Words by Frances Leones
What began with the vanishing of a young boy in the fictional small town of Hawkins, Indiana has become one of Netflix’s most popular shows and has spawned a massive fanbase that waits with bated breath for the third season.
Stranger Things – penned by Matt and Ross Duffer – lives up to its sci-fi horror genre, introducing viewers to demonic entities such as the Demogorgon in Season 1 and the Mind Flayer in Season 2. But if you look more closely, there’s more to Stranger Things than just the monsters. Characters go through some insane stuff as the series progresses. Character development is a pretty tricky thing to pull off, especially when making a show that’s set to run for only 8-9 episodes max, but Stranger Things does it very well – giving us memorable and even relatable characters that we love.
Warning: If you haven’t watched the show or haven’t finished Season 2, there are spoilers below!
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is, without a doubt, one of the main reasons why people are so invested in Stranger Things. Her psychokinetic powers, fueled by her emotions, are always thrilling to watch. But it’s also her entire journey throughout the show that makes her a memorable character. She’s had a rough life, having been abducted at birth to be used as a test subject at the Hawkins National Laboratory, where she was psychologically abused by her “Papa” Martin Brenner. Upon escaping from the lab in Season 1, Eleven was severely lacking in social skills, having a limited vocabulary and mistrusting of other people. Meeting Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), and Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) and helping them find their missing friend, Will, makes Eleven realize that there’s more to her than being just a human lab rat.
Season 2 saw Eleven being kept in hiding by Hopper, the latter giving her a home of sorts out in the woods outside Hawkins, but no longer afraid to go out and explore as she did in the episode “Dig Dug,” where she went in search of her mother, Terry Ives. Meeting her biological mother then led Eleven to her “sister” and fellow test subject, Eight AKA Kali, in episode seven “The Lost Sister.” By this point, Eleven is figuring out where she belonged, having found living with Hopper to be too confining and longing to be with her friends again while wanting to put her past behind her. Compared to the vengeance-seeking Kali, Eleven chooses to let go of all of the pain and anger she suffered in the past to return to her friends. At the end of Season 2, she finally finds a home and family with Hopper. In Season 3, Eleven finally gets the chance to live her life as a regular girl, having fun with her friends, while being on the cusp of teenhood, which undoubtedly will cause father-daughter tension with the next character I’m gonna talk about.
Jim Hopper (David Harbour) has gone through quite an evolution in the show. In Season 1, Jim lived life in a haze, haunted by the death of his daughter, until he was tasked with finding Will Byers. With Will’s mother being an old friend, Hopper understands what she is going through as he, too, had lost a child. Hopper crosses paths with Eleven and finds himself in the middle of a large cover-up headed by the scientists at Hawkins National Laboratory. At the end of Season 1, Hopper goes above and beyond the call of duty and braves the journey into the dangerous and toxic environment of the Upside Down to save Will. To Hopper, it’s more than just doing his job to find a missing kid – it’s making sure that no other parent has to go through what he did.
In Season 2, we discover that Hopper has given Eleven a home in an old cabin in the woods. To Hopper, this feels like receiving another chance, to become the father Eleven never had. But, like any parent, he struggles with keeping Eleven safe. He thinks that keeping her in hiding will give him enough time to negotiate with the scientists still working at the lab to give him custody over Eleven. It must be said that Hopper has got to know by now, having been a father already before, that keeping a child confined to one area is never a good idea – especially if said child has psychic and telekinetic abilities. Another thing Hopper has to try and balance with looking after Eleven is his job as Hawkins Chief of Police. When called in to investigate the mysterious rotting of pumpkins, Hopper discovers that the events of Season 1 were a prelude to something even bigger and more dangerous than the Demogorgon – the Mind Flayer.
Hopper and Eleven’s father-daughter dynamic is tested throughout the entire season before ending on a good and heartwarming note, with Eleven becoming Hopper’s adopted daughter. But with a new terror on the rise in Season 3, it looks like Hopper’s involvement with supernatural horrors is far from over. To add to his stress, Eleven’s well on her way to becoming a teen… which means that she’s going to be going out with boys, which is probably every father with a daughter’s worst nightmare.
Finally, we have the Byers Family who just can’t seem to catch a break. Literally, every bad thing happens to them. Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) goes through the most harrowing stuff – from being abducted and chased through the Upside Down by the Demogorgon in Season 1 to being possessed by the Mind Flayer in Season 2. The poor kid’s definitely been traumatized by all he’s gone through but still manages to be resourceful in times of peril. He finds a way to communicate with his mother through manipulating the lights in his house, uses his link with the Mind Flayer to become a spy (which didn’t go as well as planned), and even uses Morse Code to give his family and friends hints on how to defeat the Mind Flayer and free him from its control. We don’t know what’ll happen to Will in Season 3, whether or not he’s going to be a victim of the new terrors set to attack Hawkins again. But we can take comfort in knowing that, this time, he’s going to be with his friends and fighting back.
Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) and Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) undergo some pretty big changes throughout the entire show, ultimately fueled by their love for their family and friends. In the beginning, Jonathan was a shy photography-loving guy just trying to be a good role model for his little brother while working hard to support their single mother, Joyce. Nancy, on the other hand, wanted to fit in with the cool students at high school, at the cost of not staying true to herself. When his little brother disappears, Jonathan blames himself for not being there for him but grows to become tougher and more confident as he searches for answers. As for Nancy, her best friend Barbara “Barb” Holland also goes missing and she joins Jonathan in searching. At the same time, Nancy begins to learn that she doesn’t have to act like someone’s she’s not to gain approval from her peers and her boyfriend Steve Harrington (Joe Keery).
In Season 2, the two of them team up to uncover the full truth of the events of Season 1 while trying and failing to ignore the obvious sexual tension between them. Nancy has already broken up with Steve by this point, and it’s obvious that she and Jonathan are into each other. By Season 3, they’re already dating and it looks like they’ll be teaming up again – this time with their younger siblings – as a new evil from the Upside Down comes to Hawkins in the summer of 1985.
Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) deserves a medal for being the most dedicated mother ever. Her determination to find Will in Season 1 had no bounds. Even when people started calling her crazy or delusional, she never stopped looking for a way to communicate with her son and ultimately find him. Not even supernatural forces deterred her from making sure that Will was rescued and that her family would recover from their experiences, which was the main focus in Season 2. In Season 3, we can be sure that Joyce will be ready to protect her family from any new threats.
Really, the characters I’ve talked about in this article are relatable. Like Eleven and Will, we may have experienced some rough times growing up. Like Jonathan and Nancy, we’ve all struggled with forming our identity as we transition from being kids to adults. And, for the parents out there, the challenges Hopper and Joyce face in raising their children can be relatable. Stranger Things is really a show where kids and adults can relate to because aside from all the monsters, universal topics of family, friendship, and finding yourself are shown in it too.
Stranger Things Season 3 premieres on July 4, with all episodes streaming on Netflix. You may watch the final trailer HERE.
Which Stranger Things character do you relate to the most? Let us know in the comments below!