No, Stranger Things doesn't need more major character deaths and here's why

Why should kids who experienced trauma their entire life have to die to tell a good story? Newsflash: They don't.

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson and Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson and Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022 /

Teen Wolf. The Walking Dead. The 100. Killing Eve. Penny Dreadful. Supernatural. Marvel Cinematic Universe. Grey's Anatomy. The Vampire Diaries. All shows where a main character was killed off in a way that audiences deemed unsavory, badly written, or purely for shock value, with little thought given to the character's arc, the optics, and/or the overall story. Do fans genuinely want Stranger Things to join that list?

For years now, we've seen quotes from fans and actors alike who think Stranger Things needs to kill off more main characters. Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, recently said he thinks the show needs to get rid of some people. "It might sound messed up but we should kill more people," he said at a recent con, reported by CBR. Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven, has made similar comments in the past.

The appeal of Stranger Things is in its characters and dynamics not its gritty realism

I think to demand more death, especially of main characters, is to fundamentally misunderstand the appeal of Stranger Things. The special spark on this show is in its characters and their relationships with each other. A big part of why people love it is because it's just so damn fun to watch these kids interact with each other. It's never been a "gritty" or "realistic" show, words tossed around often during the era of "peak TV."

Yes, Stranger Things has always been dark, but the heart of the show is its core cast of characters, specifically the kids and even the teens. The horrors they face has always been balanced out by heartwarming moments between them and lots of comedy.

Plus, let's not forget how some of those "peak TV" shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead took sharp nosedives in later seasons, in part due to just how overwhelmingly dark and bleak they became, creating a sense of apathy in audiences that made it hard to care what would happen next because everyone was being tortured, killed, or brutalized in some manner or other on nearly every episode. In contrast, Stranger Things has always had a more lighthearted tone, even amid its scarier scenes.

At its core, Stranger Things is about friendship and found families, tapping right into the adventurous and nostalgic spirit of the 1980s, and that's okay! It's always been a more family-friendly series with a great deal of levity compared to some of the other big shows it often gets compared to and that's literally the appeal.

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Gaten Matarazzo as Dustin Henderson and Joseph Quinn as Eddie Munson in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022 /

The irony of it all

The ironic thing about the discussion surrounding Stranger Things deaths is that the show has killed off many characters, even characters that would go on to become fan-favorites! Eddie. Barb. Bob. Alexei. Mews. But somehow, that's not enough? Because a series regular hasn't perished that means the stakes are too low? Not every genre show needs to kill everyone off. Look how devastated people already were when they thought it was over for Max or Hopper.

"But Eddie was a supporting character brought on to die." Okay, does that mean his death was less impactful? Given Joseph Quinn's subsequent popularity and the constant tweets from fans coming up with elaborate theories and ways he could return, I'd argue that it doesn't. Hell, Barb was in what, two episodes? And her death sparked a massive movement online and is still hotly debated to this day. Even characters like Alexei and Billy have their fair share of fans.

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) David Harbour as Jim Hopper and Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022 /

Hopper should have stayed dead

As much as it pains me to say, I do agree with some takes that Chief Jim Hopper should have stayed dead. His death was perfectly crafted and very well-written, in my humble opinion. It was meaningful and moving. While I wasn't necessarily mad he came back, I do think that's one of the main deaths the show made work and it was a rare misstep when the writers opted not to stick to their guns (despite clearly setting it up immediately after his death with that post-credits season 3 scene).

However, just because it didn't pan out doesn't mean we have to, what, "make up for it" by killing more characters off? Thing is, there's so many other shows out there that will do that for you, but it doesn't mean every popular show needs to.

Does killing a character off automatically equate to a good ending? No, though there is a misconception, I think, that sometimes viewers believe crying because a character died automatically equates to a "good" reaction. It's a strong reaction, not necessarily meaning good or bad. Examine that devastation. Is it from a meaningful and compelling storytelling decision that resonates deeply, or because you just watched writers butcher your fave character and show in one go?

