Warning: Stranger Things season 3 spoilers ahead.
The Russians have invaded Hawkins, and this is a major code red. Just when you thought the kids of Stranger Things only had to worry about monsters, they’ve now also got to worry about what the Soviets are doing in a mysterious underground facility in their town. Short answer: They’re trying to open up the gate to access the Upside Down. Long answer: The Russians are trying to open the Upside Down and are using a strange green goo to power their machine which is being spearheaded by a scientist named Alexei (actor Alex Utgoff), the lead on the project.
Alexei, or Dr. Alexei as he’s referred to in the credits — or Smirnoff as Hopper (David Harbour) calls him — wasn’t always the lead scientist on this project. Back in 1984 when the Russians were still doing these tests in Russia, he was more like the second-in-command. But after he and his co-workers failed to open the Upside Down gate in 1984, the head scientist was killed and Alexei was put in charge, with the looming threat that he had one year to perfect the technology to open the gate.
Warning — this is where it gets really spoilery.
That brings him to Hawkins where Hopper then, naturally, kidnaps him. Hopper and Joyce (Winona Ryder) have figured out that there’s something going on with the energy sources in town, and track one of them to an abandoned house with Alexei trying to repair a machine in the basement. Unless you speak Russian, who knows what Alexei is actually telling Joyce and Hopper. Assuming he’s of some value since he knows what’s going on, Joyce and Hopper take Alexei to Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) to get him to translate.
While Murray is able to translate just about everything Alexei is saying, it’s unfortunately not word for word. Basically, what the Russian scientist conveys is that there used to be all sorts of “keys” (a.k.a. openings) to the Upside Down in Russia but none of them would actually open. So, the Russians came to Hawkins because they knew that the key had already been opened once before. They’re in the process of trying to open it back up because it’s currently “healing” and that’s what they’re doing under the Starcourt Mall.
Hopper asks Alexei to help him turn off the machine, which Alexei agrees to do so — as long as Hopper protects him from the Russians chasing him. He did leave his scientific post and turn on his country, after all. Alexei also believes that no one will be able to break into the facility because it’s impenetrable. Well, surprise, because Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Steve (Joe Keery), Robin (Maya Hawke), and Erica (Priah Ferguson) accidentally broke in and they’re doing fine.
While Alexei doesn’t necessarily see eye to eye with many things Hopper chooses to do, he does form a bond with Murray since they’re both men of science. By the end of the season, it really seems like Alexei is on their side since he’s actually trying to help them stop what the Russians are doing beneath Hawkins. However, he never actually gets to see this through to the end as he’s killed by the Russian muscle during the Fourth of July fair.
Though we couldn’t understand anything he was saying, Alexei was still a good guy who just wanted to watch Woody Woodpecker cartoons. It’s a shame he came and went so quickly as it’s unlikely we’ll see him again on the show, as there are other Russians to deal with now. We raise a glass of Smirnoff to you!