Promotional season 4 poster for Stranger Things shows the main cast

The Internet Reacts to Stranger Things 4’s Most Devastating Death

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***Major spoilers for season 4 vol 2 of Stranger Things ahead!***

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Another season of Stranger Things has come and gone, moving fans from the edge of their seat into the realm of emotional devastation. Netflix’s retro sci-fi/horror/thriller megahit is famous for killing off popular characters, but this time around hit particularly hard. For the ambitious, action-packed season 4, show creators the Duffer brothers had repeatedly warned that we should be worried and that death was on its way to Hawkins, Indiana. The implication was that no one was safe.

Speculation ran wild over who we’d lose, with fans fervently tweeting “prayer circle” posts on Twitter for weeks in a bid to protect their favorites and many articles weighing who was likely on the chopping block. Worry was at such a fever pitch for longtime fan favorite Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) that Netflix even got in on the “fun,” erecting “protect Steve” billboards covered with menacing, snaking Upside Down vines.

So who actually died in Stranger Things 4?

After the loss of Matthew Modine’s Dr. Brenner (okay bye) in episode 8, “Papa,” at the hands of soldiers coming after Eleven, the truly shocking and heart-wrenching death arrived during episode 9, “The Piggyback.” (Hint: It wasn’t basketball star/unhinged vigilante Jason Carver’s death. Yeah, he dies too. Double bye.)

First it appeared that we were losing Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink), who was a linchpin of the season. Max was really put through it as a Vecna target, while she grappled with trauma and guilt over her stepbrother Billy’s death. She also helped launch legendary musician Kate Bush back into the chart-topping stratosphere with her Vecna-fighting use of “Running Up That Hill,” which was iconic of her.

But it seemed like the Vecna finally did Max in, snapping many of her bones and robbing her of sight. She appeared to die in Lucas’s arms in a wrenching scene—until Eleven restarted her stopped heart from afar. Max is in a coma now, future condition unknown, but she’s alive. The same can sadly no longer be said for the other breakout character of the fourth season, Eddie Munson, played phenomenally by British actor Joseph Quinn.

Season 4’s most shocking and tragic death

Joseph Quinn smiles as Eddie Munson in season 4 of 'Stranger Things'

Perhaps the loss of Eddie Munson shouldn’t have been such a shock—as we’ve covered, Stranger Things is no stranger to killing off new and adored characters. But Eddie’s death really knocked the wind out of our collective sails. Introduced in the season’s first episode as a super senior held back for years at Hawkins High, Eddie was the Dungeon Master and head of the “Hellfire Club,” the Dungeons & Dragons club that Mike, Lucas, and Dustin join their freshman year. While Lucas is somewhat distanced from his friends as he hangs out with the basketball team, Mike and Dustin came to rely on the Hellfire Club to have a place amidst the social minefield of high school. Dustin relates that Eddie had seen them being lost and picked on and invited the boys to the club. It was a case of nerd recognizing nerd and an older, hardened outcast taking the boys under his wing.

The character was an instant hit with fans. Equal parts brash and sweet, the weed-dealing, Lord of the Rings-quoting Eddie had a heart of gold under his hard-rocking metalhead exterior. When he’s falsely accused of the Vecna’s murders in a storyline lifted directly from the ’80s and ’90s Satanic Panic in the U.S., Dustin believes in his innocence and rallies the Party to help save Eddie from town vigilantes. Eddie undergoes a full character arc over the course of the season, grappling with his perceived cowardice for “running away” when the murders hit the fan and evolving into being an accepted member of the Party. He slowly finds his footing as he learns about the dangers of the Upside Down, becoming bolder and braver with each episode. He’s fully on board with the Party for their plans to take down Vecna, which will put him into the position of being, as Joseph Quinn described it in the run-up to the finale, “ultimately heroic.” We should have known those were ominous words!

First, Eddie puts on the performance of a lifetime, shredding to Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” in the Upside Down to draw the attention of the demobats. It’s a truly iconic scene that will go down in Stranger Things history and has already been used in their promotional materials. Then, despite Eddie’s assertion that he’s no hero, he decides to stay in the Upside Down to take on the swarm, thus keeping them distracted from the group at the Creel house. He’s also trying to protect Dustin, who has come to occupy the role of a beloved little brother in his life. Eddie fights courageously against the demobats with everything he’s got, but eventually he’s overwhelmed and the damage is done. He dies in Dustin’s arms in a tragic scene spectacularly acted by Quinn and Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin. Eddie didn’t run this time, he ran toward danger and acted as a true hero for his friends and the town. He passes the Hellfire Club torch on to Dustin and wryly jokes, even as he’s dying, about how this is finally his year.

The fan reaction to Eddie Munson’s death

Dustin, Eddie, and Mike laugh in the Hawkins High cafeteria in Stranger Things season 4

After Max and Steve, there was no one that vocal Stranger Things watchers online wanted to see make it out alive more than Eddie. Quinn’s disarming performance won legions of fans over the course of the season, and most of us were hoping that he would be a permanent addition to the Party. It’s not surprising that a kindly, cool, sarcastically unabashed and tragically misunderstood geek would appeal to the Stranger Things fanbase. Eddie also represented another side of growing up that the more privileged Hawkins kids wouldn’t understand. His father, we learn, was a petty criminal, his parents were absent, and he lived with his uncle (who thankfully adored him) in a dilapidated trailer. We can be glad that Eddie had a truly badass finale and a “worthy” death, but that’s cold comfort in the end.

On Twitter, people mourned Eddie, highlighted Quinn’s scene-stealing performance, made gifs and clips of their favorite moments, and worked through their grief via memes. Some fans are, I think, rightfully angry that after Eddie played such a central part of the season, he appears to be all but forgotten by everyone save Dustin and his uncle after the Vecna crisis has passed (for the moment).

We don’t get to see any of the other characters mourn for him or even mention his sacrifice, which is especially egregious considering his name never got cleared and he’s still suspected of “the Munson murders.” My hope is that we’ll see Eddie show up next season in some way, whether it’s through Vecna visions (likely sent to Dustin, poor Dustin) or a hand-wavey “Hey! Eddie’s back!” sort of TV magic. If Stranger Things has taught us anything, it’s that the dead don’t always stay dead.

Let’s take a closer look at some more of those reactions. Roll one up for Eddie Munson if you’ve got ’em.

And in conclusion:

How did you feel about the Stranger Things season four finale? Come rend your garments with us in the comments.

(images: Netflix)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.