Warning: this article contains spoilers for all previous seasons of Stranger Things.
“You are scared. You are tired. You are injured. Do you flee Vecna and his cultists? Or do you stand your ground and fight?”
In Season Four, Chapter One: The Hellfire Club, Eddie Munson asks the Party this loaded question. They choose to fight and chant their defiance, “To the death! To the death! To the death!”
Can you say foreshadow?
The final installment of Stranger Things comes full circle, as the Party (Eddie now a beloved fixture in the ranks) band together to fight Vecna and his horde of demobats.
In hindsight, Eddie didn’t stand a chance. His death was written into the subtext of the very first episode. But beyond subtle clues, the data pointed to his demise from day one. In fact, by analyzing data points from every death in the show so far, I predicted Eddie was a goner.
I hoped I was wrong. I wanted to be wrong. Dang it all, I wasn’t wrong.
What type of data could predict a death? Well, as much as screenwriters like to surprise us, certain trends are a part of the playbook. Axing secondary characters. Finishing off baddies in finales. Slaying the innocent for dramatic effect. Morbid, I know.
Stranger Things is no exception. If you look at every death since Season One, some distinct “doom trends” emerge. And if you apply those trends to the characters left standing, well, get your tissue box ready…
Stranger Things infographic: doom trends
Before the release of Season Four, Volume Two, there was one question at the top of every fan’s mind: “Who’s going to die?”
For better or worse, now we know. Steve is still with us! Eddie isn’t. Max is a maybe. Papa went bye bye. What an emotional roller coaster.
But with one final season on the horizon, our favorite heroes are far from safe. Here’s a breakdown of every notable death in Stranger Things and who’s doomed in Season Five, according to the data. (More on my method coming up next.)
So, how did I come up with these predictions?
Yuri — if he makes another unwelcome appearance — may not surprise you. Vecna is a given. But why is Will on the chopping block? And could it really be Lucas or Dusty?
Our method: an algorithm of doom
To create this Stranger Things infographic, I scrutinized every death in the last four seasons of the show and gathered data on the victims. For the purposes of this prediction, I left out minor characters, animals and monsters.
(R.I.P. to all the unnamed Hawkins residents, laboratory guards, scientists, technicians, test subjects, orderlies, prisoners and Mews the Cat. You may have been omitted, but you will never be forgotten.)
This left me with 30 notable deaths. I considered a death “notable” if it had an impact on or explained an aspect of the storyline. Then, I determined how many episodes the deceased appeared in, what archetype they fit under and whether they shared any traits.
What’s an archetype, you ask? The one-second explanation is: a character type that recurs across the human experience. For the two-minute explanation, hang tight for another few paragraphs.
In terms of character traits, I grouped these into themes and added up how many traits each theme or category contained. This allowed me to identify which traits repeated across victims. For example, in the “innocent theme”, I included “kind”, “friendly”, “sweet”, “sensitive” and “shy”.
Disclaimer: this is where the data gets a bit subjective. I did have to make judgment calls about which archetypes and traits applied to each character. To make these decisions, I referred to Fandom’s breakdown of all the Stranger Things characters. (Hats off to the diligent editors at Fandom for the data on deaths and episode appearances, too!)
You can view the full spreadsheet with my findings here.
Lastly, I used all this data to develop an “algorithm of doom” and applied it to the remaining characters to see who might be next — based on all the ones who came and left us heart-broken before.
Algorithm of doom
I’ll admit, it may not be a perfect science. But I tested this algorithm before the release of Season Four, Volume Two, and sure enough, Eddie scored a chart-topping 15/25 doom points… right up there with Volume Two’s other casualties, Martin Brenner (14/25) and Jason Carver (14/25).
I also gave careful consideration to the types of data to include in this calculation. There was a lot to choose from so each data point required a rationale.
Data point 1: episode appearances
The rationale here was simple: the more episodes a character appears in, the safer they’re likely to be.
Since the beginning of Stranger Things, the Duffer Brothers have shown us this is true. Remember Barb sitting dejected by the swimming pool? She barely made it two full episodes (though she appeared in flashbacks throughout the season).
