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Steve's 7 Best And 7 Worst Stranger Things Episodes Ranked

As its title implies, "Stranger Things" is a show about the bizarre events that grip the otherwise sleepy suburb of Hawkins, Indiana. Secret laboratories, psychic kids, faceless demons, and reality rifts are unusual, to be sure, but one of the strangest things that happens over the course of the hit show's run is Steve Harrington's character development.

Series creators Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer have revealed (via Rotten Tomatoes) that they initially intended to kill Steve off. But actor Joe Keery's talent and charm proved to be too valuable a resource to waste. Thus, fans got a unique and nuanced character arc, brought to thrilling life by Keery's warm, affable, and increasingly unselfconscious performance. The man wears a sailor boy outfit for all of Season 3 and manages to make it look good. 

Steve's journey from big man on campus to big softy means viewers glimpse many different shades of him along the way. Sometimes, it's remarkably easy to love Steve — and sometimes, it's hard not to hate him. These are Steve "the Hair" Harrington's best and worst "Stranger Things" episodes, ranked.

14. Best: The Bathtub

Steve is ostensibly a villain for most of "Stranger Things" Season 1, but "Chapter Seven: The Bathtub" begins his redemption arc. The current king of Hawkins High is hanging out with his popular and hard-partying friends Carol and Tommy H. after shaming Nancy and goading Jonathan into a fight. His so-called friends mock Jonathan (who they carelessly claim killed his missing brother) and Nancy, and make crude comments about them sleeping together. This is the final straw for good-guy-deep-down Steve. He stands up to Tommy and Carol for the first time and points out that they don't actually like or care about anybody. They're just miserable people who want everybody else to be miserable too. 

Steve defending Nancy's honor when she's not even there is his first step towards becoming the ice cream slinger and excellent babysitter we all know and love. He makes a further effort to right a wrong when he volunteers to wash the vile graffiti off the local cinema's marquee. "I want to help," he tells the employees. Steve goes on to help more than anybody could've guessed. 

13. Worst: The Dive

There's nothing wrong with Steve's storyline in "Stranger Things" Season 4. Quite the opposite, really: By "Chapter Six: The Dive," we're pretty invested in his arc. This episode is a stand-out, and full of consequential moments. Mike and company show up to Suzie's house unannounced to geo-track Eleven's location. Joyce and Murray convince Yuri to help them break into the Russian prison. Jason gives his satanic panic speech at the town meeting. And, in her memories, One wins Eleven to his side. So why is such a great installment of "Stranger Things" one of Steve's worst episodes?

The problem with "Chapter Six: The Dive" is that it ends on a cliffhanger which doesn't reveal whether or not our precious Steve Harrington has survived. The Hawkins contingent figures out that Vecna's kills open gates. Since Patrick has just been killed at Lovers' Lake, the older kids take a boat out there to try and save Max and clear Eddie's name. Steve — who we learn was co-captain of the Hawkins High Swim Team — valiantly volunteers to dive down and look for it. He undresses (Dustin wonders when he got so hairy) and jumps in. Moments later, he finds the fissure, but tentacles yank him into the Upside Down, where he's swarmed by demobats. Fans are seized with fear that the character has been killed off.

12. Best: The Gate

The ending of "Stranger Things" Season 2, "Chapter Nine: The Gate," sees Nancy and Steve patch things up as friends. They find themselves alone together as the group plans to save Will and close the gate. Steve tells Nancy she should go with Jonathan, then offers to keep an eye on Mike. "I may be a pretty sh***y boyfriend, but turns out I'm actually a pretty damn good babysitter," he tells her, in what could be Steve Harrington's mission statement. He goes on to make sure Nancy doesn't feel any guilt or responsibility for their breakup. 

On babysitting duty, Steve convinces the younger kids to stay on the proverbial bench while the starting line-up does their thing. Billy arrives looking for Max, and Steve takes a punch trying to hide her from her out-of-control step-brother. When Billy goes after Lucas, Steve gets in a few shots, but Billy eventually overpowers him and pummels his face until Max stabs him with a syringe. For the second season in a row, Steve loses a fight and ends up with his face bloodied. He also lets the underage kids drive a car straight into potentially world-ending danger. But when the threat is vanquished, he gives Dustin a ride to the Snowball Dance and some advice on how to act cool around chicks. We call that a win.

