Stranger Things‘ younger characters have been the central focus since the Netflix show premiered, but it is the adult characters who have actually carried the story and evolved the most. The Duffer Brothers announced in 2022 that Stranger Things season 5 would be the end of the road for the popular Netflix series. Stranger Things immediately gained a loyal fan base when its first season dropped in 2016, and since then, its young stars have enjoyed incredible success, with Millie Bobby Brown starring in the Enola Holmes franchise and creating her own skincare line, Sadie Sink starring in The Whale, and Finn Wolfhard busting ghosts.


The Stranger Things characters have evolved just as much as the actors have. Brown was, appropriately, only eleven years old when she started filming Stranger Things, and will be entering her twenties by the time the final season ends. Eleven has gone through much since first appearing as the frightened young girl who could not speak and only knew the phrase “friends don’t lie.” However, no Stranger Things kid has evolved as much as the adults on the show have.

Related: Steve’s Stranger Things Evolution Makes Him A Perfect Season 5 Victim

Stranger Things’ Older Characters Have All Changed A Lot

Split image of Joyce Byers, Jonathan Byers, and Nancy Wheeler in Stranger Things

Stranger Things was never solely about Eleven and her friends; it was also about the older generation. Joyce Byers was a nervous, neurotic mother searching for her son, and seemingly losing her mind when she started talking to him through the Christmas lights on her wall. Jim Hopper helped the Stranger Things kids as the pessimistic chief of Hawkins’ police department, but was still healing from the loss of his own daughter. Nancy Wheeler was a teenager preoccupied with being cool in high school and desperately wanting Steve Harrington to like her back, and Steve himself was just plain awful. Meanwhile, Jonathan Byers was a quiet outsider with a creepy hobby.

None of these things are true in Stranger Things season 4, because the adult characters have experienced a great deal in the years the show has been airing, pushing them to grow. Joyce was never the same after Will went missing, but in the years since he returned, she has become resilient. Joyce is always ready to fight off whatever the Upside Down throws her way – without the overwhelming horror she felt in Stranger Things season 1. Hopper has also changed drastically, as becoming Eleven’s father and developing feelings for Joyce has opened his heart and made him a more loving, compassionate person.

Nancy stopped caring what high school classmates thought of her a long time ago, but Steve might be the most evolved of all. Steve was bad news when Stranger Things premiered, and everyone could see Nancy was better off with Jonathan. However, like Hopper, he gained compassion as the series went on. Steve is not the selfish, stuck-up teenager he was when the series started, becoming a father figure to the Stranger Things kids, especially Dustin Henderson. The Stranger Things kids have unquestionably grown as characters. It is the adults, however, that have overcome their demons and flaws and emerged better people heading into Stranger Things season 5.

The Stranger Things Kids Have MORE Flaws In Later Seasons

stranger things young cast in season 3

While the Stranger Things kids have also changed a lot, some have grown physically more than emotionally, as their attitudes and behavior have worsened in some instances. All but Will and Dustin have lost their passion for adventure, and like Nancy and Steve, a few characters got caught up in their image. Lucas abandoned his friends and joined the high school basketball team, trading Dungeons and Dragons for hanging out with his new, older friends in one of the most disappointing evolutions of the series. Lucas was always the voice of reason and the one friend who prioritized common sense, meaning he got less mature as Stranger Things progressed.

Related: Why Only 1 Stranger Things Redemption Story Hasn’t Worked

Mike’s obliviousness to Will’s feelings highlights a lack of growth on his part. Eleven has learned to control her powers and knows how to stand up for herself, but Stranger Things has also showcased how worn out and exhausted she has become from constantly having to fight off evil. Other than getting better at using her powers to protect herself and her friends, Eleven has perhaps not changed all that much since Stranger Things season 2. Stranger Things has shown Max Mayfield coping with her brother’s death, which is perhaps the best example of a young character maturing emotionally.

Stranger Things 5 Is An Ending For The Older Characters (Not The Kids)

stranger things joyce and hopper

Stranger Things season 5 may be the final chapter, but it is not the end for the kids who grew up on the show. Eleven and her friends are entering adulthood and still have a lot to learn. As they mature and process everything they have been through, they will also evolve the way the older characters have. Unfortunately, there is not much story left to tell for the adults. Stranger Things season 5 is the end for Joyce and Hopper, who will either get their happily-ever-after or not.

While Nancy, Jonathan, and Steve are all still young, Stranger Things is expected to feature a major death in its final season, and it is likely that one or both of Steve and Jonathan will be killed, ending their stories too. Stranger Things may have mainly revolved around Eleven and her friends for the past four seasons, but it was the adult characters who had the most growth. The Stranger Things kids still have years before they reach Joyce or Hopper’s level of evolution, and with their whole lives ahead of them, season 5 is only the beginning of their stories.

More: Brenner’s Stranger Things 5 Return Would Be A Huge Mistake

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