Flash-forward to Bob Newby’s brave sacrifice in Season Two. It’s true, Bob made it a little longer than poor Barb. But seven episodes (and a flashback) isn’t much compared to our heroes who were going on 18 episodes when Bob met his maker.
Of course, there’s Billy. Who could forget Billy? Looking at all the deaths in Stranger Things, he comes the closest to being a “major character”. But still, he wasn’t in Hawkins from the beginning. He made his first appearance in Season Two and fell victim to the Spider Monster (A.K.A. the Mind Flayer) after just 15 episodes.
All this to say, the numbers add up. Episode appearances are a strong indicator of doom and deserve a place in the algorithm.
Data point 2: character archetype
Whether you look at characters or story arcs, there are certain classic patterns in film. For example, narratives often follow the hero’s journey — a pattern where an unlikely hero embarks on a life-changing adventure.
In such a story, there are distinct stages. The hero is introduced in an ordinary world. A call to adventure takes place, but the hero is hesitant to accept it… and so on.
Just like this structure creates a certain predictability in a storyline, archetypes can help us define different characters and their functions. In fact, the word “archetype” means “original pattern” in Ancient Greek.
In other words, an archetype is a pattern for a character. And of course, patterns are predictable. Which brings us to the rationale for looking at archetypes…
In Stranger Things, there are several archetypes that repeat from season to season. Each of these archetypes is more or less prone to doom, depending on the function they serve in the storyline.
For example, “heroes” serve an essential function and are less prone to doom. (There wouldn’t be much of a story without them!) On the other hand, the “shadows” or villains tend to perish at the end of each season.
The data backs up these assumptions. Based on all the deaths in Stranger Things so far, certain archetypes are indeed in greater danger. So assigning each remaining character an archetype adds weight to our algorithm.
Still with me? Good stuff.
Here’s a quick summary of the archetypes included in our infographic:
Harry Potter. Luke Skywalker. Neo. Frodo. Eleven.
Perhaps the most classic archetype of all, the hero is the character you root for. Early in their journey, they must leave their old, familiar world behind. To succeed in their new reality and save the day, they have to evolve, learn new skills and grow in confidence.
Tellingly, none of the heroes listed above meet their doom — a trend that holds true in every season of Stranger Things to date.
Dumbledore. Obi-Wan Kenobi. Morpheus. Gandalf. Joyce.
Every hero needs a mentor. Someone to help them accept their new reality and reach their full potential. There are several mentors in Stranger Things, but Joyce takes on this role with Eleven and the rest of the Party early on.
Though mentors often pass away, Stranger Things defies this trend. Perhaps because Eleven hasn’t attained her full potential yet. (Oh dear. Does this spell doom for Joyce in the final season?)
Luna Lovegood. R2-D2 and C-3PO. Mouse. Pippin and Merry. Dustin Henderson.
Ironically, the term “trickster” is a bit misleading. In truth, this archetype refers to characters who lighten the mood. Tricksters do make mischief, but it’s often inadvertent. They add fun and humor to the story and look at the world in a unique way.
Tricksters have a good chance of surviving. Though in Stranger Things, Alexei and Eddie don’t make it… fingers crossed for Dusty!
Ron and Hermione. Han Solo and Chewbacca. Tank. Sam. Lucas.
The hero can’t do it alone. To overcome the challenges they face, they need allies. Friends who have their back, no matter what. Accomplices who can help them carry out their quest and defeat the evil at hand.
Allies, being near and dear to our hearts, often make it. In Stranger Things, minor allies have met their doom. But based on my calculations, a few major allies, like Lucas and Jonathan, are in grave danger come Season Five.
Fluffy. Storm Troopers. The Agents. Bilbo. Barb.
Also called the “threshold guardian”, this archetype refers to a character or force that blocks an important turning point. A guardian can be ambiguous, like a hero’s own doubts, or crystal clear, like Fluffy guarding a trapdoor. In Stranger Things, Barb’s disappearance is a mystery (or “threshold”) Nancy and Jonathan need to figure out to take the next steps on their journey.
Often, guardians are trying to stop the hero and may meet their end accordingly. In the latest season of Stranger Things, you could call the demobats guardians. But none of the major characters fall under this archetype at the moment.
