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5 Reasons Max Mayfield Is One of the Best ‘Stranger Things’ Characters

If you don't love Mad Max, you're wrong.

max running from vecna in Stranger Things 4

Let me start by saying that Max (Sadie Sink) went through way too much in Netflix’s Stranger Things season 4. Given she’s one of my favorite characters, I had this very visceral reaction to her getting Vecna’d. Since Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) can suddenly bring people back from the dead (it seems way too convenient), Max was ultimately spared, but she hardly came out unharmed.

Seeing one of the best characters get such shitty treatment is … well, shitty. Max may not be superpowered or traveling across the world to save her boyfriend, but she’s very grounded in reality—something a show like this needs in some of its characters to help anchor it. Although, if I’m being honest, Max being an incredible character is a testament to Sadie Sink’s acting, not the Duffers’ writing (which isn’t great like people think it is). What exactly makes her one of the best characters in the show? Press play on “Running Up That Hill” and levitate to find out.

1. She’s unapologetically herself

max playing dig dug in Stranger Things 2

When we first meet Max she automatically comes across as a tomboy. She dresses in androgynous clothing, likes to skateboard, kicks ass at the arcade, and is sassy and not afraid to speak her mind. Though Stranger Things season 3 saw her dressing a little less tomboyish, she was still the same Max, who liked to skateboard and said what she felt was necessary. If anyone is feminist in The Party, it’s definitely Max. And this isn’t to say that being overtly feminine by societal standards is a negative thing, but it’s so often all we’re given that having a young girl simply be herself is always a bonus.

2. She’s brave

max waiting for vecna in Stranger Things 4

Going back to the Creel House, knowing that Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) could easily kill her, is true bravery. Sticking her neck out for the people she cares about isn’t something new for her. After all, she did put that needle in Billy (Dacre Montgomery)’s neck during the fight at the Byers’ house, not to mention threatened to nail his junk with Steve’s bat. Then there was trying to help Billy take back control during Stranger Things season 3. But during the Stranger Things season 4 finale, Max showed a level of bravery that could almost be angering. If the events had played out differently, she may have been alright.

3. Her iconic “Running Up That Hill” scene

The hype is very real regarding this scene. Sadie Sink’s performance throughout the whole episode was brilliant. Her scenes with Dacre were literally filmed a year apart from each other, and she killed it. Though when she pushes herself to live, after having Vecna taunt her by posing as Billy (Dacre Montgomery), it’s a beyond powerful moment—beautiful and tear-jerking, in fact. Her “Running Up That Hill” scene is hands-down top 5 across the entire series.

4. The way she wasn’t afraid to grieve

max at billy's grave in Stranger Things 4

She didn’t deserve to suffer so much or experience the type of grief that weighs you down. Believe me, her grieving wasn’t out of place or ridiculous when you take the complex nature of grief into consideration. We don’t all have perfect relationships with those who leave us, and that can often just make things harder—and she’s very much entitled to her complex feelings surrounding Billy. I’ve previously summed up the way Max grieved in Stranger Things 4 and how it adds to how deep her character is, but it bears repeating.

5. She’s a true friend

max and eleven standing in the rain in Stranger Things 3

When Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) decides to form her own identity (separate from Hopper and Mike), Max is the one who’s there. She takes Eleven under her wing and helps her see that Mike’s thoughts on her don’t matter—that she doesn’t need him to complete her or make her into a whole person, which does lead to some melodramatic teen breakups (one of my least favorite things about Stranger Things season 3). Even after Eleven breaks up with Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Max continues to encourage Eleven. She doesn’t let her falter or revert back to that needy version of herself, which proves how good of a friend she is. Elmax rise!

(featured image: Netflix)

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Vanessa Maki (she/her) is a queer Blerd and contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She first started writing for digital magazines in 2018 and her articles have appeared in Pink Advocate (defunct), The Gay Gaze (defunct), Dread Central and more. She primarily writes about movies, TV, and anime. Efforts to make her stop loving complex/villainous characters or horror as a genre will be futile.