Joyce Byers is one of the most engaging and unique characters in Stranger Things. Played by Winona Ryder, Joyce often pairs with Hopper throughout the show as she investigates the strange happenings at Hawkins Lab and fights to protect her son Will from the Mind Flayer.
Joyce and Hopper make an effective duo and will hopefully be reunited in Stranger Things 4 (if the infamous post-credits scene is a clue to Hopper's fate). Joyce has helped fight the Demogorgon and ventured into the Upside Down, proving that she is a powerful force. But even the Byers matriarch has her shortcomings. Here are five times Joyce Byers was a genius, and five times she really wasn't.
10 Genius: Investigating The Magnets
Joyce embarks on a mission in season three as she investigates the strange behavior of her magnets. It is Joyce's search that reveals that the gate to the Upside Down has been reopened, and partially leads to the discovery of the secret Russian facility beneath Starcourt Mall.
Joyce is a determined force of nature throughout the series. In seasons one and two she is dedicated to searching for and saving her son Will, and in season three she and Hopper help uncover Mayor Kline's corruption and alliance with the Soviets.
9 Not A Genius: Standing Hopper Up For Their Date
Joyce was still healing from the death of Bob during Stranger Things 3. However, she cannot have been oblivious to Hopper's romantic feelings for her and how much it upset him when she stood him up for their date.
Joyce and Hopper shared romantic tension throughout the series that wasn't resolved during the show's third season. Hopefully, if Hopper returns then the two can finally have that date after all.
8 Genius: Recognising That Will Was Still Missing
Joyce gets dismissed as crazy in the first season of Stranger Things by most of the town, including her son Jonathan. However, her fierce belief that Will is still alive is what saves her son, and she and Hopper eventually venture into the Upside Down to rescue him.
When a dummy of Will's body is discovered in the quarry, Joyce and Johnathan have to identify it at the local morgue. Joyce immediately recognizes that it is not Will, continuing to search for her son.
7 Not A Genius: Getting Back With Lonnie
Joyce is at a vulnerable point in her life when she allows her no-good ex-husband Lonnie back into the house. Desperate for comfort, Joyce believes Lonnie when he says Will is dead and finally gives up her search - only to discover that Lonnie has less than honorable intentions after all.
Joyce hasn't had much luck when it comes to love. Lonnie cheated on her during their marriage, and Bob and Hopper met untimely deaths (at least, so it seems) due to the Upside Down.
6 Genius: Closing The Gate To The Upside Down
Joyce had a heartbreaking decision to make in Stranger Things 3. After Grigori attacks Hopper, Joyce uses her initiative - and her belt - to reach both switches and turn off the machine, killing the Mind Flayer at last.
This had devastating consequences for Joyce and Eleven though, as Hopper seemingly died in the explosion. However, the post-credits scene in which a mysterious American was mentioned in a Russian camp (plus lack of an actual dead body) has made many fans speculate as to whether Hopper survived.
5 Not A Genius: Staring At Bob When She Should Have Ran
Bob Newby continued the Stranger Things trend of killing off characters whose name begins with a B. Joyce's lovable boyfriend met a grisly end when, whilst running from Demodogs in Hawkins Lab, the two stopped to stare at each other instead of fleeing the building.
It isn't really clear why Joyce and Bob decided to pause for a stare down in the face of mortal danger. It made for brilliant dramatic tension, however, and a tragic end to one of the nicest characters in Hawkins.
4 Genius: Investigating The Mind Flayer
Despite Dr. Owens' reassurances in season two, Joyce refuses to accept that there is nothing wrong with her son. She goes out of her way to investigate the Shadow Monster after seeing one of Will's drawings, tracing its shape onto paper and confirming that the Upside Down isn't finished with Will just yet.
Joyce's faith in her son and her determination to protect him make her one of the fiercest characters in Stranger Things. Had she believed Dr. Owens about Will's visions being trauma-related then the youngest Byers would have been lost to the Mind Flayer forever.
3 Not A Genius: Not Tearing Through The Wall Sooner
Will manages to communicate with Joyce after he is captured by the Demogorgon and taken to the Upside Down. In season one's "The Body," Joyce hears her son talking to her through the wall and tears off the wallpaper to see him trapped in the alternate dimension.
Afterwards, Joyce grabs an ax and tears through the wall, but it is too late. If she hadn't hesitated and had destroyed the wall whilst Will and the portal to the Upside Down was still there, then she may have been able to save him prematurely.
2 Genius: Speaking To Will Through The Lights
Everybody in Hawkins believes Joyce to be crazy when she insists that Will is still alive, but her faith pays off when she manages to create a way to communicate with him whilst he is trapped.
After noticing that the flickering lights are Will's attempts to communicate with her, Joyce paints an alphabet on her wallpaper so as Will can communicate with her more clearly. Will manages to warn her in time about the Demogorgon, saving his mother's life.
1 Not A Genius: Not Appreciating Bob
There was no doubt that Bob Newby loved Joyce and the two made an adorable couple, however it was hard to shake the feeling that Joyce's love didn't quite match Bob's. This is understandable given her past with Lonnie, and was only made more tragic by Bob's death.
Joyce grieved deeply for Bob and there is no doubt that she cared deeply for him. He saved their lives in Hawkins Lab, proving he is a true superhero. But unfortunately it seems like Joyce may not have realized that until it was already too late.