Two supremely different figures may have well dominated the end of 2022, but the start of the year was all about those fearless folk from Hawkins, Indiana and Stranger Things.
Wednesday may well be about to usurp Stranger Things as the most watched TV show in the streaming platform’s history, having surpassed its most recent challenger DAHMER but the start of 2022 was all about discovering the fifth season of the hit fantasy show.
Created by twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, Stranger Things is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, in the 1980s. It involves a group of children investigating their friend Will Byers’ disappearance, which leads them to befriend a girl named Eleven (who has psychokinetic abilities) as well as uncover dark secrets of the government.
Gradually, they find out about The Upside Down, which is a portal into the alternate universe; Will is held captive by a creature from the Upside Down. The three-season show is based on Will’s rescue and the subsequent events that follow, where the lives of the Hawkins resident are plagued by supernatural monsters from the Upside Down.
The show has attained unthinkable with a classic child endangerment theme set in an ’80s grunge backdrop. Nerdy kids on bicycles trying to find their missing friend, a girl with telekinetic powers, dangerous species travelling to and from between dimensions, a wicked bureaucracy and nearly helpless adults.
Stranger Things is a concoction of every child’s dream sequence where they save the day along with their cheeky friends. Fans are incredibly excited to see what the next new season has in store for us. With the varied range of characters the show has to present, it is a delight to see the creators carefully and intricate the ‘80s behavioural tropes as well, not just the aesthetics. From dysfunctional households to toxic parenting, the show lacks nothing.
Below, we’ve picked out five of our favourite characters from the show as a reminder of just how brilliant it was.
Five best characters from ‘Stranger Things’:
5. Dustin Henderson
We stan a curly-haired king whose gamut of fantasy knowledge and cuss words is admirable. Dustin Henderson is the scientifically inclined, nerdy Solomon of the group whose responsibility seems embedded in his ability to resolve conflicts. With Gaten Matarazzo improvising Dustin’s distinctive purr, the writers made sure to incorporate the actor’s medical condition of cleidocranial dysplasia into the character.
Dustin often keeps the group from falling apart. He is prudent, level-headed and a great negotiator, managing to bring the believer and the sceptic on the same page (namely Mike and Lucas). Sure, it is his fault that we lose the beloved ginger cat Mews, but can we blame the innocent Dustin for knowing that Dart was actually a monstrous creature? He had a crush on max but soon got his way around girls by dating Suzie. Dustin also develops a close bond with Steve towards the end of season three.
His evolution from a dorky young man to a dorky adult man is one we will watch with bated breath.
Millie Bobby Brown, as the elusive Eleven with her laconic dialogues, does a spectacular job that catapulted her into stardom. Eleven is the unfortunate sufferer at the hands of a corrupt power-hungry bureaucracy that take recourse to scientific experiments on humans to fan their ego. After being subjected to such experiments in Hawkins National Laboratory after being abducted, she develops psychokinetic abilities. She escapes and stumbles upon Mike, Lucas and Dustin, who are desperately looking for their lost friend Will. Without any second thoughts, she agrees to help the boys. Eleven is constantly pursued by officials who want to make use of her abilities to their own advantage.
Eleven is subjected to severe abuse at the hands of Brenner, whose psychotic manipulative tendencies and punishment made her develop severe trauma and claustrophobia. Her limited vocabulary stands as a communicative barrier, and she fails to express her feelings. She is fiercely loyal and incredibly determined to save her friends. Eleven was often forced into situations where, despite her heart being devoid of malice or revenge, she had to kill, which filled her heart with guilt and self-loathing. Her relationship with Mike, budding friendship with his friends as well as acceptance at the hands of the Hawkins families helps her overcome her insecurities. It is heartwrenching to see her finally meet her long-lost yet unresponsive mother. Rejected by her aunt, she finally finds solace and affection in the arms of her adoptive father Jim Hopper. Eleven, in all her glory and love for Eggos, is one of our absolute favourites!
3. Max Mayfield
Maxine “Max” Mayfield is a badass. She skates and plays video games and keeps the guys on their toes; she is an absolute dream. While it may seem quite natural now, the series is set in the ‘80s, and such intriguing qualities in a girl were usually not noticed as they were dissuaded from almost everything. Max has a pretty sad backstory as she belongs to a household where her stepbrother Billy is regularly abused by her stepfather. Billy takes out his frustration on her by threatening her like filth.
Max, however, proves her greatness by forgiving him and staying by his side as he perishes. Billy even ends up begging for her forgiveness. Although she tries to befriend Eleven, the latter is wary of Max’s proximity to Mike. Later the two bond over their respective lying boyfriends. Max is dauntless and aids the boys in their mission. She dates Lucas and is a wholesome character with all her unique qualities and brave personality.
In the most recent season, it was Max who became the central figure of the show. As Vecna attempted to kill the young girl, she used her love of music, a now very famous Kate Bush song, as a way of escaping his deathly clutches. It’s a storyline which has endeared Ma to the hearts of millions.
2. Steve Harrington
Stever Harrington would have probably been our top character had Jim hopper not been a part of the Stranger Things-verse because the redemptive arc of his character is nothing short of incredible. Initially an asshole in the series with his bullying tendencies and cold indifference, he is a popular boy who reeks of a terrible personality, a self-proclaimed King Steve. While he disgusts us at the beginning, he deserves the title of King Steve towards the end by his show of bravery, courage and kindness. He becomes Dustin’s friend and mentor, handing out advice regarding hairstyle and girls. Steve’s hair towards the end is quite iconic as well in classic ‘80s style.
Steve, who is initially rude and cruel to everyone, slowly shows his parental side, which brims with compassion and empathy. He becomes incredibly patient and tolerant and sheds off his homophobic views. He tries to bring about positive changes by trying to learn more about things he was previously ignorant of, which includes him delving into the realm of knowledge. He is no longer the reckless and boisterous sarcastic popular boy. He prefers quietude and arms himself with a baseball bat, displaying his bravery and chivalry while protecting others.
The evolution into the neo-Steve seems too good to be true and has once again continued as he not only provides a stable ground for the love life of Robyn but also attempts to engage with Nancy once more.
1. Jim Hopper
Gruff yet vulnerable, David Harbour’s Jim Hopper is the best character in the series. Imagine a character who has been left hollow by a set of consequent tragic events. Imagine a character who is bereft of audience empathy. Yes, that is Jim Hopper. He is not a hero. He has no quest-like journey, he is an alcoholic cop who beds random women to drown his sadness in booze and drugs. He is a tough guy and punches people before extracting answers during an interrogation. He is volatile and angry yet harbours great tragedy within his soul. He has lost his daughter to cancer, and his wife has abandoned him. He seeks solace in alcoholism the audience feels pity yet does not empathise with him.
Season 2 sees a wonderful formation of a father-daughter relationship between hopper and eleven, with the former growing overprotective of her, afraid of losing her. He officially adopts her and dances with her. His flaws make him human – his jealousy and possessiveness towards Joyce are an expression of his love. His hard exterior is incapable of showing romance, but he cares and feels deeply for the ones he loves. He is poignant, and Harbour, who won two Emmy nominations for his wonderful portrayal of the character, beings unimaginable depth to this layered character. A masterpiece!
His role in the latest season may have been less involved with the residents of Hawkins than usual — having spent the majority of it defeating a Demogorgon in a freezing Russian prison — but his impact is still sizable.