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

Gaten Matarazzo has been an integral part of the "Stranger Things" cast since the series began in 2016. His character, Dustin Henderson, quickly gained popularity among Netflix viewers in the first season and has remained a fan favorite ever since. Dustin is whip-smart and quirky, and he repeatedly saves the day thanks to his quick thinking and ingenuity. He also serves as the party's much-needed comic relief, constantly cracking jokes and making sarcastic comments. Best of all, Dustin genuinely cares about his friends and tries to keep the town of Hawkins safe from the evils lurking in The Upside Down. 

However, like any well-developed character, Dustin also has some negative qualities. He is sometimes overconfident in his abilities, which leads him to disregard other party members' ideas. He can also be impulsive at times, leading him to make rash decisions that are prone to backfire. Furthermore, his winning sense of humor goes a little too far on occasion, making some of his jokes seem rude instead of funny. Overall, this realistic combination of positive and negative traits makes Dustin a likable, believable character. Therefore, his best and worst moments are some of the most memorable highlights of the "Stranger Things" series.

Worst: Mad Max

In the first episode of Season 2, "Mad Max," audiences meet a new character named Maxine "Max" Mayfield (Sadie Sink). The party first discovers her based on her arcade moniker, "MADMAX." Dustin realizes that the mysterious player has bested all his top scores at the arcade and is determined to learn the player's identity. When Max later appears as a new student in Mr. Clarke's class, Dustin and Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) do some digging and eventually connect her to the high scores at the arcade. Both boys become enamored with her and decide that they want to recruit her for the party.

While Dustin's intentions may have been innocent, his and Lucas's behavior while tracking Max is not one of his finest moments. The boys' attempts to learn more about Max come dangerously close to stalking, especially when they stake out the arcade parking lot to watch her coming and going. They use binoculars to track Max's movements without her knowledge. The boys even spy on her while she skateboards and immediately dig through a public trash can when they see her dispose of a piece of paper. However, Max has the last laugh: the crumpled paper contains a note asking the boys to leave her alone.

Best: The Pollywog

In Season 2, Dustin makes the mistake of trying to keep a baby Demogorgon as a pet. Predictably, things go wrong once this member of the dangerous Upside Down species begins to interact with his surroundings outside of Dustin's bedroom. However, the third episode of Season 2, "Pollywog," still features one of Dustin's best moments. Dustin decides to name the little creature D'Artagnan and calls it D'Art for short. He genuinely believes he's found himself a strange new friend, and the tiny tadpole looks relatively harmless at first. Finally, Dustin feeds D'Art a piece of chocolate and is delighted by his enjoyment of the treat.

Watching him nurture his new pet is heartwarming, but the highlight of Dustin's quest to be a good pet owner occurs at the Hawkins Public Library. Determined to learn everything he can about D'Art, Dustin heads to the library, searching for books about reptiles. He finds five books he deems valuable and tries to check them out. However, the librarian, Marissa (Christi Waldon), informs him that he is already over his book limit and cannot take out all five. Dustin concocts a hilarious metaphor about books serving as paddles for his "curiosity voyage," but the librarian isn't convinced. Ultimately, he resorts to creating a diversion that enables him to dash out of the library with all five books.

Worst: Holly, Jolly

When Dustin and his friends first meet Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), they think she's just a strange girl who is new in town. But, once they learn more about her, the boys are blown away by Eleven's telekinetic abilities. In the early Season 1 episode, "Holly, Jolly," Dustin lets his excitement about Eleven's powers get the best of him and treats her more like an oddity than a friend. Instead of focusing all of his attention on the party's plan to find Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), Dustin asks Eleven to make a model Millennium Falcon fly with her mind. Instead of doing as he asked, Eleven stares blankly at Dustin. He responds by making fun of her before the boys leave for school.

