A Definitive Guide to the ‘Stranger Things’ Universe

Stranger Things is the critically acclaimed sci-fi horror Netflix series set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, during the 1980’s. The show follows a group of friends as they confront supernatural forces, government conspiracies, and otherworldly creatures, all while navigating the challenges of adolescence. The series has been praised for the way in which it pays homage to 80s pop culture.

Stranger Things is the critically acclaimed sci-fi horror Netflix series set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, during the 1980s. The show follows a group of friends as they confront supernatural forces, government conspiracies, and otherworldly creatures, all while navigating the challenges of adolescence. The series has been praised for the way in which it pays homage to 1980s pop culture.

Season 1: The Disappearance of Will Byers

In the first season, released in 2016, the story centers around the mysterious disappearance of a young boy named Will Byers. His friends Mike, Lucas, and Dustin begin a search for him and stumble upon a psychokinetic girl named Eleven, who has escaped from a government laboratory. Meanwhile, Joyce Byers, Will’s mother, and Police Chief Jim Hopper conduct their own investigations, slowly uncovering the dark secrets of Hawkins National Laboratory.

As the characters go deeper into the mystery, they learn about a parallel universe called the Upside Down, which is inhabited by a monstrous creature known as the Demogorgon. The season’s climax sees the group, aided by Eleven’s telekinetic powers, successfully rescuing Will from the Upside Down and defeating the Demogorgon, although Eleven vanishes in the process.

Season 2: The Shadow Monster

The second season, released in 2017, explores the aftermath of Will’s rescue and Eleven’s disappearance. Will experiences visions of the Upside Down and a new, more powerful entity called the Mind Flayer or Shadow Monster. As the group, now joined by newcomer Max, attempts to understand these visions, they discover a network of tunnels beneath Hawkins, infested with creatures from the Upside Down.

At the same time, Eleven embarks on a journey to discover her past, leading her to a reunite with her long-lost sister, Kali, who also possesses psychic powers. The season culminates in a final showdown against the Mind Flayer, as Eleven uses her abilities to seal the gate to the Upside Down, trapping the entity in its own dimension.

Season 3: The Battle of Starcourt Mall

The third season, released in 2019, sees the characters navigating adolescence while facing a new, more human threat: corrupt politicians and Soviet spies seeking to exploit the Upside Down. The Mind Flayer manages to infiltrate Hawkins, possessing people and creatures to create a new, horrifying monster.

The group divides into separate teams to combat the various threats. Mike, Eleven, and the others attempt to destroy the Mind Flayer’s proxy on Earth, while Hopper and Joyce investigate the clandestine Soviet operation under the newly built Starcourt Mall.

The season concludes with a climactic battle at the mall, resulting in the apparent death of Jim Hopper and the destruction of the Mind Flayer’s Earthly form. In the aftermath, Eleven loses her powers, and the Byers family, along with Eleven, move away from Hawkins, and on to California.

Eleven and Max and friends in Stranger Things.

Season 4: The Last Stand

The fourth season, released in 2022, expands the series’ narrative beyond Hawkins. The season is split into two parts, with the first half focusing on the characters’ individual journeys, such as Hopper’s survival in Russia, Eleven’s struggle to regain her powers, and the group’s reunion to face a new supernatural threat. The second half sees the characters confronting the Mind Flayer, who have returned with a vengeance.

During the first part of the season, it is revealed that Hopper survived the explosion at Starcourt Mall and has been captured by the Russians. Meanwhile, Eleven, now living with the Byers family in a new town, grapples with her loss of powers and the challenges of a new life. As the supernatural threat reemerges, the group, consisting of Mike, Lucas, Dustin, Max, and new allies, uncovers a conspiracy that goes beyond Hawkins and the Upside Down.

In the second part of the season, the characters are reunited and must work together to stop the Mind Flayer from wreaking havoc on the world. As the stakes rise, their individual stories intertwine, leading to a dramatic and emotional climax.

Maya Hawke, Gaten Matarazzo and Joe Keery in Stranger Things.

Mike, Lucas, Will and Dustin: The Main Kids

The main cast of Stranger Things features a mix of established actors and rising stars. At the center of the story are four young friends, played by Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, and Noah Schnapp.

