Fans of Stranger Things may differ where their favorite season of the hit Netflix series is concerned, but one thing most can agree on is that all seasons are pretty great. The Duffer Brothers and co. have created a thrilling series around lovable characters who drive the heart of the story.
Season one balanced monsters with a story about friendship among 12-year-old children. Season two went deeper into the characterization of El and Will, the two kids most affected by the Upside Down. Season three was a summertime adventure, balancing higher stakes with comedy and a focus on growing pains.
9 Season One: The Mystery
Season one is a true mystery, in that the characters and the audience really go in blind. We learn things as they do: we don’t know where Will is until El explains the Upside Down to the boys, and Dustin reads from a Dungeons and Dragons book about the Veil of Shadows.
The audience is just as confused as Joyce is about Will’s communication via the lights, and we don’t know where the monster came from until El’s flashback. While season two and season three have their own mysteries, we already have enough information about the lab and the Upside Down to guess what might be causing mysterious occurrences. In this way, the magic of season one can never quite be repeated.
8 Season Two: Will’s Role
Since Will was missing for most of season one, he had the least amount of screen time out of all the kids. Season two was his time to shine, and Noah Schnapp gave an amazing performance.
Will struggled with PTSD and visions of the Upside Down. The Mind Flayer was introduced as the villain in season two, and it wanted to use Will as a conduit to take over the world. Noah Schnapp brilliantly portrayed Will’s fear, as well as his dual nature after the Mind Flayer took control of him.
7 Season Three: Billy’s Role
If season two was Will’s time to shine, one could argue that season three was Billy’s. The bully got a full redemption arc and managed to inspire sympathy, even after all he did in season two. This is largely thanks to Dacre Montgomery, who was truly phenomenal in season three, especially.
Billy is taken over by the Mind Flayer and tries to fight back against its influence. You can see Billy’s struggle in his eyes. As he’s delivering menacing dialogue, Dacre’s eyes are a window to Billy’s pain.
6 Season One: The Kids
Much of the success of Stranger Things is due to the incredible casting of the kids. Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo, Finn Wolfhard, Noah Schnapp, and the incomparable Milly Bobby Brown are some of the greatest child actors on television or otherwise.
In season one, they were very young, making them both impressive and super adorable. Audiences immediately loved this group of friends, and have watched them grow throughout the seasons.
5 Season Two: Bob Newby
The kids are adorable, but there is no character more wholesome than Bob Newby, superhero. We see in season one how Joyce has a bad history with her relationships, so it’s wonderful to see her in a happy, healthy relationship with a sweet guy.
Bob supported Joyce while Will was struggling, and kept his distance when asked. He bonded with Will and helped them solve Will’s map to find Hopper. His sacrifice at the lab was one of the saddest moments in the series as a whole.
4 Season Three: The Comedy
Season three is easily the most fun to watch. The show did something different than previous seasons, setting the action in the summertime. This allowed for a really fun tone, which contrasted nicely with the darker imagery and body horror that the season also introduced.
Joyce and Hopper went on a hilarious road trip with Murray and Alexei, and Steve, Dustin, Robin, and Erica formed the Scoops Troop, which was a lot of fun. The kids got to flex more of their comedic chops as well, especially Caleb and Finn, who play Lucas and Mike, respectively.
3 Season One: Steve’s Arc
Season one did something really fun and unexpected with Steve Harrington. He started off as a classic high school bully, hanging out with the meanest kids in school and picking on Jonathan after Will went missing. Fans clearly rooted for Nancy to dump Steve and be with the nicer guy, Jonathan.
Steve takes things too far, though, and realizes that he’s been in the wrong. He apologizes to Nancy and Jonathan for his behavior and helps them fight off the Demogorgon in the season one finale. His character has gone on to be a fan favorite in seasons two and three.
2 Season Two: Hopper And El
Season one introduced Hopper and El, two characters who desperately needed something more in their lives. Hopper had lost a daughter and was struggling, and El was raised by a cruel man who abused her.
She had no family, and neither did Hopper, so when he found her living alone in the woods, he took her in, hiding her in his cabin. They formed a tight bond and became a little family, and theirs is now one of the most heartwarming relationships in the show.
1 Season Three: The Finale
Stranger Things is known for its incredible finales. Season one had Will finally return from the Upside Down, and Eleven sacrificing herself to save her friends (and all of Hawkins) from the Demogorgon. Season two had El save the world again by closing the gate, while Will was freed of the Mind Flayer’s influence once and for all. Season three came out with arguably the best finale yet. The Mind Flayer spend season three hatching a plan to kill El, and she continued to save her friends at every turn.
However, by the finale, all she’s been through has frightened and drained her, so for once, she is the one that needs saving. This episode does a great job of showing how much these characters have come to know, love, and trust each other. We see how far Hopper will go to save his daughter, Joyce finally admits her feelings for Hop, and the rest of the gang do all they can to protect El. Even Billy gets in on the emotion, as he and Milly give heartbreaking performances while he breaks through the Mind Flayer’s control and sacrifices himself to save everyone.
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