There are a lot of things to love about Stranger Things–monsters, alternate universes, whacky science, blood and gore–but let’s face it: the reason the show has staying power is thanks to the characters. It’s a series with so many iconic characters, it’s hard to name a favorite. There’s the fierce survivor Eleven, the sardonic police chief Hopper, the lovable goof Steve Harrington, and so many more. And though we love them as individuals, there’s also tremendous joy to be found in their relationships. Whether friends, lovers, or something else, we can’t get enough of their character interactions.
Stranger Things 3, the newest season, is loaded with so many excellent character team-ups that we knew we had to do a post celebrating them. And for a little bit of bonus fun, we decided to rank our favorite pairings. Here’s a (spoiler-filled) countdown of the best team-ups of the season and why we love them!
Spoilers for Stranger Things 3 below.
One of the best character pairings in season two was that of Dustin Henderson and Steve Harrington, two people you’d never think of putting together, but who are honestly so perfect together it’s hard to imagine them apart. Their mutual silliness gave us some of the most hilarious scenes the last go-around, and that continues in season three. This time, the two are joined by Steve’s ice cream shop co-worker Robin and Lucas’s scene-stealing little sister Erica; together, the team cracks a Russian transmission and discover a secret facility under the Starcourt Mall, where a new door to the Upside Down is being opened. Not only do they save Hawkins from assured destruction, but they do it in arguably the most fun scenes of the season. We could watch Steve and Robin high on Russian laughing gas all day.
If you’re like us, you’ve been ‘shipping Hopper and Joyce since season one, and were delighted to see them share so much screentime in Stranger Things 3. After discovering the plot to reopen the Upside Down, the two go on a wild goose chase; they beat up the mayor, run from the Russians, and eventually trap one–a man named Dr. Alexei–who they take to Murray, aka “Bald Eagle.” The foursome forms a mini group, one that–like the Scoops Troop–play hilariously off one another. Robin may be the standout of the season, but Alexei is a close second. Unfortunately, this foursome is a twosome by season’s end, after both Alexei and Hopper are killed in their quest to do the right thing.
Another highlight of Stranger Things 3 is Eleven fully coming into her own and learning how to live beyond the expectations of Hopper and Mike. Her enlightenment comes from Max, who teaches her how to find herself through fashion and solidarity. Their blossoming friendship–from their trip through Starcourt Mall set to Madonna’s “Material Girl” to the heart-wrenching finale–gives the show its first central female friendship, and we couldn’t be happier about it.
Nancy and Jonathan’s will-they-won’t-they was a big focus in season two. Luckily, they’re fully together and stronger than ever in Stranger Things 3, which is good news for the subplot that finds Nancy fully in control of her future. She’s not one to settle, and uses her job as intern at the Hawkins Post to explore a series of strange goings-on in town. This leads to the discovery of the new monster, and a plot that puts her–and Jonathan–in near-constant danger. They’re able to come out on top together, even if they end the season apart as Jonathan moves with his mom, brother, and Eleven to a new town, escaping Hawkins’ demons forever–or at least until next season.
Billy’s journey this season is harrowing and so important to the goings-on of Stranger Things 3. From bully to host of the Upside Down’s terrifying new monster manifestation, he’s been a villain by choice and force. It’s hard to rank his team-up with Heather–who he possesses and who helps him carry out the Mind Flayer’s gory plan for Hawkins–all that high, since it’s more of a one-man show. But the two have some of the scariest scenes of the season, like a particularly harrowing episode-ending moment set to Don McLean’s “American Pie.”
In this case, last certainly isn’t least. The boys are still as great together as ever, although they rank last by pure circumstance. They just don’t get as much fun stuff to do this season as the rest of the gang. Will’s fear of growing up contrasted with Mike and Lucas’s romantic relationships makes for some tender, touching moments, and we always love seeing these guys interact. Unfortunately, they’re a little overshadowed by everyone else’s showier storylines. No worries, though; they all get to shine in the finale, which is action-packed and gives everyone a moment to stand out.
What did you think of Stranger Things 3? Join us for theories, breakdowns, and more in our spoiler discussion post!