In the span of 17 episodes, “Stranger Things” has gone from a curiosity to a niche industry all its own. Fans have opinions about entire storylines and lead entire online campaigns for fictional justice. We’re barely a week out of “Stranger Things 2” hitting some milestone ratings, but the time seems right to put some of the series as a whole in perspective.
Enter the time-honored tradition of sorting all of a series’ characters into a neat, tidy hierarchy of greatness. The kids are iconic, the teens are angsty, and a majority of the parents just don’t understand. But how do they all shake up in the great expanse of the “Stranger Things”-iverse?
We compiled this highly scientific consideration.
[Editor’s note: Spoilers for “Stranger Things” Seasons 1 and 2 follow.]
29. Billy’s Dad
This is the poisoned apple tree that begat Billy. Verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive, there’s no excuse for Mr. Mayfield’s hate-filled, slur-spewing attacks. He’s a totally garbage character with no redeeming qualities. His new wife must already be regretting their marriage.
28. Lonnie Byers
The only thing keeping Will’s dad from bringing up the moral caboose is that, in his most scumbag of moments, he provided some momentary, fleeting comfort. After Joyce discovered that he was only consoling the family in an attempt to squeeze a few dollars out of tragedy, she rightfully sent him packing and the show hasn’t looked back since. If the show ever brings him back, he’s going to need a massive mea culpa to be anything other than a cautionary tale about how not to be a horrible absentee opportunist father.
27. Mr. Wheeler
Have we mentioned that some of the dads on this show aren’t the greatest? By comparison to the other monster fathers on this list, Mr. Wheeler’s apathy seems relatively harmless, as he follows in a line of ’80s movie dads who seem to have absolutely no idea what’s going on in the lives of their children. All we’re asking is for a little more attention for Mike and Nancy, who you may have noticed, have each been going through a bit of a rough time lately.
26. Billy Mayfield
Overtly aggressive and obnoxious, this bully from California is also bafflingly unable to fasten his shirts except for the bottom button, which, why even bother? He’s also possibly racist, treats his stepsister like dirt, and tenderized Steve’s face with his fists. Taking down King Steve is pretty much unforgivable… but now that we know that Billy has been abused by his own father, it’s clear where this repugnant before comes from.
Look, lions and bears aren’t evil, and neither is Dart. The Demogorgon teenager just dreams of someday growing up to be big and strong and bipedal, and that requires a healthy diet of nougat and all the nutrient-rich animals that can be found in this world. Wild animals shouldn’t be shamed for their special dietary needs, and that’s why they shouldn’t be kept as pets. That said, we’re still mad about Mews.
24. Papa (Dr. Modine)
Courtesy of Netflix
Emotionally abusive scientists can suck it. We hope he stays dead.
Played by Charlie Heaton, Jonathan Byers is the forgotten brother. After all, most of the show’s action is driven by what’s happening with Will, and while Jonathan is involved in helping his brother overcome his demons, Joyce mostly takes care of her youngest son’s problems. That leaves Jonathan to a dull will-they-won’t-they romantic arc with Nancy and a mission to shut down a laboratory that’s already rid itself of its problems. (Seriously, it’s good they got closure for Barb, but the lab didn’t need to be shut down. Dr. Paul Reiser was just trying to fix the previous operator’s mistakes.) The stiff and awkward Jonathan just can’t compete with the rest of his family.
Another teen who’s overshadowed by their younger sibling, Nancy’s main prerogative in Season 2 is finding justice for Barb. It’s doubtful anyone in the cast wanted to be saddled with a storyline generated by viewer demands, but at least it made sense for Barb’s best friend to be hung up on her death. Still, what Nancy (Natalia Dyer) went through wasn’t all that important for anyone outside the Barb truthers, and her relationship with Jonathan didn’t play out all that well.
21. Becky Ives
Becky means well, and she actually helps Eleven quite a bit when they find each other. She does her best with the random, unknown niece who shows up at her doorstep, and she’s tried her damnedest with her sister, whose trauma is unimaginable. But seeing Amy Seimetz in anything only makes us want more Amy Seimetz and more from Amy Seimetz. That the character isn’t really built to give as much as this talented actor, writer, and director can, well, that’s not Becky’s fault. But we’re still hoping for a bigger arc in Season 3.
20. Terry Ives
“Stranger Things” has a way of setting up some characters to simply be victims. Luckily, in Season 2, with the introduction of more of Jane’s past, “Mama” shifts from being a passive object of sympathy to someone who’s fighting for her lost daughter in ways the audience may not have realized before. As the “Stranger Things” moves forward, she might get left behind, but time will tell if childhood flashbacks will continue to be a part of the show.
May your soul finally know rest, Barb.
18. Dustin’s Mom
The woman most affected by perhaps the most horrific moment of Season 2 lacked much definition beyond her status as a loving mom, but at least she got something resembling a happy ending. Congrats on the new kitten, ma’am.
This is the second ginger that “Stranger Things” has sacrificed to the Demogorgons, and frankly, we’re getting tired of it. Mews offered comfort to Mrs. Henderson and had that instincts of an attack cat, warning anyone who paid attention (i.e. nobody) that the thing in the Ghostbuster trap was bad news. Sorry, Mews. You deserved a better fate. #JusticeForMews
16. Murray Bauman
15. Mr. Clarke
Hawkins Middle School science teacher Mr. Clarke originally seemed like the live-action version of the guy from “The Incredibles,” hell-bent on catching Dash in the middle of pulling a prank. But now after his Interdimensional Physics for Dummies lessons have paid off not once, but twice, there’s even a glimmer that future episodes might give him more to do than provide an easy answer to some out-of-this-world problems.