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When it comes to Stranger Things, the top number on the board is rightfully Eleven — but there’s another number that secretly rules season two … and no, it’s not Eight, with all due respect to Linnea Berthelsen’s Kali.
For Stranger Things season two, the magic number is, appropriately enough, two. The season is filled with instantly classic character combinations, as strangers fight alongside each other to beat back the forces of the Upside Down, with unlikely friendships forged in the process. Whether it’s two fast-talkers with spectacular hair becoming new best friends, or a surrogate father-daughter dynamic tasked with shouldering the heaviest emotional weight of the season, the second year of the Duffer brothers’ Netflix series was positively brimming with excellent relationships, new and old alike.
With all of that out of the way, here’s how THR is ranking the various team-ups throughout season two, beginning with the worst — and actually beginning with an unofficial entry …
Dishonorable Mention: Justice and Barb
In attaining justice for Barb (Shannon Purser), avengers Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) were able to bring closure to the late Ms. Holland’s family … but at what cost? Hawkins Lab closes in the wake of the cooked-up scandal, which means the last bastion between the small town and the Upside Down is now out of commission. Not great! Really, the entire Barb story felt like a serious case of the wheel-spins, a reaction to a fan meme gone wild, and easily the least satisfying story of the season, this side of Chapter Seven.
15. Nancy and Jonathan
Given our dissatisfaction with the Barb storyline, it should come as no surprise that Nancy and Jonathan’s romance didn’t exactly land for us, either. It’s not helped in any regard by the fact that they eventually cement their feelings after being encouraged to hook up on the ground floor of a drunk conspiracy theorist’s dilapidated home … and we’re supposed to feel good about it? Weird.
14. Nancy and Steve (Joe Keery)
Credit where it’s due: their breakup was refreshingly amicable. Not the actual breakup scene, which was one of the most frustrating moments in all of Stranger Things through two seasons, but the way in which Nancy and Steve dealt with each other in the final aftermath of their relationship ending was rather mature, given how it could have been depicted. Still, Team Steve over Team Jonathan every day of the week, which makes this relationship a painful one to consider in the rearview.
13. Billy (Dacre Montgomery) and Max (Sadie Sink)
And now we reach the Billy trilogy. Easily the most divisive character introduced in season two, the new bad boy in town known as Billy Hargrove is, quite simply, the worst. The best worst, but the total worst, as evidenced by the way he both physically and emotionally abuses his sister — sorry, his not-a-sister, as he prefers. Max is fantastic, Billy is a jerk, and the two of them together make for an extremely unenjoyable pair. Bring a sedative and a baseball bat covered with nails into the mix, and it’s a somewhat different story.
12. Billy and Steve
Whether they’re facing off on the basketball court, in the locker room, or even in the Byers household, Billy and Steve’s tense dynamic was the source of extreme anxiety whenever they were onscreen together. We’re still holding a grudge about Billy’s victory over Steve in that fist fight. Steve Harrington losing in battle against anybody makes no sense, hence our bias against the Billy Hargroves and Jonathan Byerses of the world.
11. Billy and Mrs. Wheeler (Cara Buono)
If there’s one truly fantastic Billy scene in season two, it’s this: rolling up to the Wheeler household and turning the charm up to eleven. (No, not that Eleven.) Mrs. Wheeler’s immediate infatuation with the young Hawkins heartthrob stands out as her one wonderful moment of the season, and the single instance in which it was OK to laugh along with Billy Hargrove.
10. Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and Kali (Linnea Berthelsen)
Even without falling head over heels in love with “Chapter Seven,” there’s no denying the chemistry between these two young women, powered to the nines (or is it the Eights?) with their respective gifts with telekinesis and inception, respectively. Here’s hoping the Duffers re-evaluate exactly how to open up the world of Stranger Things moving forward — but here’s hoping they also make sure to keep Kali in the mix, because she’s a great character, especially in contrast to her younger “sister.”
9. Hopper (David Harbour) and Owens (Paul Reiser)
First of all, any two adults who aren’t even friends but can share the same half of a roast beef sandwich must be acknowledged for boasting some sort of sacred connection. Such is the case between Hawkins’ No. 1 lawman and Hawkins Lab’s No. 1 scientist. Wearing the mask of Burke from Aliens, Doctor Owens is one of the secret sweethearts of Stranger Things, a fantastic surprise that comes out most in his scenes opposite the rough-and-tough Hopper.
8. Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) and D’Artagnan
A friendship forged in nougat is a sturdy friendship indeed, even if one side of the duo is actually a vicious pollywog version of a demogorgon. But beggars can’t be choosers, and in Dustin’s case, Dart makes as fine a companion as they come — right until it murders poor Mews, anyway. Rest in peace, kitty cat.
7. Lucas (Caleb Sinclair) and Max
Two words to describe the best new couple at Hawkins Middle School: “Totally tubular.”
6. Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Eleven
They barely shared any time together onscreen this season, which only heightened the power of their eventual emotional reunion. But even when they were apart, Mike and Eleven were never all that far from each other’s minds, fueling both of their storylines all season long.
5. Bob (Sean Astin) and Joyce (Winona Ryder)
Bob Newby, superhero, was not long for the world of Stranger Things. But while he was around, he was a true gem. His relationship with Joyce was one of the sweetest elements of the season, a rare moment of happiness for a woman who has been through so much heartache over the course of this series. Despite Bob’s poorly handled death scene, his head-over-heels infatuation with Joyce and his desire to be a reliable force in her life was truly great.
4. Mike and Will (Noah Schnapp)
Given his increased role in season two, Will was allowed the opportunity to interact with several different characters. His best relationship and his best friendship are one and the same: Mike, who sweetly looks after his troubled friend on Halloween night and beyond. Stranger Things has always excelled in its earnest depiction of friendships, and has rarely succeeded so strongly in this regard than the scenes between Mike and Will this past season.
3. Will and the Mind Flayer
Here’s the true genius of Noah Schnapp: He doesn’t need a scene-partner in order to create a dynamic duo. He can create those dynamics all on his own, as Will becomes infused with the dark forces of the Upside Down and becomes an unwitting spy against his loved ones. The fully possessed Will Byers is one of the most frightening figures in Stranger Things lore, all thanks to Schnapp’s inspired turn as a kid completely ruled by his worst nightmare.
2. Dustin and Steve
The surprise highlight of season two: Steve and Dustin’s excellent adventure, which could have very easily been a bogus journey in less capable hands. Instead, these two unlikely allies become very fast friends over the course of season two, enhancing both characters tremendously in the process — which in and of itself is a real feat, since both Dustin and Steve were already terrific enough on their own as we headed into season two.
1. Eleven and Hopper
The heart and soul of season two, Millie Bobby Brown and David Harbour’s chemistry together simply can’t be denied. Whether it’s the “psychic tantrum,” as the creators have called it, or dancing together as they put the cabin together, or eating an 8,000 calorie Halloween breakfast, or Hopper emotionally speaking to Eleven through a radio wave she’s telepathically accessing — really, we can keep going, but the point will remain: In a season filled with terrific twosomes, Hopper and Eleven take the cake … or the triple-decker Eggo extravaganza, as it were.
Follow THR.com/StrangerThings for full season two coverage, including interviews, theories and more.
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