Warning: Stranger Things season 3 spoilers are ahead.
Major, major spoilers.
Jopper shippers have many reasons to celebrate during Stranger Things Season 3. After two seasons of some solid flirting and stolen glances, it seems like it's finally time for Hopper (David Harbour) and Joyce (Winona Ryder) to get together. Unfortunately, while Joyce and Hopper ended Stranger Things season 2 on a seemingly romantic note, things aren't quite as rosy when season 3 opens. And if you're scratching your head, you might want to refresh your memory of a man named Bob, a.k.a. Joyce's ex boyfriend.
It's understandable that the 'ship has held strong. Hopper has made his feelings about Joyce known this entire time, going well out of his way to help the grieving mother when Will disappeared in season 1, and standing by her side no matter what (including when she got a new boyfriend) in season 2. By the end of last season, it sure appeared that Joyce was starting to come around to Hopper, turning to him for comfort after the loss of Bob, the part-time superhero.
While Bob's (Sean Astin) death at the end of season 2 seemed to pave the way for Hopper and Joyce, it was also, uh, super traumatic. Bob Newby was Joyce's first stable relationship after her ex-husband, and he was the exact opposite of Hopper — a huge dork, extremely cautious, and all about settling down and starting a family. Of course, as Hopper started to play father to Eleven, the likelihood of Joyce taking him seriously as a partner did too.
The problem is that Joyce and Bob didn't just break up in season 2 — he was ripped to bits by a demodog as Joyce and everyone looked on. While it seemed that he and Joyce weren't exactly soul mates, Bob was a great guy and losing anyone in that violent a manner is something that would haunt anyone for months or even years afterward. It makes sense that Joyce isn't ready to date when Hopper initially asks her out on a date (it'd be great it she could have let him know, but hey, trauma is kind of a deal hand to be dealt).
Even after that, season 2 builds a strong case for Hopper and Joyce to actually make this thing happen. When Hopper needs advice about how to deal with Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) making out at every waking hour, he turns to Joyce for help. This asks her out on a date, and she agrees to it, but doesn’t show up — she’s off learning about magnets, obviously. Hopper is clearly pissed that Joyce stood him up, and he harbors that resentment towards her throughout the rest of the season as the duo take a road trip after kidnapping a Russian scientist. It’s a long story.
Warning: This is where the spoilers get really intense.
But you know how life-or-death situations with Russians go, and as Hopper and Joyce try to save Hawkins and their kids, they grow closer together. This leads to Joyce asking Hopper out for a do-over — and promising to show up this time. Hopper is clearly bewildered by this but obviously agrees to the date. We should probably give credit to Alexei the Russian scientist for telling them to just have sex already, but alas...
But of course, as those who got to the end of season 3 know, Hopper isn't doing so hot at the end (and no, we’re not here to discuss Hopper Death Theories right now, but there’s no way he’s dead. Just...no). Even after all that time, and Joyce's rapid healing, they might not ever get that date at Enzos.
However, there is a mysterious "American" at the end of the season 3 post credits scene, so this ship might not be sunk after all.