Not only does Dustin never think twice about his treatment of Eleven but he also continues to fixate on her powers. He wonders aloud if they are acquired or if she was born with them. When Eleven meets the rest of the party by the power lines to look for Will, she has horrible flashbacks of her life in the Hawkins National Laboratory. However, Dustin and the other boys are much more interested in whether or not Eleven can find Will than in her well-being. Dustin grows a friendlier bond with Eleven over time, but his early inability to appreciate her beyond her powers isn't one of his greatest moments.

Best: The Mall Rats

Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) and Dustin become fast friends in Season 2 of "Stranger Things," and that friendship continues to grow in Season 3. One of Dustin's best moments in his friendship with Steve comes in the Season 3 episode "Mall Rats." After spending the summer at Camp Know Where, Dustin returns to Hawkins and appears at the Starcourt Mall. Steve and Robin (Maya Hawke) are working a shift at the Scoops Ahoy ice cream parlor, and Dustin's arrival provides a welcome break. The two boys greet each other excitedly and perform a cute, funny handshake. Their genuine joy at reuniting is infectious, making it an early highlight of the season.

Robin is initially confused by their friendship, but Steve and Dustin are too happy to see each other to care about her sarcastic comments. Steve takes a break from his shift to catch up with Dustin, who gives him juicy details about his summer camp girlfriend, Suzy (Gabriella Pizzolo), while eating ice cream. More importantly, their bond inspires Steve to help translate the Russian communications he intercepted on his first day back in Hawkins. Despite her skepticism, Robin eventually agrees to join the duo in their quest to decipher the cryptic Russian message.

Worst: The Mind Flayer

Dustin's goofy, good-natured personality might lead viewers to underestimate his intelligence, but his cleverness is a constant asset to the party. When things get tough, they can count on Dustin to come up with practical, inventive ideas on the spot. However, he tends to act like a know-it-all, especially regarding his supposed understanding of The Upside Down. Dustin is quick to correct other people's mistakes and is rarely gracious about doing so. Furthermore, he doesn't take criticism well, even when he genuinely makes a mistake. These off-putting behaviors are fully displayed in the Season 2 episode "The Mind Flayer."

Thanks to Steve, the party finds out about Dustin's previous dishonesty surrounding the baby demogorgon he found earlier in the season. Of course, this causes an argument between Dustin and Lucas. Instead of being humble about his mistake, Dustin turns the argument around on Lucas and scolds him for bringing Max into the party. Later, Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer) accidentally misspeaks, calling The Mind Flayer "the mind flamer." Instead of simply telling Nancy the right name for the creature, Dustin points out her mistake and obnoxiously corrects her. The whole party is still reeling from their most recent monster encounter, but that's no excuse for Dustin's behavior toward his friends.

Best: The Gate

Dustin's signature style typically includes a graphic t-shirt or hooded sweatshirt and a baseball cap over his curly mop. However, the final scenes of the Season 2 finale, "The Gate," feature Dustin as audiences have never seen him before. The party members all get a chance to be kids for a night by attending the Snowball Dance at school. Everyone shows up looking their best, but Dustin really pulls out all the stops to create his look for the evening. He dons a plaid suit and bow tie, a far cry from his usual casual duds.

However, what Dustin does next is even more noteworthy: he takes a page out of Steve's style book and uses hairspray on his normally untamed hair. The result is a unique, iconic, and oh-so '80s hairstyle that clearly makes Dustin feel good about himself. Unfortunately, even his new look isn't enough to help the socially awkward Dustin find a dance partner — at first. Finally, in an adorable moment, Nancy swoops in and asks Dustin to dance with her. A middle school boy dancing with a high school girl draws attention in all the right ways, especially for a kid that sometimes struggles to fit in with his peers. More importantly, it saves Dustin from the embarrassment of dancing alone.

Worst: Will the Wise

The Season 2 episode "Will the Wise" features Dustin and his friends trying to find D'art after he escapes inside their school. The initial hunt is a good chance for Dustin to come clean to his friends, but he hopes they'll find D'art without incident instead. Unfortunately, the connection he makes with the tiny demogorgon clouds his judgment completely. The choice to keep lying to his friends isn't one of Dustin's finest moments, and the D'art situation only worsens as the episode unfolds. By the time he finally decides to be honest with the party, it's already too late to prevent D'art from doing something unthinkable.

