At least a dozen beer cans line a sun-drenched room as some unshaven and shirtless guy sleeps on the couch. A noise suddenly breaks the serenity (a bird this time), so our guy wakes up to check his watch and sigh. After a few cigarettes, some deodorant, and morning pills eased down with one of last night’s not-so-empties, he finally gets out the door to head towards work.
Take a wild guess at his job.
Depending on the specific series, you can essentially swap out the generalities (“beer can” and “guy”) for many different things: Jameson and McNulty (The Wire), Rust and Lonestar (True Detective S1), Raylan and bourbon (Justified), heck even Stan and Miller Lite (The Americans). For nearly as long as television has relied on the cop as a central character, it’s also showcased those lawmen (or women, see perhaps Amanda Rollins on post-Stabler SVU) as flawed individuals that can overindulge in their drink of choice. The latest entrant to this burgeoning department comes from Netflix’s Stranger Things (for the record, it’s Sheriff Hopper and Schlitz).
Back in Hawkins, Indiana: “Good of you to show,” says secretary Flo as she greets our deadbeat badge man. Hopper continues on and gets the typical, “Damn, you look like hell chief” gruff from his deputies. If the morning Schlitz didn’t convey the message, this warm welcome makes it clear: Sheriff Hopper may be a sheriff in name only by this point in his career.
But if drinking TV cops have taught viewers a second lesson, it’s that hidden beneath stress or grief-induced substance seeking may be a highly capable professional. And all it usually takes to unearth that potential greatness is the right case. “While you were drinking or sleeping or whatever you deem so necessary on Monday morning, Phil Larson called again saying some kids are stealing gnomes from his garden again,” Flo continues. (Nope, definitely not the key to unlocking Hopper’s heroism.) “On a more pressing matter, Joyce Byers can’t find her son this morning,”
No matter how quickly Hopper dismisses this message, nor how loudly he declares, “mornings are for coffee and contemplation!” he’s obviously had his last morning Schlitz for a while. Without spoiling anything, Stranger Things’ Sheriff Hopper slowly but surely rounds into form. His case may turn out to be unlike anything you’ve ever seen on a CBS procedural (or even a BBC Miniseries), but he’s every bit the 1980s’ Indiana-version of NYPD Detective Andy Sipowicz or London DCI John Luther. It may seem a bit familiar, but with Stranger Things that’s part of the fun.