Warning: This post contains big spoilers for the season finale of Stranger Things
Break out your D20 dice and crank up the Kate Bush: Stranger Things is back to monopolize your mind over the long July 4 weekend. The second half of the Netflix blockbuster’s fourth season premiered just dropped on the streaming service, and fans are having all the feel about the finale’s biggest revelations, including a few deaths and one major emotional confession.
The confession in question came from Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), who has spent much of the season trying to get the attention of his childhood best friend, Mike (Finn Wolfhard), who now only has eyes for Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). Stranger Things creators, the Duffer Brothers, seemed to be laying the groundwork for Will to become the show’s second out gay character after Maya Hawke’s Robin, even as Schnapp struck an ambiguous note in interviews.
“I feel like they never really address it or blatantly say how Will is,” the actor told Variety recently. “I think that’s the beauty of it, that it’s just up to the audience’s interpretation, if it’s will kind of just refusing to grow up and growing up slower than his friends, or if he is really gay.”
But fans are taking a key sequence in Season 4’s penultimate episode as confirmation of Will’s true feelings. While driving to locate the missing Eleven, Mike opens up to Will about his fears that she might leave him one day when she figures out he’s just some “random nerd.” Will comforts his friend by showing him a picture he painted of the group in full fantasy mode that depicts Mike as the leader of their group, and the one with the most heart.
“These past few months, she’s been so lost without you,” Will continues. “She’s so different from other people, and when you’re different sometimes you feel like a mistake. But you make her feel like she’s not a mistake at all… and that gives her the courage to fight on… So yeah , El needs you Mike: and she always will.”
Even though Will seems to be talking about Eleven, the tears that follow when he turns away from Mike suggest that he’s actually describing himself. And that’s certainly how fans are reading that scene on Twitter.
But some are also accusing the Duffer Brothers of queerbaiting audiences by ending the season with Will’s true feelings for Mike still bottled up.
Schnapp also stirred the pot when he told Jimmy Fallon during a Tonight Show appearance that “some deaths” were coming in the season finale. But when the Upside Down dust settled, the body count of beloved major characters stood at one … OK, one-and-a-half. Hellfire Club founder, Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn), went down fighting and promptly entered the Dungeons & Dragons Hall of Legends.
Unlike poor Eddie, Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink) gets an asterisk placed on her tombstone. The Kate Bush stan was mortally wounded in her second encounter with Vecna and died in the arms of her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin). But a grieving Eleven couldn’t let her friend go gracefully into that good night, restarting her heart a full minute after it stopped.
That’s enough to save Max from the graveyard, but not enough to bring her fully back to the land of the living. In the season’s final moments, we see her lying comatose in a hospital bed while Lucas reads to her from Stephen King’s latest tome.
Max’s minute-long death was permanent enough for Vecna to achieve his master plan of opening permanent gates to Hawkins, causing earthquake-level devastation. In the final shot of the finale, the surviving heroes see the Upside Down invading their hometown, setting the stage for an all-or-nothing battle in the fifth and final season.
As of now, there’s no information on when we’ll be seeing that battle. Season 4 was famously delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, which also pushed back the start date for Season 5. While the Duffer Brothers have previously teased the possibility of a time jump to account for the fact that the young cast has noticeably aged, the stakes seem a little high for the show to leap too far ahead into the future. That hasn’t stopped fans from sharing their theories about what’s going to happen next.
Stranger Things is currently streaming on Netflix