Each season of Stranger Things has, thus far, brought one (apparent) death to the main cast, and with the largest cast yet, the upcoming third season may feature even more send-offs than normal. The dramatic stakes have been raised to their highest level yet after two years of steadfast build-up, and – meaning it’s time to start the prediction game
Given that Stranger Things, for all its creepy atmospherics and unnatural creature designs, has actually hitherto been a relatively bloodless affair; while the government-employee background players tend to drop like flies, the stable of main and minor characters has been largely consistent. And what’s even more interesting to note is that, of all the main faces to be actually shown dying on-screen, the lovable Bob Newby - who gets devoured by a pack of Demodogs - had his death scene toned down, since it proved to be too violent for the show’s sensibilities.
With a looming, bigger-than-ever confrontation between Hawkins, Indiana and the Upside Down and the widest net yet of characters who get swept up in the dramatics – not to mention the executive producers’ newfound interest in pursuing all-out ‘80s body horror for the imminent collection of chapters – the question now may not be whether or not there will be deaths, but just how many deaths there will be.
Here’s how the selection of potential victims stacks up, from most likely to perish to least.
Dr. Martin Brenner
What – did you think Stranger Things’s very first villain was truly dead? Think again.
In the first season finale, “The Upside Down,” Brenner seems to die at the hands of none other than the Demogorgon itself, but audiences have since had a growing list of signs that the first director of Hawkins National Laboratory is, indeed, alive and well: in the second season episode “The Lost Sister,” a former employee who worked under the good doctor swears he’s still around; one of the show’s producers confirmed the veracity of this claim immediately afterwards; and in the part-companion-book-and-part-behind-the-scenes-volume Worlds Turned Upside Down, the creators/showrunners of the series, the Duffer brothers, come out and state that, given Brenner’s importance to the story, they would absolutely depict his demise on-screen.
This means Martin is due for a return on the show – and given just how antagonistic he is (he’s only one of two purely evil human beings featured in Stranger Things), smart money would be on his really facing justice this outing. There’s also the possibility here for the character’s return to resolve a growing number of plot threads and continuity errors, as well, which would end up making his resolution even more spectacular – and satisfying.
Dr. Sam Owens
Dr. Martin Brenner’s replacement as the head of Hawkins Lab was a sublime choice of casting (‘80s icon Paul Reiser) as well as storytelling, as viewers were initially expecting Dr. Sam Owens to be just as cold, calculating, and mustache-twirling as his predecessor – and that expectation hung over the character for most of the second season, with audiences just waiting for the affable scientist to reveal his true, Brenner-esque colors.
Owens leaves season two (and, apparently, the series as a whole) a genuinely good guy, helping Police Chief Jim Hopper legally adopt Eleven – which is precisely why the character could be destined for the funeral pyre. Pulling allies away from our protagonists is always a sound storytelling device, particularly if Brenner is set to return (could the one even have something to do with the other?), and there is yet another reason to motivate Sam’s possible departure from Stranger Things: the actor doesn’t appear on any official cast lists for the third season. The only reason we’re mostly certain he will, indeed, pop up at all is because of Paul Reiser’s comments in interviews that his character’s role in the new episodes is a “surprise” – and what better surprise than a combo return and murder (or sacrifice)?
When Steve Harrington was first conceived of for the Stranger Things pilot, Matt and Ross Duffer envisioned him being the type of archetypal bully from Stephen King’s (‘80s) work, the human character who was, in many ways, even more vile and sadistic than whatever the supernatural threat was hanging in the background. Then Joe Keery was cast, however, and his irrepressible charm made the executive producers rethink their approach to the part, recasting him instead as the ultimately redeemable antagonist who would go on to become one of the most lovable faces on the show.
That left the teenage-villain door wide open, and the Duffers opted to fill it in the second season with none other than Billy Hargrove – a real bad seed, who’s way more physically intimidating than Steve ever could be. Billy was straight menace with no possibility of rehabilitation, and he’s only subdued by the end of the second season finale “The Gate” thanks to a combination of sedatives and extreme violence (the only language he truly knows how to speak).
If there’s no real room for growth, then his character has only one path forward in Stranger Things’s narrative: destruction, including – more than likely – his own. With the book Worlds Turned Upside Down also confirming that Billy will be even more threatening in the third season than he ever was in the second, his death may be a sure thing.
The newest addition to the Stranger Things cast of main players is the simply-named Robin, played by Maya Thurman-Hawke, the daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke. Not much is known about her character before her on-screen debut this July, besides the fact that she works with Steve Harrington in the Scoops Ahoy ice cream parlor (which is located in the Starcourt Mall, the just-opened wave of the future), although her description in Netflix’s various press releases leaves a tantalizing clue as to what her future on the show may be: a smart “alternative girl” who is bored with the mundaneness of her small-town life, she “gets more than she bargained for when she uncovers a dark secret in Hawkins.”
That Robin stumbles upon, presumably, the existence of the Upside Down and the government’s now-defunct(?) Project MKUltra is more than enough to earn her place on a soon-to-die list, but when it’s combined with the fact that she is, apparently, Steve’s new love interest, it all but seals the deal – and her fate. Plus, Stranger Things has already shown the propensity to introduce brand-new characters just to kill them off, as the aforementioned Bob Newby attests to.
If one extends the focus from main to recurring characters, Murray Bauman – unfortunately – jumps straight to the top of the list. The investigative-journalist-turned-private-investigator (and conspiracy theorist) was instrumental in blowing open the “truth” of the Hawkins National Laboratory and, consequently, having it shut down, even if it may prove to be only temporarily. That most assuredly painted a target on his back among those in the halls of power, and his gleefully flicking off all the various military officers and Department of Energy officials as they were departing the facility certainly didn’t help matters, either.
But one can easily see another endgame scenario playing itself out for Murray: a case of curiosity killing the cat. Perhaps the PI just can’t let well enough alone – or, perhaps, he just wants to return to Hawkins in order to gloat some more – and ends up getting caught in the crossfire that will play out in the Battle of Starcourt. Either way, Bauman will still serve as a corollary to Stranger Things’s thematic motifs of cover-ups and self-knowledge, and he just may end up going out being as much of a beloved character as RadioShack Bob was in the previous season.
Much like Robin, the mayor of Hawkins, Indiana will be a brand-new addition to the television series’ ranks (albeit a recurring role as opposed to a main one), and, again like Robin, this new part seems to potentially be just as short-lived (though, certainly, potentially memorable, as well, given that it’s being played by yet another idol of the ‘80s, Cary Elwes).
Larry Kline, in fact, may already be carrying much more evidence with him in the argument for his doomed nature: Netflix originally described his character as not only a “classic ‘80s politician,” but also an individual who is more concerned with his own electability than actual policy-making – or the welfare of Hawkins. When taken in conjunction with the fact that Mayor Kline was personally responsible for the construction of Starcourt Mall – and that the new location will be the site of the season’s climactic battle against the forces of the Upside Down – his demise would well function symbolically.
Then again, these could all very well be the exact same reasons why Larry Kline will stick around after the end of the third season’s eight episodes; Stranger Things, after all, will need yet another antagonist to replenish its ranks, particularly if both Martin Brenner and Billy Hargrove bite the bullet.
Will any of these characters truly end up dying? All (or some) will be revealed when Stranger Things season three releases on Netflix on July 4.