Please 'Stranger Things,' Bring Back This Beloved Character for Season 4

Commentary: Alexei, I miss you and your love for cherry Slurpees and Woody Woodpecker.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
3 min read

Alec Utgoff played Alexei on Stranger Things.


Warning: Spoilers for season 3 of Stranger Things ahead.

He loved cherry Slurpees, but learned to accept strawberry as well. He was super-good at balloon darts. He heartily enjoyed Looney Tunes. He dreamed of becoming an American citizen. And he died on the Fourth of July, all because Murray wandered off to get some corn dogs.

Alexei, aka "Smirnoff" (to Hawkins Police Chief Jim Hopper), played by Alec Utgoff, was the best short-lived character on Stranger Things. Beloved Bob Newby was great, and hunky Billy Hargrove captivated the Hawkins pool moms, but show me someone who doesn't love Alexei and I'll show you someone with no heart.

The first part of Stranger Things season 4 comes out on May 27. And if the show's creators, the Duffer Brothers, had any kindness in their hearts, they'd somehow find a way to bring Alexei back, even if only in flashback. 

Viewers were introduced to Alexei as one of the Russian scientists working on breaking through the supernatural barrier to the Upside Down. Hopper and Joyce Byers take him hostage to help them stop that from happening. Naturally, the duo prove to be terrible hostage-takers, but Alexei proved to be an excellent hostage, even using straws, Slurpee cups and Burger King wrappers to explain the science of the whole thing.

Alexei never seemed afraid of his bumbling captors. Though he barely spoke English, he did know enough to dub Hopper "Fat Rambo." And he had enough sense of his own power as a captive to temporarily refuse to help the Americans when clueless Hopper got him a strawberry Slurpee instead of his preferred cherry. (He eventually capitulated. Strawberry is OK too, it's all sugar and ice.)


Alexei and Murray had a sweet relationship, but it didn't last long.


Alexei's relationship with Hopper's friend Murray was a highlight of Stranger Things season 3. Fluent in Russian, Murray was the only one of the Americans who could truly converse with Alexei. That led to some real highlights, including where Murray and Alexei laugh hysterically about the sexual tension between Joyce and Hop, and a great one where Murray explains that the American carnival games are rigged. 

Alexei discovers they aren't when he wins a giant Woody Woodpecker, but sadly, he doesn't get to enjoy it for long. He's shot by fellow Russian Grigori, the Arnold Schwarzenegger-like dude who scornfully declares Alexei a "traitor" right before killing him at the Hawkins Fun Fair. Never has a Fun Fair been less fun.

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I'm trying to face the cold hard facts here: Alexei is dead. He's not coming back. He didn't even get sucked into the Mind Flayer in some way where he can maybe return, he got shot in the chest and died leaning against a carnival trailer. We're very unlikely to see him in season four at all. Oh, the unfairness of it all!

But if the Duffers really wanted to do some fan service here, they could invent a flashback scene showing Alexei before he was taken hostage by Hopper. Maybe we see him as a young scientist back in the Motherland, with some tragic backstory that forces him into servitude to the Russians' ugly plan. 

Maybe we see his uncertainty at being sent to America to work underneath the Hawkins Mall -- happy to use his science knowledge, but unsure about the outcome. Maybe we meet his mom, or his significant other. Maybe we find out he frolicked in a cherry orchard as a kid, hence his love for cherry over strawberry Slurpees. Or he had a pet woodpecker named Woody.

Alexei isn't likely to come back for season 4. But there's precedent. Nancy's BFF, Barb, was killed in season 1, and fans who didn't want her death ignored started a "Justice for Barb" movement. It turned out Barb's death motivated Nancy in a big way in season 2. The Duffers say that was always the plan, but do admit the fan love for Barb inspired them to evolve the plotline.

So here's my plea, Duffers. If there's any way to resurrect Alexei, even briefly and in flashback, please do it. And if you can't cram it into season 4, hey there's always season 5. Cherry Slurpee-lovers everywhere are counting on you.

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