Dustin, played by Gaten Matarazzo, is a hilarious and quirky character who provides much-needed comic relief in the show. His storyline centers around his search for a sense of belonging, both within his group of friends and in the larger world of Hawkins, Indiana. Throughout the series, he faces numerous challenges, however, he never loses his sense of humor or his determination to help his friends, making him a fan favorite.

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Mike, portrayed by Finn Wolfhard, is the de facto leader of the group and the closest friend of the show’s central character, Eleven. His storyline is defined by his love for Eleven and his unwavering loyalty.

He struggles with the pressures of leadership and the weight of responsibility that comes with protecting his loved ones from the dangers of the Upside Down. As the series progresses, Mike must confront his own weaknesses and fears in order to overcome the challenges that threaten his relationships and Hawkins.

Will, played by Noah Schnapp, is the character who initially disappears, setting the events of the series in motion. His storyline focuses on the trauma he experiences after being trapped in the Upside Down for an extended period of time. He is haunted by visions of the alternate dimension and struggles to integrate back into his normal life. As the series progresses, Will becomes increasingly important to the show’s overall story.

Lucas is the most skeptical of the group and often serves as the voice of reason. His storyline centers around his relationships, both with his friends and with the new girl in town, Max. He struggles with feelings of jealousy and insecurity, but ultimately learns to trust his instincts.

The cast of Stranger Things.

The adult cast of Stranger Things is equally impressive, with veteran actors like Winona Ryder, who plays Joyce Byers, Will’s mother. Joyce is determined to find her son at any cost and who becomes increasingly intense and unstable as the season progresses.

David Harbour and Matthew Modine

David Harbour plays Jim Hopper and is the Chief of Police in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana. He is a complex character with a troubled past, including the loss of his daughter to cancer and struggles with alcoholism and deep-rooted anger issues.

Throughout the series, Hopper undergoes significant character development as he confronts his demons and grows in emotional maturity. He is initially portrayed as a gruff and closed-off character, but as the show progresses, he becomes more vulnerable and open, particularly in his relationships with Joyce and Eleven. He and Joyce eventually develop a romantic relationship and he becomes a father figure for Eleven.

Other notable actors include Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner (Papa), the scientist behind the government’s secret experiments at Hawkins Lab, and Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven, a mysterious girl with psychic powers who becomes a key player in the fight against the supernatural forces at work in Hawkins.

Millie Bobby Brown and Matthew Modine in Stranger Things.

Eleven: Leggo my Eggo

Eleven, also known as El, is portrayed by actress Millie Bobby Brown and is one of the most popular characters in the show.

Eleven’s backstory is revealed slowly over the course of the first season. She was born with telekinetic and telepathic powers, which were developed and enhanced through a series of government experiments conducted by Dr. Martin Brenner and his team. These experiments left Eleven with a traumatic past and a deep fear of the “Upside Down,” a parallel dimension inhabited by dangerous creatures.

When Eleven first appears in the show, she is a frightened and vulnerable girl who has escaped from the government facility where she was being held. She is taken in by Mike Wheeler and his friends, who hide her in Mike’s basement and help her evade capture. As Eleven becomes more involved in the search for Will, she begins to develop a bond with the other characters and starts to come out of her shell.

Throughout the first season, Eleven’s psychic abilities prove to be instrumental in uncovering the truth about Will’s disappearance and defeating the creature known as the Demogorgon. She also forms a close bond with Mike, with whom she shares a romantic connection, and becomes an integral part of the group.

Max and Billy: Sibling Rivalry

Maxine “Max” Mayfield is portrayed by actress Sadie Sink and is introduced in the second season of the show as a new member of the main group of friends. Max quickly becomes a fan favorite and an integral part of the show’s ensemble cast.

Max is a tough and independent young girl who moves to Hawkins with her family and becomes a student at Hawkins Middle School. She catches the eye of both Dustin Henderson and Lucas Sinclair, causing a bit of a rift between the two friends as they compete for her attention.

