Warning: The following contains spoilers for Stranger Things Season 4.
Though he’s still very much an introvert, Jonathan Byers has grown a lot over the first three seasons of Stranger Things. In the first season, he plays the role of the concerned brother and son who discovers hidden truths about his hometown. Season 2 sees him continue a similar trajectory, but in Season 3, he’s out in the real world, learning adult responsibilities, while in Season 4, Jonathan is attempting to relax and live a normal teen life before he’s dragged back into the supernatural threats from Hawkins.
As he grows into himself, Jonathan learns more about the people and the world around him, and how he should interact with them. In particular, he develops his relationship with Nancy, Will, and his mom. Perhaps it’s because he’s a wallflower or because of his love for the arts – he’s always reading books and listening to music – but Jonathan is very quotable. He gives wise advice and usually knows the best thing to say to comfort others.
Updated on July 20th, 2022 by Amanda Bruce: Season 4 of Stranger Things sees some big changes for Jonathan’s character. A move to California, experimentation with “purple palm tree delight,” and a new friend allow Jonathan to be a little more open and talkative than he’s been in the past on the show. He’s still just as observant as ever though, noticing things that others don’t.
Jonathan Gives Will A Pep Talk
“I Love You. And There Is Nothing In This World, Okay, Absolutely Nothing, That Will Ever Change That.”
Throughout the first three seasons of Stranger Things, there are certainly hints that Will has more than friendly feelings for Mike, but Will never outright voices his feelings. He gives Mike a thinly veiled speech about how much Eleven needs Mike in Season 4, however, that catches Jonathan’s attention.
Jonathan makes it very clear to Will, and the audience, that he understands what Will is trying to say without outing him. He accepts Will for exactly who he is, promising that nothing is ever going to change how he feels about his brother. It’s one of the best character moments for Jonathan as he’s often a man of few words, and it’s a reminder that he’s not going to judge Will for being “different.”
Jonathan Has A Dry Sense Of Humor
“I’m Going As A Guy Who Hates Parties.”
In Season 2, Nancy convinces Jonathan to attend a Halloween party she’s going to. His plans for the evening were originally to go trick-or-treating with Will and his friends, but he changes his mind and ends up going to the party.
Once there, he immediately regrets his decision, but he can’t turn back at this point. A girl stops him near the entrance and asks about his costume. He laughs and jokes that he’s dressed like a guy who hates parties. She appreciates the joke and they begin a conversation, making Jonathan feel comfortable in this new environment. It’s one of the few times in the early seasons that the audience sees him interact with someone outside of the core cast.
Jonathan Admits He’s A Sensitive Soul
“What? I’m A Fan Of Thumper.”
When Nancy and Jonathan first get to know each other, they bond over their similar experiences of growing up in dysfunctional families. They’re going out to the woods to practice shooting a gun as they prepare to face the Demogorgon.
When Nancy wants to know why he has a gun, he tells her a story about how his dad used to take him hunting rabbits. After Lonnie pushed him to kill one, Jonathan cried for a week. Nancy makes a comment of astonishment. Jonathan jokes, “What? I’m a fan of Thumper.” But Nancy laughs and says she meant his dad. That’s when Nancy and Jonathan really start opening up to one another.
Jonathan Doesn’t Refute How Well Nancy Knows Him
“Sounds Like A Nice Night.”
Nancy and Jonathan become quite close at the end of Season 1. By the start of the second season, they seem to be best friends. Nancy proves that she knows Jonathan better than almost anyone else.
When she first asks him to join her at the Halloween party, he declines the offer. She rolls her eyes and teases him, “You’re going to be home by eight, listening to The Talking Heads and reading Vonnegut or something.” Jonathan considers this a moment, then agrees with her. “That sounds like a nice night,” he says matter-of-factly. He never denies how well she knows him, showing that he’s comfortable with the teasing coming from her.
Jonathan Dismisses Nancy’s Struggles At Work
“The Real World Sucks … Deal With It Like The Rest Of Us.”
As Jonathan and Nancy transition from friendship to a romantic relationship, they find that maybe they do have some differences, after all. They struggle to relate to one another in Season 3 when they begin working at The Hawkins Post. Nancy has some issues with the male employers, but Jonathan doesn’t see the problem.