Later in the episode, audiences see Dustin go to his room alone, determined to find the demogorgon once and for all. He soon makes a horrible discovery: D'art has grown large enough to help himself to full-size meals. In this case, he's dining on the innards of the Henderson family cat, Mews. It's a gruesome scene, and Dustin looks stunned by D'art's ruthlessness. When the demogorgon senses Dustin's presence, he turns to him with his mouth open. D'art lets out a loud shriek, demonstrating his true nature as a dangerous creature from The Upside Down.

Best: The Battle of Starcourt

How "Stranger Things" uses music to create memorable moments is one of the many highlights of the series. In the Season 3 finale, "The Battle Of Starcourt," Dustin enjoys a high-stakes musical moment of his own while trying to secure information for Jim Hopper (David Harbour) and Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder). Hopper and Byers infiltrate a Russian compound under Starcourt Mall with the hopes of opening a secret vault. Everything goes according to plan until they realize they need Planck's Constant to crack the vault code. Unfortunately for Hopper and Byers, the party has no clue what Planck's Constant might be. 

With time running out to access the vault, Dustin comes up with a plan to get the information they need. He radios his Suzy — who happens to be a genius — and asks her to tell him the digits for Planck's Constant. Suzy knows the numbers, but she's not willing to give them up without some quid pro quo. She goads a desperate Dustin into doing a long-distance duet with her over the radio, which provides a welcome musical break in an otherwise action-packed episode. Her song of choice is the theme from "The Neverending Story," and watching Dustin belt it out with her is undeniably endearing. 

Worst: The Nina Project

Dustin's sarcastic sense of humor is a significant factor in his popularity. However, there are times when his sarcasm borders on rudeness. One particularly egregious example of this occurs in the Season 4 episode, "The Nina Project." The worst thing about Dustin's sarcasm in this episode is its target: arguably his closest friend, Steve. Their friendship is one of the major highlights of the series, and most of their interactions are heartwarming and amusing. However, when they go investigate the Edward Gorey house in search of answers about Vecna, Dustin is anything but friendly to Steve.

The abandoned house is naturally dark inside, so the party members all turn on flashlights to light their way. Unfortunately, Steve has forgotten to bring one for himself. Dustin has a spare flashlight for Steve to use, but he doesn't give it to him graciously. Instead, he snipes at Steve for not remembering to bring his own, rudely reminding Steve that he isn't a child. Dustin delivers this friend-shaming line as if it's funny, but instead, it comes across as unnecessarily disrespectful. This moment isn't the only instance of Dustin's sense of humor going a little too far, but his being mean to one of his closest friends is particularly disappointing.

Best: The Hellfire Club

In the Season 4 premiere, "The Hellfire Club," audiences meet "Stranger Things" newcomer Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn). He and Dustin become close friends as the season unfolds, but this first episode features a memorable, foundational moment for their connection. Dustin is a member of Eddie's Hellfire Club, an unofficial school organization for Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts. The fact that Dustin has found a group to belong to in high school is welcome news for fans, but he has a big problem on his hands in this episode: his D&D group is one man short for the Cult of Vecna campaign finale, and Eddie isn't willing to postpone it.

Desperate to fill the vacancy, Dustin picks an unlikely substitute player: Lucas' little sister, Erica (Priah Ferguson). The Hellfire Club initially underestimates Erica, but she quickly proves that Dustin made a wise choice by adding her to his team. Dustin and Erica end up being the last players standing against Vecna, and it appears that Dustin may be able to take home a win for the team. However, Erica, aka Lady Applejack, makes the final, winning play. Nevertheless, the victory earns Dustin some welcome respect from Eddie and the older players and sets the stage for their friendship to continue growing.