11. Worst: Trick or Treat, Freak

Season 2's "Chapter Two: Trick or Treat, Freak" is mostly about Mike, Will, Lucas, and Dustin navigating Halloween as tweens. They dress up as the Ghostbusters (Mike and Lucas argue over who gets to be Venkman) and are embarrassed when they're the only kids who show up at school in costume. Elsewhere, Steve and Nancy work on their "Risky Business" couple's costume. But even though Steve's shown growth, their relationship is buckling under the weight of Barb's disappearance. Nancy wants to tell Barb's parents the truth, but Steve isn't willing to sacrifice their futures and risk jail time. He begs Nancy to keep pretending everything is okay and act like a stupid teenager for just one night. 

Nancy proceeds to follow his advice by drinking too much and acting increasingly sloppy. Steve tries to cut her off, but accidentally spills punch all over her white blouse. As they retreat to the bathroom to clean up, she delivers a drunken monologue which implies she doesn't really love him. It's obvious to the audience that Nancy's feeling immense guilt about her dead best friend, but Steve makes the argument all about him. Nancy goes home with Jonathan (who watches over her like a gentleman), which Steve uses against her in the next episode. He's come a long way as a character and boyfriend, but at this point in the series' run, Steve's still an egocentric antihero with a great head of hair. 

10. Best: Mall Rats

Season 3's "Chapter Two: Mall Rats" offers fans some quality time with one of the best "Stranger Things" flavor combos: Steve, Dustin, and Robin. Steve is overjoyed to see Dustin, who brings news of Suzie, his hotter-than-Phoebe-Cates summer camp girlfriend. Robin wryly asks how many kids Steve is friends with (we know the answer: a lot). That's not all: While attempting to contact Suzie, Dustin happened upon a secret Russian communication.

Luckily for these old pals, who are eager to become American heroes for translating the message, Robin is fluent in four languages. Russian isn't one of them, but her knowledge of the Russian alphabet does help them decipher the recorded conversation fairly efficiently. They unlock a cryptic phrase: "The silver cat feeds." Robin guesses its meaning is yet another puzzle they'll have to solve, but Steve figures it out all on his own. He screams for a quarter, then activates a coin-operated horse ride which plays the music that can be heard on the tape. The secret message was recorded at the mall, and is about the mall. As Steve is so often depicted as the dumb jock (though he'll remind you that a C- in science isn't failing), it's nice to see him get this win using his brain. 

9. Worst: The Body

In Season 1's "Chapter Four: The Body," Joyce insists that the deceased child recovered from the quarry lake isn't Will, though no one takes her seriously. Similarly, Steve dismisses Nancy's concerns regarding Barb's disappearance. She tries to explain her Demogorgon sighting, telling Steve that she went back to his house and saw a figure without a face in the yard and that she has a really terrible feeling about the whole situation. Steve acknowledges that things are bad, but he's far more concerned about the fact that if the cops get involved, he'll have to take the fall for the party and all its underage drinking. "My parents are going to murder me," he complains. This is a Steve who's still squarely in anything-to-stay-out-of-trouble mode, which doesn't sit well with Nancy. 

Steve proceeds to ask Nancy to lie to the police if questioned. Nancy is flabbergasted that he's prioritizing himself over Barb and storms away. She's not wrong: Steve puts her in an impossible position by asking her to forsake her friend and lie to authority figures on his behalf. However, when she's questioned a few scenes later, she conveniently leaves out the fact that she and Steve slept together that night. They're just friends, she tells the officer, who immediately calls her out on her mischaracterization of the evening. Steve isn't an outright bully in this episode, but he's definitely a selfish jerk.

8. Best: The Spy

By Season 2's "Chapter Six: The Spy," Joyce is getting increasingly frustrated with doctors who can't get to the bottom of what's wrong with Will; Nancy, Jonathan, and Murray are busy getting wasted on vodka; and Lucas misses Dustin's code red. Dart has revealed himself to be a baby demogorgon, and Dustin and Steve need help recovering him. Though their endearing friendship begins in the previous episode, it really starts to shine in this installment. 