Throughout the second and third seasons of Stranger Things, Max struggles to fit in with the group of friends but eventually becomes a key player in the fight against the supernatural forces at work in Hawkins. She also becomes a close friend of Eleven and helps her navigate the challenges of being a teenage girl with extraordinary abilities.

Max’s backstory is revealed in the second season when it is revealed that she has an abusive stepbrother named Billy Hargrove, who is also a new resident of Hawkins. Billy’s violent behavior is a source of tension for Max, who tries to avoid him at all costs. In the third season, Max’s relationship with Billy becomes more complicated as it is revealed that he is under the control of the Mind Flayer.

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Billy Hargrove, played by actor Dacre Montgomery, is introduced in the second season of the show as a new resident of Hawkins and becomes a major player in the show’s storyline.

Billy is first introduced as a stereotypical ‘bad boy’ character who drives a muscle car, wears tight jeans and has a rebellious attitude. He is shown to be aggressive and violent, especially towards Steve Harrington and his friends, who he perceives as a threat to his authority. However, as the season progresses, it becomes clear that there is more to Billy than meets the eye.

Billy’s backstory is gradually revealed over the course of the second and third seasons. He is shown to have a troubled home life, with a violent and abusive father who physically and verbally abuses him and his mother. Billy’s father is also revealed to be a bigot, which may explain Billy’s own prejudices and hostility towards Lucas, who has a crush on his sister, Max.

Despite his bad boy persona, Billy is also shown to have moments of vulnerability and humanity, especially in his interactions with Max. In the final season, Billy sacrifices himself to save Eleven and her friends from the Mind Flayer, redeeming himself in the eyes of the other kids and the audience, as well.

Nancy Wheeler: The Popular One

Nancy Wheeler, played by Natalia Dyer, is an American actress born in Nashville, Tennessee in 1995. She began acting in community theater productions as a child before making her film debut in the indie drama Hannah Montana: The Movie in 2009.

Dyer is best known for her role in Stranger Things, which she has played since the first season of the show. She is introduced as a high school student and the girlfriend of Steve Harrington, a popular jock at Hawkins High School.

Throughout the show, Nancy evolves into a strong and determined character. She teams up with Will’s brother, Jonathan, to investigate his mysterious disappearance, and later becomes a key player in the fight against the supernatural forces at work in Hawkins.

She has been nominated for several awards for her work on Stranger Things, including a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 2017.

Jonathan Byers: The Mysterious One

Jonathan Byers, played by Charlie Heaton, is an English actor born in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, in 1994. He began his acting career in the UK, appearing in several British television series and films before making his breakthrough in Hollywood with his role in Stranger Things.

In real life, Dyer and Heaton have been dating since the very first season, and while extremely private, you can occasionally catch them on a red carpet.

Steve Harrington: The Crush

Steve Harrington is portrayed by actor Joe Keery. Keery is an American actor born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1992. He began his acting career in Chicago, where he was a member of the comedy group The Second City. He made his television debut in 2015 and went on to appear in several popular television shows before landing the role of Steve Harrington in Stranger Things.

Steve is introduced as a stereotypical jock and bully, but over the course of the show, he undergoes a significant transformation, becoming a hero and ally to the show’s main characters.

Maya Hawke and Joseph Quinn: The Newcomers

Stranger Things wouldn’t be the same without Maya Hawke (daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke), as Robin and Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson. Both characters are an awesome addition to the Stranger Things Universe, especially Quinn, who took the world by storm with his portrayal of Eddie, and his now viral “Metallica” moment, while fighting demobats in the Upside Down.

Jamie Campbell Bower: The Villian

Jamie Campbell Bower’s as “Vecna”, is a standout performance in the show’s fourth season. Vecna is a complex character with a tragic backstory, and Bower’s performance is chilling. One of the most impressive aspects of Bower’s performance is the way he portrays the character’s descent into darkness with a sense of inevitability.

The Final Season

The final season, Season 5, begins shooting in June of 2023 with an unknown release date. The Duffer brothers say the final season won’t take as long as previous seasons, so we at The Film Bandit are waiting with bated breath. Obviously, the recent writers and SAG/Aftra strike have slowed things way down. Stranger Things has a critics score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.