With arguably the most talented child cast of all time, throwback fashion that has us running to Depop at the first sign of corduroy trousers looking cool, and a soundtrack so groovy you start agreeing that maybe the ‘80s were the good ol’ days, Stranger Things is as groundbreaking as it gets in the world of Netflix originals. The supernatural and mysterious town of Hawkins was first unveiled to us back in 2016, and since then has not only accelerated the careers of breakout actors such as Millie Bobby Brown and Sadie Sink, but perhaps more impressively has received critical acclaim for its characterisation, atmosphere, acting, soundtrack, directing, writing, and homages to 1980s films. If you haven’t seen it, you’re sincerely missing out.
As the fans across the world prepare for Season 4 to drop worldwide on Friday 27th May, we’re taking a trip down memory lane at the most gut-wrenching, heartwarming and downright emotional moments that made us both sob with sadness and shed a happy tear too. Anyone else not ready for the emotional rollercoaster that will no doubt be Season 4? Someone is cutting onions. Huge onions….
Warning! This post contains serious spoilers from Seasons 1-3. Continue at your own risk…
Pulling Will’s ‘body’ from the quarry
Long ago in Stranger Things history, but a moment that remains devastatingly sad to this day is the unfolding of episode four, Season 1, in which Chief of Hawkins Police, Jim Hopper breaks the news to Joyce Byers that her son has drowned, after finding a body in Sattler Lake. From the reaction of Hopper and his colleagues, the realisation that comes from Will’s friends that he’s gone, to Joyce sobbing into older son Jonathan’s arms, the events of this episode are as gut-wrenching as they come, and doesn’t get easier to watch even 5 years down the line.
Although we now know Will is alive and well, the episodes before Joyce is believed by Jonathan, the police and other residents of Hawkins are distressing by definition, but it does make for some incredible scenes from icon Winona Ryder and co. We love you Joyce!
When Barb’s parents hoped she would still come home safe
The first of many deaths that broke our hearts, the disappearance of Barbara Holland during Season 1 sparked the ‘Justice for Barb’ movement by fans online after she appeared seemingly forgotten by the town, despite her parents holding out hope that she would one day come home safe. During Season 2 we see Barb’s parents put their house on the market in order to fund a private investigator to look into her disappearance- something that eats up former best friend Nancy who still goes to weekly dinners with The Hollands because of the guilt she carries surrounding Barb’s death. Although it certainly wasn’t cool that Nancy ditched Barb on the night of the party to spend time alone with Steve, the weight of responsibility she feels when Barb’s parents express they hope she will one day come home safe is one that tugs at every heart string.
In the end, Nancy works with Jonathan Byers and PI Murray Bauman to put Barbara’s parents out of their misery, creating a fabricated yet believable cover-up story that Barbara had been exposed to a toxic chemical leak which had been covered up by Hawkins Lab, finally leading to it shutting down. Barb was given a proper funeral, and in the end we know Nancy did right by her friend after living with the guilt of her disappearance for so long. Now and forever, RIP Barb.
When Mike and Eleven shared their first kiss
In the emotional Season 1 finale of the show (and after a true rollercoaster of events throughout the previous 8 episodes), a quiet moment between Mike and Eleven in the safety (or so they thought) of his school cafeteria saw him ask her to be his date to the one and only Snow Ball. CUTE. After attempting to convey that he liked her as more than a friend, Mike leaned in to kiss a confused El to demonstrate his love for her, and let’s just say tears were shed from living rooms across the globe.
The season ended devastatingly for both Mike and viewers, when Eleven disappeared after saving the town once again from the Demogorgon- do these guys ever catch a break?! Mike goes on to mourn her loss deeply, attempting to contact Eleven via his radio unsuccessfully, persisting for at least 352 days. The pair meet again in Season 2, and needless to say their love story continues to blossom, before finally attending the Snow Ball and getting the happy ending they deserved (for now…).
When Bob was tackled by a pack of Demodogs (RIP, again)
Up there with Steve Harrington’s redemption arc as one of the best things that could happen to a show, Bob Newby was a true hero. Possibly the most likeable character of the show, despite his short stint in Hawkins, Bob’s character was introduced as Joyce’s new beau at the start of Season 2 and completely devoted himself to loving Joyce, her sons and making her feel truly special after her tumultuous divorce and the traumatic experience of Will’s disappearance.
During a tense episode in which Bob, Joyce, Hopper, Dr Owens and Mike were trapped in Hawkins Lab after the Mind Flayer took control of Will and unleashed a pack of Demodogs, the lab’s power went out, placing the complex on lockdown. In order to turn the power back on and reset the locks, Bob volunteered to go down to the breaker room as the only one in the group who knew BASIC (a coding system). After successfully making it to the breaker room, restoring the power and allowing Hopper, Joyce, and Mike to escape safely, Bob finally appears at the exit ready to reunite with Joyce before being tackled and violently killed by several Demodogs.
Bob was a character with the purest of intentions, kind-natured at his core and willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Truly one of the saddest deaths within the show, fans still mourn the loss of Bob as the series continues.
When Alexei was taken from us too soon
Did the Duffer Brothers want us to drown in our own tears after watching Season 3 of the show? We can only assume so. With Bob in first place, Alexei was surely the sweetest of all characters, turning from the dark side to good after abandoning his station as a Russian scientist working on the key project underneath the Starcourt Mall. After being arrested by Hopper, Alexei went on the run with him, Joyce and later Murray Bauman with the intent of closing the Russian gate- aka the portal between the two worlds.
Later Alexei, Murray, Jim and Joyce went to a 4th of July Fair to search for the kids, before Alexei was devastatingly killed by a Russian hitman during his most joyful moments because of his attempt to flee his role. His love for Slurpees, cartoons (Woody the Woodpecker to be precise) and carnival games saw the endearing and childlike side of his character vastly contrast that of the Russian experiment he was a part of, and he is cemented in ST history as a character fans will never forget. Let’s raise a Slurpee to Alexei.
