Steve Harrington is a firm fan-favorite for viewers of Stranger Things, but the lovable figure’s growth came at the expense of Jonathan’s character arc. In Stranger Things season 1, Steve seemed like a typical thoughtless teen movie bully and Jonathan was his meek prey. However, as Steve turned out to have hidden depths, Stranger Things season 2 and 3 were at a loss when it came to Jonathan’s character development.
The sprawling cast of Stranger Things means it is often difficult for the series to give every character a moment in the spotlight. Both season 2 love interest Bob Newby and season 3 villain Billy were given unceremoniously swift deaths during action-packed season finales as Stranger Things struggled to find time for their character development among its many subplots and mysteries. However, the character of Jonathan Byers is one whose potentially interesting arc was lost by Stranger Things focusing on his former foe, Steve. A lot of Stranger Things fans loved Steve’s redemptive arc as Joe Keery’s character went from being a one dimensional bully to being a likable loser and mentor to Dustin in seasons 2 and 3. However, as Stranger Things nears season 4, it is becoming clear that this playful twist on ‘80s movie conventions ruined another hero of the series, Jonathan Byers. Jonathan’s character was never too fleshed out in the first place, but Stranger Things barely gave the supporting player anything to do in season 3 as Steve became series regular. There is still time for Stranger Things season 4 to fix this, but early indications aren’t great for the Charlie Heaton character.
Steve and Jonathan’s Stranger Things Season 1 Dynamic
In the more grounded Stranger Things season 1 Jonathan was established as a typical 80s teen movie hero. A lonely, unpopular kid, Jonathan was mocked and bullied by Steve and longed to impress Steve’s girlfriend Nancy, but Stranger Things did add an interesting twist to this familiar dynamic. Jonathan was undeniably a bit of a creep, following Nancy to Steve’s house and photographing her unawares. That being said, despite Stranger Things not shying away from how stalker ish the behavior of many 80s romantic leads would be in real life, it was still very clear that Jonathan was a hero compared to the spoilt, mean spirited Steve. In one of Stranger Things season 1’s darker scenes, the well off Steve broke the poorer Jonathans camera to impress his friends, and many fans were understandably glad when Jonathan laid a brutal beatdown on the stereotypical jock by the end of the season. However, unlike Stranger Things’ more dangerous bully Billy, Steve soon learned something from the encounter and cleaned up his act. Getting bashed about by Jonathan evidently knocked some sense into Steve, who was next seen cleaning up graffiti slandering his ex Nancy, helped defeat the Demogorgon, and eventually even replaced Jonathan’s camera as a gesture of goodwill. In an unexpected subversion of 80s movie cliches, the jock redeemed himself by the close of Stranger Things season 1 and ended up on civil terms with Jonathan. Jonathan, however, still, had eyes for Nancy, which is where the two character’s diverging arcs ran into trouble.
What Went Wrong With Steve’s Story
Stranger Things season 2 saw Steve continue to redeem himself by taking Dustin under his wing and saving the younger stars of the show from Demo dogs. Meanwhile Jonathan and Nancy’s slow burn romance blossomed in one of Stranger Things season 2’s funniest scenes. However getting the girl left Jonathan’s character arc with nowhere to go and, as Stranger Things shifted its focus to Steve, it never returned to Jonathan and Nancy in earnest. By the end of season 2 Steve was a lovable dad figure while Jonathan and Nancy were an established couple, but already Stranger Things was starting to focus on this new, likable Steve more than the pair.
Stranger Things Season 3’s Disappointing Jonathan And Nancy Arc
Stranger Things season 3 saw Steve promoted to the main cast and, as he became the show’s comic relief, Jonathan and Nancy turned from a cute couple into bickering, bitter burnouts. With no post school prospects, Jonathan and Nancy spent season 3 working at the Hawkins Post, a local paper where Jonathan ignored Nancy’s complaints about workplace sexism and generally dismissed his love interest wholesale. Jonathan not listening to Nancy’s struggles was out of character, as the same character who had braved multi dimensional monsters to impress her was now unwilling to take her side in a workplace dispute. However, the subplot was also indicative of Stranger Things season 3’s bigger issue with Jonathan and Nancy, which was that the show had no idea what to do with the two once they were an item.Real life couple Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton had superb chemistry in the roles, but couldnt salvage Jonathan and Nancy’s pointless season 3 story. By making Jonathan meeker than his season 1 self and stranding the duo in an aimless subplot, Stranger Things failed Jonathan and Nancy in season 3 while spending far more time focusing on Steve and Dustin’s comedic misadventures. While this resulted in some funny moments, it was further proof that Stranger Things had no clear plan for the couple, resulting in their inevitable separation during the season 3 finale.
Why Stranger Things Season 4 Looks Bad For Jonathan
The little viewers see from Jonathan in Stranger Things season 4’s trailer finds him in a smoked-out house in California, far from Nancy and looking like a listless stoner. It is a betrayal of a character that has its roots in the choice to focus on Steve over Nancy and Jonathan despite the couple having more central roles in the overarching story of Stranger Things. Stranger Things season 4 looks like it might break up every established couple on the series, but the loss of Jonathan and Nancy’s connection is particularly unfortunate when their relationship was part of what made seasons 1 and 2 a funny, exciting watch. The couple has solid chemistry and made for an appealing team when taking on the terrors of Stranger Things together, which makes the decision to focus on Steve’s growth over their relationship an unfortunate misstep for the Netflix hit.