Steve and Dustin leave a raw meat trail for Dart as they talk about girls. Dustin is trying way too hard, according to Steve, who gives him outdated but well-intentioned dating pointers. Being cool isn't about the hair, he insists (although Steve does reveal he uses conditioner and four pumps of Farrah Fawcett spray to achieve his signature look). He instructs Dustin to act like he doesn't care, even if he does, which apparently drives girls nuts. Then, he has to wait until he gets that electric feeling. Some girls, he says, will want him to be aggressive like a lion, while others will want him to be slow and methodical, like a ninja. When Lucas and Max arrive at the meeting spot together, Steve silently empathizes with his friend before he fends off a pack of demodogs with his bat, unaware that his own special girl has slipped away. 

7. Worst: The Vanishing of Will Byers

In the pilot episode of "Stranger Things," "Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers," Steve Harrington is basically a stock character from a 1980s teen drama. He's the good looking, sport-playing popular guy who's kind of a jerk, but has enough charisma to make girls (including Nancy) want him. Barb sees through his schtick, and tries to warn Nancy that she's falling for his well-worn routine. Is Steve charming? Sure. He's funny, flattering, self-deprecating, and showers Nancy with attention. But he's also deeply frustrating in all the ways this archetypal character tends to be.

While it seems like Steve's being attentive, he's not actually addressing Nancy's wants and needs. Basically, she wants to study, and he wants to make out. He coerces her into letting him sneak into her bedroom, then repeatedly tries to get her to fool around instead of reciting flash cards, even though her parents are downstairs. It's plain to see that Nancy has feelings for Steve, but his aggressive tactics come dangerously close to not taking no for an answer. Though he displays hints of progressive notions about sexuality when Nancy proclaims herself to be different from other girls, this version of Steve is just a run-of-the-mill jerk and a distraction from the tragedy and mystery that will soon grip Hawkins.

6. Best: Papa

The penultimate episode of Season 4, "Chapter Eight: Papa" is packed with special effects and action sequences that rival any blockbuster. Hopper, Joyce, Murray, Dmitri, and Yuri have to battle their way out of the Russian prison with a demogorgon on the loose. Eleven has to survive a military assault on the secret lab housing the Nina project. But two of the episode's high points are intimate moments involving old friends. One is Will's confession of his feelings for Mike, disguised as a monologue about his "Dungeons & Dragons" painting and Eleven. The other is a somewhat jokey conversation between Steve and Nancy that takes place in the front seat of a stolen RV. 

Steve tells Nancy that he's always dreamed of having a big family. "Six little nuggets," he says. "Three girls, three boys." He imagines this brood of Harringtons would pack into a motor home every summer and tour the country's national parks, hit the beach, and so on. This is Steve in his final form: He's evolved from cool jerk to dorky wannabe dad, and is all the better for it. Nancy, despite grinning from ear to ear to hear him talk of his domestic aspirations, says six kids sounds like a nightmare. Steve sweetly replies, "If only I had some practice," before glancing back at the camper full of kids to whom he's basically been a father figure these last three seasons.

5. Worst: The Weirdo on Maple Street

Season 1's "Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street" could easily have been called "The Corruption of Nancy Wheeler." Mike, Dustin, and Lucas argue about what to do with Eleven while Joyce becomes increasingly distraught about Will. Jonathan volunteers to print and hang flyers, which is apparently worthy of ridicule to Steve and his awful friends. After last night's make-out session, Steve is ready to take his relationship with Nancy to the next level, and invites her to a party at his house. "It's Tuesday," Nancy replies, as if the idea doesn't compute. Nevertheless, she lies to her mom about where she's going and begs her best friend Barb to accompany her to the party. Barb warns her that Steve just wants to get in her pants, but comes along anyway.

After a short walk (paranoid Nancy makes Barb park three blocks away), Nancy finds herself shotgunning beer while Steve smokes on a nearby deck chair. He pushes her into the pool so she'll have to change out of her wet clothes. Then he invites her upstairs, where they have sex. There's an unbalanced power dynamic at play: Nancy is drunk for the first time and out of her element, which Steve uses to his advantage. He also indirectly causes Barb's death by separating her from Nancy. 

4. Best: The Upside Down

In the finale of Season 1, "Chapter Eight: The Upside Down," Steve emerges from the mean kid clique to earn his good guy stripes. But he has some catching up to do: While he's been worried about winning over Nancy and keeping himself out of trouble, the other kids have been steadily solving the mystery of Will and Barb's disappearances. Steve forces his way into the Byers house, where Nancy — who last saw him getting violent towards Jonathan — threatens him with a gun. Before their confrontation can escalate into a tragic misunderstanding, the lights flicker, and the Demogorgon shows itself. 