Snape. Lando Calrissian. Cypher. Gollum. Billy.
Named for their changeable nature, the shapeshifter’s allegiances are unclear. They may begin as an enemy and turn into an ally at a critical moment in the story or vice versa. They may even switch sides several times. Suffice to say, they keep you on your toes.
By virtue of being a character who “could do anything”, shapeshifters are at risk. Remember Billy sacrificing himself for Max and her friends? Who’s to say Yuri won’t sacrifice himself for Enzo in Season Five? (Just kidding. That would never happen.)
Hagrid. Princess Leia’s hologram. Trinity’s message. Gandalf. Will.
As you can see, a herald can be a character or an event. A herald may also serve multiple functions throughout a story. (See: Gandalf.) But for starters, they set an adventure in motion. Think of this archetype as a catalyst for a story — without them, nothing would have changed.
In Stranger Things, heralds have a short life expectancy. Chrissy and Fred were both heralds for the fight against Vecna. Now, Will is acting as a herald again with his eerie revelation that he can sense Vecna. Yes, I’m very worried for Will, and you should be too.
Voldemort. Darth Vader. Agent Smith. Sauron. Vecna.
In every story, there’s a shadow. An evil villain, mortal enemy or threat the hero must overcome. Often, there are multiple shadows throughout a story, as the hero faces obstacles and grows in power before a final confrontation.
In the end, shadows are (almost) always defeated. Like the Demogorgon, the Mind Flayer and all the minor monsters along the way, Vecna is most likely doomed. Though maybe, just maybe, Eleven can reach Henry Creel under all those gnarly tendrils and save him from himself?
Data point 3: trait themes
Archetypes paint characters in broad strokes. They represent a pattern.
Traits paint characters in color. They add depth and dimension.
A character’s traits can make them relatable or repulsive. Lovable or loathsome. Tragic or trivial. In other words, they make us care. Get invested. Start a fan club. Or, hope for a character’s imminent demise.
What am I getting at? Screenwriters know this, too.
They know which traits make a character’s death more tragic and how to make an antagonist loathsome enough to deserve their fate. Just look at sweet, innocent Chrissy or kind, sensible Barb. On the other end of the spectrum, consider Jason Carver’s single-minded hatefulness or Connie Frazer’s evil, ruthless nature.
All this to say, these traits gave me more clues to fuel my doomsday predictions. In fact, there were five distinct trait themes that emerged when I looked at the characters who’ve been axed so far:
It seems it’s even more dangerous to be innocent than evil in Stranger Things. Again, this doesn’t bode well for Will. I dare say, his family and friends forgetting his birthday may be the least of his worries in Season Five.
Who else topped the doom chart? Let’s take a closer look…
Which characters are (most) doomed in the final season of Stranger Things?
(6 episodes = 4) + (Shapeshifter = 4) + (Ruthless = 4) + (Cunning = 3) = 15 doom points
If Yuri Ismaylov makes an appearance in Season Five, it may be to say goodbye. Who knows, maybe he’ll surprise us in true shapeshifter fashion and sacrifice himself to rid the world of the Russian’s Demogorgon lab. Or maybe, he’ll just get what’s coming to him.
(31 episodes = 1) + (Herald = 4) + (Sweet = 5) + (Intelligent = 3) + (Loyal = 2) = 15 doom points
This one hurts. But the evidence suggests Will may be the first major character to leave us. When you consider how Stranger Things began, there is a certain, cruel symmetry to this prediction. I have hope for Will yet, but I won’t hold my breath.
(9 episodes = 3) + (Shadow = 5) + (Evil = 4) + (Cunning = 3) = 15 doom points
The final showdown between Eleven and Vecna promises to be bloody. In all likelihood, it will spell the end of Vecna and his evil influence once and for all. Barring an epic twist, this seems like a safe prediction. Well, not for Vecna.
What are your predictions?
Do you agree with these predictions? Have a completely different theory?
I’d love to hear what you think. Drop your predictions in the comments and prove me wrong! Or, join me as I light a candle for Will. 😭
You can also create your own Stranger Things infographic. With Venngage’s drag-and-drop editor, you can edit text, swap out characters and share your own doom predictions in a few quick clicks.