When Dustin and Suzie perform A Neverending Story
Tears of joy up next! In the summer of ‘85, Dustin meets science, mechanics and comic book lovin’ girlfriend Suzie and sparks fly. After returning home and finding his friends have all but forgotten him, Dustin attempts to contact Suzie via the radio they created together, but accidentally intercepts something far darker…
This becomes important later, as in order for Hopper and Joyce to complete their mission in the Russian base, the duo needed a numerical code for Planck’s constant. Before Suzie gave up the code, however? “Dusty-bun” had to duet ‘their’ song with her- the NeverEnding Story‘s theme tune. In the end he obliged, and in a scene that can only be described as a cinematic masterpiece, we watch as each moving part in the operation to keep Hawkins safe listens in on the (quite frankly beautiful) rendition of the 1984 hit show’s theme song. The scene has amassed over 39 million views on YouTube, and only 38 million of them are ours!
If there’s a show that teaches us not to hold on too tightly to our favourite characters like no other, it’s Stranger Things, and after the Season 3 finale, we can safely say we trust no one on their writing team.
Chief of Police in the small, sleepy town of Hawkins, Hopper didn’t *exactly* know what was coming for him when Will Byers first disappeared, but needless to say he stepped up to the table and saved the day on more occasions than we can count. Unfortunately, as Season 3 came to an end and the Russian Gate to the Upside Down was still open, Joyce was forced to destroy the machine with Hopper trapped by an energy field behind it. This indeed closed the gate, but presumably killed Hopper. The US army arrived to seize the Russian base, and the government used the fire at Starcourt Mall as a cover story, claiming that Hopper sacrificed himself to save others at the mall.
It was later suggested that Hopper did not die, but was somehow transported to Kamchatka, Russia. By the spring of 1986, Hopper hasn’t been seen since the explosion that resulted in his disappearance, when Joyce (who since took in his daughter, Eleven) receives a mysterious Russian delivery…
After spotting David Harbour who plays Hopper looking fly AF at the latest ST premiere, we can only assume he’s back and better than ever for Season 4, however until he and El are reunited, the road will no doubt be a rocky one.
When El read Hopper’s heartwarming speech
The father/daughter relationship we didn’t know we needed, Eleven and Hopper are proof that a chosen family finds you when you need it most. From Eggos for dinner to renovating their cosy cabin home, the pair have shared some seriously wholesome (amongst traumatic…) memories that saw their bond grow stronger than ever.
One of their most touching moments came at the end of Season 3, when El discovered a written ‘heart to heart’ speech Hopper had planned to read to her regarding growing up, demonstrating moments of vulnerability and emotion that the Chief of Police rarely displayed. Sitting in her dad’s shirt, packing up her life in Hawkins ready to move away with the Byers, the tears start and just don’t stop…
“Feelings. Jesus. The truth is, for so long I’d forgotten what those even were. I’ve been stuck in one place. In a cave, you might say. A deep, dark cave. And then I left some Eggos out in the woods and you came into my life. For the first time in a long time, I started to feel things again. I started to feel happy. But lately, I guess I’ve been feeling distant from you. Like you’re pulling away from me or something. I miss playing board games every night, making triple-Decker Eggo extravaganzas at sunrise, watching Westerns together before we doze off.
But I know you’re getting older, growing, changing. And, I guess, if I’m being really honest, that’s what scares me. I don’t want things to change. So I think maybe that’s why I came in here, to try and stop that change. To turn back the clock. To make things go back to how they were. But I know that’s naive. It’s just not how life works. It’s moving, always moving, whether you like it or not. And yeah, sometimes it’s painful. Sometimes it’s sad. And sometimes, it’s surprising. Happy.
So you know what? Keep on growing up kid. Don’t let me stop you. Make mistakes, learn from ’em. And When life hurts you, because it will, remember the hurt. The hurt is good. It means you’re out of that cave. But, please, if you don’t mind, for the sake of your poor old dad, keep the door open three inches.”
A character arc so complex we’re still reeling from the 180 flip and reverse, Billy Hargrove’s heroic death was one that devastated viewers in the finale of Season 3 of the show. Whilst Dacre Montgomery, the actor who plays Billy, was spotted at the Season 4 premiere (side eye emoji), we’re not getting our hopes up until we see him alive and well on our screens, end of story.
Billy’s demise started right at the beginning of Season 3, when during episode 1 he was intercepted by a mysterious creature that pulled him into a nearby mill. He emerges in episode 2 after the creature presents him with a vision of the Upside Down where he encounters a doppelgänger, before the creature tricks him into bringing his colleague – Heather Holloway – to the mill. The Mind Flayer has possessed Billy, and its mission? Taking over Hawkins one person at a time.
Fast forward to the finale and Eleven has lost her power after being wounded by the Mind Flayer who is still manipulating Billy to trap them all. Eleven finally works her magic and frees Billy from the Mind Flayer’s grasp, before he ultimately makes the decision to sacrifice himself to help the others survive and is killed before them in Starcourt Mall.
Screaming, crying, throwing up.
The Byers Leaving Hawkins
And finally, the end of an era comes when Joyce takes the decision to move to California with Will, Jonathan and Eleven under her wing, saying goodbye to Hawkins, the traumatic memories they’ve faced there and offering El a chance of a fresh start away from the sadness that comes from losing Hopper. Hawkins doesn’t appear the same without this pivotal family walking its streets, but the emotional ending sets the scene perfectly for the new season to fill in the mysterious gaps viewers have been left wondering about since 2019…
Which Stranger Things moment made you get something HUGE in your eye?