Steve has a hilariously outsized reaction, since he's the only one who isn't wise to the monster and the Upside Down. It's immensely fun to watch Steve grapple with the truth while still trying to be useful. When the Demogorgon tackles Jonathan and Nancy's gunfire fails to subdue it, Steve leaps into action with his nail-filled baseball bat. Ever the accomplished athlete, he swings and connects, managing to wound the creature and lure it into a bear trap. Jonathan flambés it while it's immobilized. Thus, the teenage love triangle wins the day in one of the show's most memorable sequences. As the episode draws to a close, we see that Steve and Nancy are still together, and that he's supportive of her giving Jonathan a new camera. 

3. Worst: Holly, Jolly

Season 1's " Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly" opens with a mash-up of Barb's horrific murder and Steve's seduction of Nancy. It's a disturbing contrast and a damning moral indictment of Steve, and, to a lesser extent, Nancy. If she's clinging to the idea that she can somehow tame her rakish new boyfriend, "Holly, Jolly" shows her just how wrong she is. 

Nancy worries that Steve has told people — Tommy H. and Carol specifically — about their hook-up. He promises her he hasn't and tells her she's being paranoid, but when she sits at his table for lunch, his friends greet her with moaning sounds. Nancy quickly understands that this is the type of harassment she'll have to put up with if she wants to date Steve and join his social circle. 

Not only is Steve dismissive of the fact that Barb doesn't show up to school, he shows himself to be a bully when he confronts Jonathan over his photographs. Yes, it's creepy that he took pictures of a party he wasn't invited to, and the fact that he snapped shots of Nancy in her bra is even worse. The audience knows it's more complicated than it looks, but Steve doesn't. Yet he goes way too far when he acts as though he's going to hand Jonathan his camera, before letting it fall to the ground. It smashes into pieces. 

2. Best: The Bite

For a pure distillation of why Steve Harrington is one of the most likable characters in "Stranger Things," look no further than Season 3's "Chapter Seven: The Bite." It features the character in his weirdly adorable sailor costume, plus a beaten-up face and great hair — the classic Steve Harrington combo. He's trying to be a suave potential love interest, but ends up being an accepting friend. Oh, and he's high on Russian truth serum.

Steve and Robin have just survived a brutal and drug-enhanced interrogation. Dustin and Erica, concerned about their mental state, hide them in a mall movie theater where "Back to the Future" is playing to a packed house. Their infantile work uniforms, battered appearances, and loopy moods make for some truly funny asides. They struggle to follow the plot, realize that water fountain water is amazing, and repeatedly refer to an annoyed Dustin as "Dad." 

But "The Bite" kicks into high gear when Steve and Robin escape to a bathroom and have one of the show's best-ever heart-to-hearts. Steve confesses his feelings for Robin, who gently lets him know she's a lesbian who had a crush on a girl who was crushing on Steve back in high school. It takes a moment for Robin's admission to dawn on him ("Tammy Thompson's a girl," he muses), but once it does, Steve effortlessly switches into best friend mode. It makes us love him even more. 

1. Worst: The Monster

The monster of Season 1's "Chapter Six: The Monster" is up for interpretation. The monster could be Eleven, the bullies who taunt Mike and his friends, or the Demogorgon and whatever other beings lurk in the Upside Down. But it could also be Steve, who's the absolute worst version of himself in this chapter. He's jealous, vindictive, and overtly sexist. It's basically his rock bottom.

After his relationship with Nancy becomes strained, Steve sees Nancy and Jonathan together. We know they're innocently trying to find his brother and her friend, but Steve's mind goes elsewhere — perhaps to what he'd do with a girl in that situation. As Nancy and Jonathan shop for tactical gear to take down the Demogorgon, a car drives by and a boy yells that he can't wait to see her movie. Nancy rushes over to the local cinema where she discovers disgusting graffiti about her has been spray-painted under the marquee, which announces "All the Right Moves" is playing. When she confronts Steve, he plays the victim and curses at her. Then, using homophobic language, he berates Jonathan and his family. Steve instigates the ensuing fight, though Jonathan gets the better of him. We only have to see Steve be this heartless once, but it still packs a wallop.