Worst: The Bite

Most of the time, the high school kids look out for the middle schoolers, but the tables are turned in the Season 3 episode "The Bite." After the Russians dose Steve and Robin with truth serum, the teens are too loopy to even walk on their own. It's up to Erica and Dustin to get the crew out of the underground compound and back to safety, but every step is a challenge. Even the simple act of getting Steve and Robin into an elevator requires pushing them in a cart, and the duo is no help when a group of armed Russians spots them in the Starcourt Mall.

Erica babysits the teens in a dark movie theater while Dustin tries to contact the rest of the party, but unfortunately, he fails. To make matters worse, Robin and Steve manage to wander out of the movie theater and end up in the lobby. A frantic Dustin finds them voraciously drinking from a water fountain and debating the plot of "Back to the Future." Eventually, the two sober up in a nearby bathroom and are ready to get back in action, but the team soon finds themselves running from the Russians again. The entire escape from the Starcourt Mall is fun to watch, but it's thoroughly exhausting for Dustin.

Best: The Monster

The first season of "Stranger Things" features many early memorable moments as the party takes shape, including some of Dustin's funniest lines in the series. One great example occurs in the Season 1 episode "The Monster." While trying to find Eleven, Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard) and Dustin come face to face with a particularly vicious pair of school bullies, Troy Walsh (Peyton Wich) and James Dante (Cade Jones). The encounter is harrowing, especially when Troy holds Dustin at knifepoint near the cliff's edge. The bullies demand that Mike jumps into the lake below to save Dustin from harm, but the jump would likely cause fatal injuries.

Luckily for both boys, Eleven comes to the rescue just in time. Mike jumps, but Eleven levitates him back to safety before he can hit the water. She then uses her psionic powers to dispatch both bullies. Dustin is relieved and delighted by Eleven's effect on the pair of bullies, who are understandably bewildered by her abilities. As Troy and James run away in terror, Dustin proudly blurts out: "She's our friend, and she's crazy." This hilarious assertion provides a much-needed comic balance to the tense scene and demonstrates Dustin's appreciation for Eleven.

Worst: Suzy, Do You Copy?

After spending the summer at Camp Know Where after the "Stranger Things" Season 2 finale, Dustin returns to Hawkins with exciting news. In the Season 3 premiere, "Suzy, Do You Copy?" Dustin can't wait to tell the party about his summer camp girlfriend, Suzy. Unfortunately, his descriptions of Suzy make her sound too good to be true, so the party is naturally skeptical. Even worse, Dustin's new flame lives all the way in Utah and, therefore, can't meet the party in person. However, he does have one way to prove that his dream girl is real: the radio he built at camp.

Dustin drags the party to the outskirts of Hawkins, leading them to the top of a grassy hill where he hopes to find good enough radio reception to contact Suzy. The party is reluctant to join him, but Dustin's determination persuades them to come along. He sets up his radio antenna. At first, all seems to be going according to plan. However, there's just one problem: Suzy doesn't respond to his radio calls. The rest of the party immediately loses interest in Dustin's story about Suzy, and he ends up feeling alone and left out for much of the episode.

Best: The Piggyback

Eddie's tragic but heroic death in the "Stranger Things" Season 4 finale "The Piggyback" is a traumatic event for all the party members. However, it will likely have the most significant lasting effect on Dustin, who built a strong bond with the Hellfire Club leader. In the aftermath of the events that led to Eddie's death, audiences see Dustin, Robin, and Steve lending a hand to displaced Hawkins residents. The town has sustained severe damage in what news reports falsely call an earthquake, but the party members know the unfortunate truth. So the team of three brings donations to a disaster relief center in town and volunteers to help distribute them.

Amidst the sea of tragedy in the relief center, Dustin spots Eddie's uncle, Wayne Munson (Joel Stoffer). Wayne has struggled with how the town ostracized Eddie since early in the season, and his death makes that pain unbearable. Dustin volunteers to talk to Wayne about Eddie and sits down with the grieving man. At first, Eddie's uncle can't even look at Dustin, but that doesn't deter the young man from delivering a heartfelt speech about Eddie's heroism. The bittersweet moment is one of the only times audiences see Dustin cry in the series, and it's hard to avoid shedding a tear right along with him.