I would ask the Supernatural fandom how they feel about Dean's death in the series finale, Wanda's death in Multiverse of Madness, Allison's death in Teen Wolf, Lexa's death in The 100, Glen in The Walking Dead, Stefan in The Vampire Diaries... the list goes on.

That's the thing, if Matt and Ross Duffer choose to kill someone significant in the final season they have zero room for error. The thing about writing character deaths, especially with a cast as beloved as this one, is that it's extremely tricky. If Matt and Ross Duffer opt to kill off one of the main cast (god forbid, Steve), they have to do it perfectly or the internet will never forget and they'll be on track to become the next David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.

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Cramming grief into the final season to manufacture emotions

That brings me to my next point. Stranger Things is sort of well-known at this point for its short seasons, meaning a major character's death would warrant significant screen time for the grieving process.

How are they going to fit in a realistic grief arc for someone like Mike or Dustin? People are still pissed at Eddie's death not getting properly mourned in season 4. Is that how viewers really want to spend the final season with these guys? A somber affair? A funeral? Parents crying over their dead kids? And if it's crammed into the finale then it really does seem like it's done purely for shock value.

I'm not saying there absolutely cannot be a big death in season 5, just that I think people are jumping the gun calling for bloodshed without considering how that will affect the rest of the story and the overall ramifications.

The worst is this idea that Eleven needs to die in the end, to sacrifice herself to save her friends, that I've seen touted around. How many times has that story been done before? Not to mention the message it sends that a young woman is traumatized for years and then instead of getting a happy ending, she just dies "for the greater good." It's Penny Dreadful all over again.

Killing a fan favorite is not synonymous with good storytelling

I'm not sure when good storytelling became synonymous with killing off fan-favorites. I blame Game of Thrones for this phenomenon, but I feel like people are also forgetting that Game of Thrones alienated significant portions of their audience because the writers were killing characters off in ways that seemed almost exploitative and unnecessary. Ned's death served a real purpose to the story, but Missandei's death was sloppy fridging at best and poor Shireen Baratheon's demise is one of the most controversial deaths in television history.

I'm not saying that no main characters should die in Stranger Things, but I do think there's something to be said for our current culture and its cynicism toward genuine earnestness. It's like we've become afraid of happy endings, it might have even led us to the death of the rom-com (though that seems to be finally turning around). Audiences are so used to downer endings that happy endings are actually becoming a rarity and more of a subversion of expectations than they used to be.

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These kids have been through enough!

And to my final point, perhaps the most simple, but also the strongest... the kids at the heart of Stranger Things have had their childhoods taken away from them. They've been exposed to more death and trauma than anyone deserves, so why do people also want to kill them off!?

Why shouldn't all of them get to triumph, save the day, and live out their days in happiness? Because it's "unrealistic"? So? Since when has fiction needed to be realistic? Isn't that the whole point? The MCU did that for like ten years across 20 movies before they pulled the main character death cards (and fumbled it, by the way, see the reaction to Black Widow's death).

If the Duffers do opt to kill someone off, they have to nail the execution. I'm sure they're already feeling the pressure of delivering a strong final season, especially in recent years when many final seasons and finales have been critically panned by audiences and critics alike.

And yes, there are other ways they could mess it all up apart from just deaths, but I can't say I won't be laughing a bit if the people crying out for death get exactly what they want and discover that it's actually not what they wanted at all. Be careful what you wish for and all that.

Again, see the first paragraph for references to the many, many times people have been let down by a series finale, specifically because of the death of a major character in said series finale. If there must be significant deaths in Stranger Things season 5, then I hope it's the adults that get the axe, sorry guys.

Ultimately, maybe everyone should just shut up and let writers tell the story they want to tell. If the Duffers want to kill someone, fine, but I really hope it's because it's the story they envisioned and not because of some people on the internet (or even their stars) whispering in their ears.