorgon?

Demogorgon stalking toward victim

When Hopper shows up in Russia, it becomes clear that the Soviet Union has a deeper connection to the Upside Down than anyone had previously assumed. As surprised as Hopper is to find himself alive, not to mention halfway across the world from Hawkins, his biggest surprise is just around the corner. It turns out that there’s a special plan in place for some of the prison’s most problematic residents. The Russians have a Demogorgon to which they have been feeding batches of prisoners.

The Demogorgon brings up a whole slew of new questions for "Stranger Things" fans to puzzle over. There’s a chance that the Russians plan on using the Demogorgon as a weapon, but if that’s the case, why is it hanging out inside a remote prison? How they managed to capture a Demogorgon in the first place might be an even more critical question because there’s now no doubt that Hopper and everyone back in Hawkins will have to square off against another one soon. Maybe the Russians can give them some pointers?

What factions are involved with the US government?

Will, Jonathan, and Mike sitting on couch

This season of "Stranger Things" is more expansive than any that’s come before. The show travels between Hawkins, Russia, and the West Coast with ease. It’s also beginning to introduce some of the big players who’ve been involved with the Upside Down behind the scenes since the very beginning. Up to this point, the trouble in Hawkins has looked like a struggle between the town’s residents and a shady group of government scientists, but now we know that there’s more going on under the surface.

Of course, Russia now factors into the conflict, as they clearly have been doing their own experiments on the Upside Down, but what’s even more surprising is that the US government isn’t a monolithic power in this conflict. In "Chapter Four: Dear Billy," Jonathan, Will, and Mike fall under the protection of some government agents who tell them that there are factions within the government that are at odds over how to handle Eleven and the situation in Hawkins.

Right now, it appears that one faction believes Eleven is the cause of the chaos, while another believes that she is the only one who can resolve Hawkins’ problems. How did these factions originally splinter, and are other factions currently working on their own plans? With any luck, the final two episodes of Season 4 will reveal more details about the various clandestine groups warring over Eleven.

What does the Upside Down have to do with Eleven’s powers?

Eleven trying to use her powers

The exact link between Eleven and the Upside Down is one of the biggest mysteries in all of "Stranger Things." Her abilities have opened and closed gates to that alternate reality, but it’s never been clear whether or not those abilities have any definite cause-and-effect connection to the world that haunts Hawkins. This season, more than any other, has highlighted the fact that Eleven and the Upside Down are intertwined in ways that are still being worked out.

Some American scientists, including the elusive Dr. Brenner, believe that Eleven’s powers can stop the evil forces at work in the Upside Down and finally bring peace to Hawkins. Others think that Eleven is the cause of all the trouble, and right now it looks like their argument might have more evidence backing it. In the last episode of Volume 1, Eleven seemingly opens the first gate to the Upside Down when she defeats One. There are still too many unknowns to put this question to rest, but the answer will probably have a big impact on the fate of everyone in Hawkins.

Why is Hawkins connected to the Upside Down?

Mike, Eleven, and Will looking shocked

All of the drama in "Stranger Things" ultimately circles back to Hawkins, Indiana. Though it’s now clear that other places, like Russia, can also connect to the Upside Down, most of the energy produced by that alternate world is still being fed directly into Hawkins. When evil starts climbing its way into the real world, it always seems to break through Hawkins first. Despite having learned so much about the Upside Down through years of conflict, no one in Hawkins appears to have figured out why their town is a hotspot for supernatural disasters.

Hawkins’ connection to the Upside Down clearly has something to do with Eleven, Dr. Brenner, and the experiments with superpowered children. Right now, though, that connection is like the chicken and egg question. Is Hawkins plagued by evil because Eleven opened a gate to the Upside Down in the town, or did that gate open because the Upside Down was always connected to the town? One way or another, the answers are coming.

What has Dr. Brenner been working on?

Dr. Brenner talking to Eleven during experiment

Dr. Brenner made his inevitable return in the middle of this run of episodes. Eleven’s life has completely changed in the years since she last saw Dr. Brenner, and from the looks of it, his life has changed quite a bit, too. In Season 1, Dr. Brenner seemed like an obvious antagonist for the show. However, now he’s apparently working on behalf of Eleven. Dr. Brenner is helping her regain her powers, but he hasn’t said anything about his reasons for doing so or what he’s been doing since he left Hawkins.

Whatever Dr. Brenner has been doing will have a big impact on what happens to Eleven and the people of Hawkins. It seems like he’s joined the faction of the government that believes Eleven can save the town and bring an end to the Upside Down forever, but we can’t be too sure that’s the case. After all, Dr. Brenner is the one who experimented on Eleven and the other children in the first place. He’s obviously put much of his energy into creating the facility that will help Eleven regain her powers, but what is his real motivation for doing so? Don’t rule Dr. Brenner out as a villain just yet.

How did One survive Eleven’s attack?

Vecna hanging in the Upside Down

"Chapter Seven: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab" packs in some major reveals, including the true story of what happened to the children who were used for experiments alongside Eleven. Now it appears that One was the first child to display psychic powers, and it’s possible that Dr. Brenner and the other scientists somehow used One to create other superpowered children. Somehow Eleven’s powers became even more potent than One’s because when the two square off, she is able to defeat him and rip open a gate to the Upside Down in the process.

While One may have been defeated, he isn’t dead. Somehow he is able to survive in the Upside Down, and his survival transforms him into the creature known as Vecna. Does One’s survival imply some connection between his powers and the Upside Down? Was he possibly saved by the Mind Flayer? The answers aren’t clear, but they’ll probably come to light as the gang finds a way to put an end to Vecna’s murderous rampage through the town.

Will Eleven get her powers back?

Eleven with blood under her eyes

During most of "Stranger Things" Season 4, Volume 1, Eleven is on a mission to regain her powers. Sam Owens and a group of government agents ask Eleven to come with them so they can help her get her powers back to save Hawkins. Eleven agrees, only to later discover that Dr. Brenner is working with Owens. For once it seems like Dr. Brenner is one of the good guys as he helps Eleven to uncover some of the traumatic memories that her mind has forced her to forget.

Eleven’s lost powers are somehow linked to her lost memories, but the true significance of that connection remains unclear. In the final episode of Volume 1, Eleven remembers her battle with One and everything else that happened to her at the Hawkins lab. Does that mean she now has her powers back, or will she end up getting new powers? The answers, when they come, will probably reveal more about the origin of Eleven’s powers and the future of Hawkins.

Can anyone in Hawkins find love?

Dustin, Robin, Max, and Steve smiling

Supernatural happenings take center stage in "Stranger Things," but this season, the romantic drama has also been dialed up. All our favorite characters might be involved in life-or-death battles for the fate of their entire town, but they also have love on their mind. Mike and Eleven have a big fight right before she leaves to regain her powers, so their relationship is currently in question. Similarly, Jonathan and Nancy struggle to make long-distance work, and Steve’s feelings for Nancy are bubbling back to the surface.

It’s not just current couples who are struggling in the romance department. Max broke up with Lucas between seasons, but there’s still an obvious spark of feelings between them. Will seems to be struggling with complicated feelings for Mike, and his mother ran off to Russia to save Hopper, so there are romantic possibilities all over the globe. Obviously, stopping Vecna and potentially saving the world is everyone’s top priority, but who could blame any of these Hawkins-ites for having other concerns?