'Stranger Things' Won't Work Unless Will Is Suffering
Every show needs an anchor. A constant centre-point – whether it be a character, place or overall dilemma – that the story continuously returns to. In the case of ‘Stranger Things’, this anchor is the Upside Down and all the mysterious terror it beholds.
So far, our access to the Upside Down has been granted exclusively through two characters – Eleven and Will. Both of whom have had their fair share of sufferings in seasons one and two.
In the case of Eleven, she has her own story outside the Upside Down that we’ve grown to appreciate. Season two saw her embark on a quest to find her mother, thus allowing her to discover the truth about her past and how her powers came to be. She also met her long-lost sister and was given a task to possibly tackle in the next season – exacting her overdue revenge on Dr. Martin Brenner, who might still be alive.
Apart from those gruelling experiences, Eleven also found some joy in her time with Mike Wheeler, and her anticipated reunion with him quickly became one of the major reasons why most viewers tuned into the second season last year.
In other words, Eleven would still be significant in the show even if she wasn’t one of our main tethers to the Upside Down.
Will Byers – on the other hand – not so much.
Now, this argument doesn’t discredit Noah Schnapp’s portrayal of Will’s character. In fact, it should do the very opposite. Noah Schnapp was so good at portraying Will – in pain, in agony, in paralysing fear – that we feel his performance contributed a little too well to the second season’s success, thus rendering it so that any continuation of the story would be unable to truly flourish unless he manages, in some way, to maintain the same level of suffering that we saw briefly in the first season, and more so in the second.
Think about it. Each season so far has seen Will take the brunt of all the pain. In the first season, he was kidnapped by a demogorgon and trapped inside the Upside Down, forced to communicate with his mother through random electrical devices. In the second, he found himself unable to resist the Shadow Creature’s malicious commands.
In both seasons, Will’s suffering has given each character a reason to jump to action. Joyce Byers developed an obsession with the Christmas lights after realising that her son was trying to communicate with her through them, and, as a result of this, was brought closer to Jim Hopper, who also developed an interest in the issue.
Will’s older brother, Jonathan, was only able to join forces with Nancy Wheeler after realising that the same creature that kidnapped her friend, Barb, probably did the same to his own brother.
And even Will’s friends, Mike, Dustin and Lucas, only chose to further their relationship with Eleven because of their hopes that her psychic abilities might help them save Will.
Will has always been the propelling force of the story, with his pain driving our characters into the next chapters of their own tales. As a result of this, any future episodes in which he isn’t suffering would, in a way, hinder the progress of the overall plot development.
First, let’s consider Will’s mother. What on earth will Joyce do if she isn’t trying to save Will in the next season? Surely, her possible romance with Hopper won’t be enough to keep her character relevant, unless she finds herself worrying over something else (although nothings holds as much depth as her care for Will).
Let’s face it. The portrayal of her relationship with Will is what transforms this show from a generic horror into a genuinely heart-warming tale of family – a notion reinforced only slightly by surrounding relationships in the series (ie. Hopper and Eleven, Eleven and her sister).
Joyce and Will’s relationship stands out as the most profound because of what Will has gone through. And the fact that he keeps overcoming it through her perseverance only provides further proof that their bond is one that anchors the show to its original ethos of familial strength. How would the show survive without any further displays of this? If Will isn’t suffering, what else can Joyce do?
And, funnily enough, the same question applies to Mike.
Whilst, he does have his relationship with Eleven to tend to, we’d argue that his main ties to the tale lie in him faithfully fulfilling his duty as Will’s closest friend. The second season saw this role hit its full stride, as we saw him remain by Will’s side throughout his episodes. He helped Joyce in finding a solution and even maintained his guardianship through a demo-dog infested hospital invasion.
And whilst one could argue that any other member of the show (Dustin, Lucas, Max, Eleven, Steve, Nancy, Jonathan or Hopper) could be the one to take over the role of ‘suffering’ in the next season, we doubt that it would have as much impact as Will’s. Which brings us to our next question:
If Will isn’t suffering, then what is his significance in the series?
Wouldn’t any other season just be a repetitive (and eventually tedious) helping of episodes where he fumbles his way through life, painfully aware of his own otherness, ultimately unable to fully connect with anyone for fear that he might be dragged back into the Upside Down all over again? Will’s story without his suffering would simply be one of personal growth, which, in all honesty, isn’t exactly the most exciting thing to see.
Having said that, we have full confidence that Noah Schnapp has the acting chops to pull anything off, and would probably watch the series even he spent the entirety of it just staring at his feet.
But, all jokes aside, Will’s suffering is the glue that brings all the characters together, and it’d be a difficult task to find anything or anyone else that might accomplish that in the next season.
According to the shows’ creators, however, that’s exactly what they’re going to do in season three. Shawn Levy, the show’s producer and director, told Glamour during an interview that they would be giving Will ‘a break‘ in the next season.
“We’re going to give Will a break. We’re not going to put Will through hell for a third season in a row. He’ll be dealing with stuff, but he won’t be at rock bottom the way we forced the amazing Noah Schnapp to play.”
That’s all nice and dandy, Levy, but we don’t want to see Will deal with mere ‘stuff‘ in season three. We need someone to feel sorry for, and – as harsh as it may sound – that role forever belongs to Will Byers.
Stranger Things season 3 will return to Netflix in either late 2018 or early 2019.
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Images via Netflix / Giphy