In fact, he’s frustrated that she’s making such a big deal out of something that other people deal with every day. Jonathan thinks dealing with a harsh boss is just a reality of life. He points out that she’s lived a relatively sheltered and comfortable life in her privileged household and she doesn’t understand half of his struggles growing up. He’s right, but he’s also harsh and dismissive of her valid struggles as a woman in a male-dominated workplace.
Jonathan Doesn’t Feel The Need To Like Or Please Everyone
“Don’t Take It So Personally … I Don’t Like Most People. He’s In The Vast Majority.”
Jonathan is known around Hawkins as an introvert who is maybe a little snobby about his taste in popular culture. Jonathan isn’t shy about telling people his opinions and making sure he’s different from everyone else.
When he first gets to know Nancy, he has a hard time accepting that she’s dating Steve. She keeps insisting that he’s a good guy, even though all of his actions towards Jonathan suggest otherwise. He gets frustrated and tells Nancy not to take it personally, because he doesn’t like most people. Jonathan, unlike Nancy, doesn’t have the same desire to be liked and make others happy.
Jonathan Bonds With Will
“Being A Freak Is The Best. I’m A Freak.”
Jonathan is a caring older brother who inspires Will in many ways. Whenever Will feels like he doesn’t fit in, Jonathan is there to reassure him, “Do you wanna be normal? Do you wanna be just like everyone else?”
He tells Will that he’s a freak and that he enjoys it. Will quips, “Is that why you don’t have any friends?” But Jonathan doesn’t seem to mind being on his own. In fact, he probably likes it better that way.
Jonathan Is More Observant Than Others Realize
“Sometimes People Don’t Really Say What They’re Really Thinking.”
Jonathan has a passion for photography that sometimes lands him in trouble, like when he takes photos of Nancy and Steve. Nancy is curious as to why he likes photography, and his answer gives more insight into who Jonathan really is.
“Sometimes people don’t really say what they’re really thinking … But you capture the right moment, it says more.” Nancy proceeds to ask him what she was “saying” when he took the photos of her. Though the two of them might not initially agree, Nancy eventually realizes that Jonathan knows more about her than she thinks.
Jonathan Byers Is No Stranger To Sarcasm
“I Was Thinking, ‘Nancy Wheeler, She’s Not Just Another Suburban Girl …'”
When Jonathan explains what Nancy was “saying” in the photos, he gives an answer that offends her. He says that she was being herself as if nobody was watching her. She rebukes his answer, then essentially calls him a creep. He, too, is riled up.
“I was thinking, ‘Nancy Wheeler, she’s not just another suburban girl who thinks she’s rebelling by doing exactly what every other suburban girl does until that phase passes and they marry some boring one-time jock who now works sales and they live out a perfectly boring little life at the end of a cul-de-sac, exactly like their parents, who they thought were so depressing, but now, hey, they get it.'” His sarcasm gets under Nancy’s skin because she knows that Jonathan isn’t wrong.
Jonathan Is His Own Person
“You Shouldn’t Like Things Because People Tell You You’re Supposed To.”
Jonathan regularly offers Will great advice, most of which is shown through the Season 1 flashbacks. Jonathan remembers the treasured moments with his brother before he disappears into the Upside Down.
Will worries that some people won’t like him because he’s different. Jonathan is playing him “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” by The Clash, who were considered a little unorthodox in that time and place. The boys compare the band to other, more popular artists, and Will wonders how Jonathan can like something that few other people do. He explains he’s just being himself. Jonathan is a big proponent of not doing something just because it’s popular, and his advice is probably part of the reason Will is so comfortable with his own interests, like Dungeons & Dragons, as time goes on.
Jonathan Thinks Normalcy Is Overrated
“Nobody Normal Ever Accomplished Anything Meaningful In This World.”
Jonathan’s most iconic quote is one that he says to Will. It’s the thing that helps Will be himself around his peers, even though some may call him weird.
Jonathan is well aware that he’s not like most other people his age, and he’s fine with that. He knows that nobody that’s normal ever achieves anything noteworthy, and Jonathan wants more from his life.
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