It’s been a few months since Stranger Things 3 graced our screens and we already miss the show and its characters. The third season was an excellent return to form for the series. It contained all of the things we love most: monsters, body horror, good music, ’80s fashion, and themes of friendship and family. It also ended on a sad note, with the alleged death of Chief Jim Hopper and the Byers family and Eleven leaving their hometown of Hawkins, Indiana for greener pastures. That leaves the door wide open for season 4. Will the Byers return to Hawkins for the holidays? What will happen to Mike, Dustin, Lucas, and Max without Will and Eleven around? Will things in Hawkins return to normal now that they’ve closed the portal to the Upside Down and the Russians have fled?
We don’t know too much about Stranger Things 4 right now. A brief teaser hinted that the next season could take us to new locations around the globe, which would make sense after last year’s whole Russian subplot. The writers also gave us another little breadcrumb in the form of an episode title. The premiere of season 4 is titled “The Hellfire Club,” and it’s a reference that could have multiple meanings.
The Hellfire Club was a real high society club founded by Philip, Duke of Wharton back in 1718. It spawned several other exclusive clubs of the same name throughout Britain and Ireland. The most famous and notorious of these Hellfire Clubs was the one Sir Francis Dashwood established in England. Dashwood was famous for his prankish behavior, and the club became synonymous with debauchery and naughtiness. Though enormously secretive, many believed Hellfire Club members worshiped Pagan deities and held Black Masses. They also dressed in ritualistic attire: white trousers, jackets, and caps. The wine flowed, luxurious banquets were held, and it was all very lavish and primal.
What does this have to do with Stranger Things? Well, if the next season is traveling to the United Kingdom–as the teaser trailer implies–it’s possible we might learn that the Hellfire Clubs still exist. Are they part of some larger conspiracy? The season 3 finale teased a possible connection to a real-world phenomenon known as Satanic Panic that swept the nation back in the ’80s and early ’90s, where average Americans believed the Devil was at work in several small towns, and that Black Masses were responsible for a number of ritualistic murders and misdeeds. Maybe in the world of Stranger Things, the Hellfire Club is somehow involved with all of this.
A better bet is that the title is actually an X-Men reference. In the comics, the Hellfire Club was a fictional society and enemy of the X-Men mutants. Based on the real Hellfire Clubs, the comics version consisted of high society members who wanted to control and influence world events under their own agenda. They first appeared in “The Dark Phoenix Saga,” a famous Marvel storyline that follows the corruption of a mutant named Jean Gray. Stranger Things has already referenced that story in the past. In fact, in the opening moments of the very first episode, Will references X-Men 134, the comic that kicks off “The Dark Phoenix Saga”. And in a lot of ways, Jean Grey influenced Eleven’s character, with her telekinetic and often terrifying powers.
We’re not positive how this reference will work its way back into Stranger Things. Maybe the boys start their own club and name it Hellfire after the comics. Perhaps the club is a real thing. Maybe it’s a coded reference and the Duffers will never specifically bring it up in the show, but give it some sort of thematic relevance. We’ll find out for certain when Stranger Things 4 hits Netflix in 2020.
Featured Image: Netflix