“No, El, you’re not the monster. You saved me. Do you understand? You saved me.”
Created by the Duffer brothers as a nostalgic tribute to the 80s, Netflix’s acclaimed show Stranger Things has undeniably become a pop-cultural phenomenon with a widespread impact. Set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, with a classic child endangerment theme, it is a concoction of every child’s dream sequence with plenty of supernatural and fantastical elements, mystery and adventure that ultimately led to an iconic resuscitation of the sci-fi genre. Starring Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo, David Harbour, Winona Ryder, and more, the show also helped catapult many child actors to superstardom, while giving the veteran actors’ careers a much-needed push in the right direction.
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.
Played by Finn Wolfhard, Mike Wheeler is one of the main leads in the show. Wolfhard is a brilliant actor who manages to pull off his role effortlessly. He is spectacular as a brave character who does not shy away from a dangerous and feverish adventure involving interdimensional travel to save his friend.
The show revolves around Mike and his group of friends as they embark on an adventure with a mysterious girl with psychokinetic powers, named eleven, to find their missing friend Will Byers, who is stuck in the Upside Down. The town is haunted by the grotesque Demogorgon (albeit with petals around its head), and the kids must race against time to save their town from the onslaught of such attacks while uncovering a deep conspiracy at the bottom of this.
Mike takes the central ground on multiple occasions throughout the three seasons. He is the perfect best friend, bent upon finding his friend Will and willing to go to extreme lengths to find him. However, his jealousy and overprotectiveness serve as some of the few cons to his character which makes us wonder if we really like Wheeler.
Wheeler suffers at home due to an emotionally distant and almost absent father. He is deeply connected to his friends and very loyal and compassionate. He is willing to take severe risks to save his friends from danger and has a strong sense of morale while his courage and bravado almost border on stupid chivalry. A frequent Dungeon master while playing Dungeons and Dragons with his mates, he proves his natural leadership skills by showcasing immense calm and composure while dealing with difficult situations.
However, Mike’s leadership qualities also reflect his attitude problem. In season one, when his friends Dustin and Lucas are apprehensive by the sudden presence of Eleven whom they do not know and are naturally wary of, he does not take their suggestions into consideration. He dismisses their concerns and believes in his own instincts. However, in the second season, when his friends try and incorporate the new girl Max into their group (on whom they both have an enormous crush), he acts cold and distant. Mike naturally assumes the decision making position and has zero to little respect for his friends’ opinions.
Mike has a crush on Eleven and loves her with all his heart. Her disappearance bothers him, and that is quite understandable. But Mike does not know how to channel his rage and takes his frustration on anyone and everyone, especially Max. he also lies to Eleven a lot in the third season and has the audacity to smirk at Chief Hopper when he, as a concerned father, wants to talk to him about his relationship with Eleven. Stubborn, judgemental and quick-tempered, Mike is undoubtedly like a regular moody teen whose recklessness and selfishness make him less likeable at times.
However, his duality is confusing and leaves us divided. We keep oscillating between our love for Mike’s unwavering courage and overwhelming dislike for his stubborn rage and self-absorbedness. Maybe, season 4 will finally help us make a decision with further development to his character.
“if we’re both going crazy, then we’ll go crazy together, right?”