Stranger Things: Jonathan Byers takes a huge backseat in season 4

STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Noah Schnapp as Will Byers, Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers, Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, and Eduardo Franco as Argyle in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022
STRANGER THINGS. (L to R) Noah Schnapp as Will Byers, Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers, Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler, and Eduardo Franco as Argyle in STRANGER THINGS. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022 /

Stranger Things’ fourth season is a fast-paced dangerous adventure for nearly everyone. However, of all the main characters, Jonathan Byers has the most negligible impact or significance on the main storyline.

Vecna takes the lead as the season’s central villain. While Eleven is learning the truth of his backstory and the group in Hawkins is discovering how to defeat Vecna, Jonathan’s most significant impact on the story is his driver’s license and friendship with the local pizza delivery guy Argyle. Given his overall arc, Jonathan Byers may have had just as significant an impact on the main plot had he not been present at all.

The early season 4 episodes suggest issues between Jonathan and Nancy as they mention his cancellation of visiting Nancy for spring break.

Jonathan’s most prominent personal plot is his struggle to tell Nancy that he wants to be close to his mother and Will rather than go far away for college. However, this is something he reveals in one scene. Not only does it barely get any weight afterward, but Stranger Things does not bother to have Nancy and Jonathan resolve the issue by the season’s conclusion.

While Jonathan is on the run with Mike and Will, Nancy is vital to the main story. She uses her investigative talents and previous understanding of the Upside Down to help her group in Hawkins learn the truth about what is going on and is constantly involved in attempts to stop it.

But, Stranger Things does not allow the audience time to root for Jonathan and Nancy’s relationship to have a happy ending. They barely interact the entire season, and although they comment vaguely about their issues, Jonathan is mostly off in his own world. At the same time, Stranger Things teases a potential romantic reconciliation between Nancy and Steve, while Nancy also grows a friendship with Robin.

However, Jonathan’s relationship with Nancy is not the only lacking dynamic he faces. Jonathan’s relationship with Will is present, but only barely. The emotional connection also is not as central to the plot considering Will is not at the forefront of the main storyline in season 4 either. Instead, Will’s storyline has been split between his worry toward Eleven and jealousy of her relationship with Mike.

Even Jonathan’s dynamic with Eleven could be questioned. Eleven has emotional reunions with Mike and Will. Still, neither she nor Jonathan initiates a hug or any suggestion of closeness even after a dangerous situation and eight months of living in the same house.

Toward the conclusion, Jonathan makes a comment calling Steve’s ability to be in charge into question. But, Nancy quickly refutes his statement, acknowledging Steve’s character development over the past two years. However, it also acknowledges how useless Jonathan has been compared to Nancy, Steve, Robin, and even newcomer Eddie Munson.

Although new to the show as of season 4, Eddie’s screen time portrayed him as a far more layered, substantial, and complex character than any material Jonathan had. Eddie was an essential supporting character with far more weight, and vitality to the plot than Jonathan got throughout the fourth season.

Compared to the other central characters his age, Nancy, Steve, and Robin all proved their usefulness constantly. They were each a vital factor in the overall story and were always helping push the narrative forward or were being driven by it.

Jonathan Byers was supposed to be a central character. But, season 4 stripped him of all usefulness or development he could have had. He showed almost no changes by the season’s conclusion and did not appear to impact the overall story in any meaningful way.

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