Between cast hints and content in Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 1, a fan theory regarding Will’s love life has become undeniable.
The following contains minor spoilers for Stranger Things Season 4, Volume 1, now on Netflix.
Despite its deep relationships, compelling characters, frightening horror and intriguing mystery, a singular element of Stranger Things has bothered fans for years. While the show has made a genuine effort to include LGBT+ representation — mainly in beloved smart-mouth, Robin Buckley — some fans say that the series’ attempts feel purely cosmetic. Thus far, Stranger Things is willing to acknowledge, develop and hint at the rich inner lives of its queer characters, whether speculated or confirmed, but their romantic entanglements — or lack thereof — leave much to be desired. Though Will Byers is a prime example, members of the show’s cast suggest that this might change.
Since Season 1, fans have speculated that beloved Will the Wise may have deeper feelings for his best friend, Mike. Until recently, speculation about Will’s sexuality was merely the product of minor hints. Season 1 included cruel slurs, lobbed at him from both on-screen bullies and, according to Joyce, the boy’s own father. Later on, Will’s obvious discomfort regarding Mike’s romance with Eleven was thought to stem from the boy’s own crush, specifically after a Season 3 argument wherein an exasperated Mike declares, “It’s not my fault you don’t like girls!”
According to Entertainment Weekly, while Stranger Things producer Shawn Levy denied that this line referenced Will’s sexuality, he also claimed that “there aren’t many accidents” when it comes to the show’s writing. Volume 1 of the recently released Season 4 enforces the idea that Will has a crush on his best friend. The season’s first episode features a voiceover from Eleven, penning a letter to Mike, she says: “Will is painting a lot. But, he won’t show me what he’s working on. Maybe it is for a girl. I think there is someone he likes because, he has been acting… weird.”
In a later installment, a love triangle seems to present itself, when Mike meets El and Will at the airport, Will attempts to gift the mysterious painting to him. Will’s status as a disgruntled third wheel only continues; an error in continuity curses the boy with the worst birthday imaginable, and a heartfelt conversation between Mike and Will in Episode 5 lends further credence to the idea of buried amorous feelings. Additionally, the cast also seems to be leading viewers to a definitive conclusion regarding Will’s love life.
In a Season 4 promo video, much of the Stranger Things cast reacted to wild fan theories. When the prospect of a Will and Eleven romance was brought up, David Harbour — known for his role as Hopper — quickly squashed the idea, saying: “If you’ve been watching the show, you should know that Will is not interested in El. He’s interested in someone else in the group.” Fellow cast member Finn Wolfhard, known to Stranger Things fans as Mike, enthusiastically agreed, saying: “Yeah, you’ll see soon.”
With this much mounting evidence, and the show’s willingness to explore themes of queerness, trauma and mental health, it seems increasing likely that Will’s sexuality will finally be explored in the upcoming second half of Stranger Things Season 4. As both the cast and crew continuously hint at Will’s journey toward self-acceptance, fans hope that the show’s problematic ambiguity will become a thing of the past.
Season 4, Volume 1 of Stranger Things is available to stream on Netflix. Volume 2 premieres on the platform July 1.