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Will Byers' 7 Best And 7 Worst Stranger Things Episodes Ranked

It's rare that the spirit of a TV show gets relegated to the supporting cast, but that's essentially what happens in "Stranger Things." In Season 1, the show revolves around Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), a young boy from Hawkins, Indiana who gets kidnapped by an otherworldly monster stuck in an alternate dimension called the Upside Down. After Will is rescued, he's put through the absolute wringer, only to become one of the least important members of the main party. It's not entirely an out-of-place decision by showrunners Matt and Ross Duffer, as the problems of Hawkins become much greater and more sinister every season following Will's disappearance.

After being the backbone of "Stranger Things" Seasons 1 and 2, Will becomes more of a character who exists within the plot than one who drives it. Every so often, though, he can sense when the monsters from the Upside Down are nearby. Across dozens of episodes, Will has had some great moments, along with many, many bad ones. Few characters on "Stranger Things" have had so many traumatic experiences, but Will perseveres and even gets the chance to start anew in Season 4, though that chance is short-lived. To celebrate the zombie boy who came back to life, here are Will Byer's best and worst "Stranger Things" episodes.

Worst: The Vanishing of Will Byers (Season 1, Episode 1)

In the episode that started it all, the audience quickly learns that the happy, Dungeons & Dragons-playing life of Will Byers is going to change forever. After nearly finishing a campaign with his best friends Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Will bikes home and beats Dustin in a race, earning his copy of "Uncanny X-Men" #134 in the process.

Before we even learn anything about Will beyond his name, the young Hawkins resident is stalked by a mysterious, unseen force. He brandishes a gun but is unable to evade the monster and ultimately gets abducted. Unlike many of its contemporaries, "Stranger Things" hits the ground running, sparing no time in setting the scene for the entire season. It's hard to imagine anything worse for Will, as he's literally snatched out of thin air.

Soon after, we learn that Will lives with his single mom Joyce (Winona Ryder) and his brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and that they don't have a lot of money. As we learn in later seasons, the motivations of the monsters that lurk in the Upside Down are tethered to trauma. But during "The Vanishing of Will Byers," it seems like nothing more than an innocent kid falling victim to the uncontrollable violence of the unknown.

Best: The Body (Season 1, Episode 4)

Though Will spends the majority of "Stranger Things" Season 1 trapped in the Upside Down, he still gets some great moments. Despite his funeral occurring in "The Body," Joyce is convinced that the body found in the water is not her son's. When she's taken to the morgue to identify him, she asks the coroner to show her a birthmark. In disgust, she storms out of the morgue, claiming the "thing" in the examination room isn't Will. Spoiler alert: It's a fake body created by the Hawkins Lab to throw the authorities off the scent of the Upside Down.

Later in the episode, Joyce attempts to conjure her son again by playing the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go" while sitting around a bunch of lamps. When she hears a noise in the house, she discovers Will's voice coming through the wall in their living room and, when she tears down the wood paneling, finds him in the alternate reality of the Upside Down.

In one of the saddest, yet most hopeful moments of the show, Joyce promises her son that she will find him. Will screams about being in a dark, cold place with monsters, but for the first time since the start of the show, there's real hope to be had about Will's fate. At the same time, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) fiddles with Mike's walkie-talkie and is able to pick up Will and Joyce's conversation through the receiver, signaling to the boys that Will is alive.

Worst: Holly, Jolly (Season 1, Episode 3)

In "Holly, Jolly," Will begins talking to Joyce through the lamps in their home, which inspires her to put up Christmas lights. What follows has since become some of the show's most recognizable iconography: The letters of the alphabet underneath twinkling lights, which Will uses to spell out messages for his mom.

Meanwhile, police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) and his deputies are combing the town for Will and have made it all the way to Hawkins Lab, where things aren't quite what they seem. The lab's officials are clearly lying to Hopper about what transpired the night Will vanished. Hopper and his team make great progress on unearthing the demons lurking around the town, while Joyce is filled with newfound hope after Will attempts to break the barrier between Hawkins and the Upside Down. It's a glimmer of hope, even if no one in the town, buys her story. Unfortunately, all of that comes to a halt when Will's fake dead body is discovered in the quarry.

Best: The Upside Down (Season 1, Episode 8)

If "Stranger Things" had ended after Season 1, Will would have had a (somewhat) happy ending. Hopper and Joyce go into the Upside Down through the portal in Hawkins Lab, hoping to bring Will home. Around the same time, Jonathan, Nancy (Natalia Dyer), and Steve (Joe Keery) fight the Demogorgon at the Byers' house.

Of course, fellow abductee Barb (Shannon Purser) didn't survive her time in the Upside Down, but Hopper is able to resuscitate Will in the library. After hiding as Joyce told him to, he survives and finally makes his way home, but not without a slithering vine growing through his mouth and the Upside Down version of Castle Byers getting destroyed.

The ending isn't entirely a happy one for everybody. Mike loses Eleven after she momentarily defeats the Demogorgon but is taken into the Upside Down with it. Meanwhile, Will, who isn't exactly the same kid he once was, coughs up a tentacle in the bathroom. Given the scope of how bad Will's life is immediately before and after this moment, we'll chalk it up to being a good episode for the youngster, since he won't be able to catch a break for another season or so.

Worst: The Pollywog (Season 2, Episode 3)

Season 2 of "Stranger Things" doesn't necessarily get off to a good start for Will Byers. Pretty early on, when he's playing at the arcade with Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, we learn that he's having disastrous visions of the Upside Down. In Episode 3, "The Pollywog," those visions come to a head when a large, spider-like monster of sentient dust attacks Will and possesses his body.

It's a bummer to see Will go from having his life wrecked in an alternate dimension to having it wrecked at home. For the first two episodes of the season, he'd been outrunning the visions that plagued him. But, on the advice of his mom's boyfriend Bob (Sean Astin), he conjures up the courage to stand up to the demons stalking him. Unfortunately, standing your ground doesn't work against a creature that can travel across parallel universes. We won't hold it against Bob, though, since he never fully understood the reality of Will's fears. The end result, however, is grim, as the Mind Flayer enters Will's body and puts him in an unshakable trance.

Best: The Mind Flayer (Season 2, Episode 8)

Before "Stranger Things" Season 3, many of Will Byers' best moments come when he's communicating with loved ones during unbelievable circumstances. In Season 1, he talks to his mom through Christmas lights. In Season 2, he delivers messages through morse code — a complicated upgrade that the rest of the group has to decipher in real-time.

After the Mind Flayer possesses Will, it's revealed that the monster is using him as a spy in the real world. While the rest of the group is trying to evade the "Demodogs" that are hunting them, the Mind Flayer uses Will to get their location. In response, they disguise the Byers' shed to buy themselves some time, stop the Mind Flayer, and free Will. Mike, Jonathan, and Joyce remind him of their best memories together, slowly bringing the real Will back into his own body. This lets him use Morse code to deliver a singular message: CLOSE GATE. They then keep him unconscious with sedatives from Hawkins Lab, which help to keep the Demodogs away.

It's not the greatest moment for Will, as he's possessed and tortured internally by a great force he can't control. However, seeing him register emotions behind the hold of the Mind Flayer as his best friend, brother, and mom recount happier times, is a bright spot in his story. Things get worse quickly, but at least we'll always have those 10 heartwarming minutes in the shed.

Worst: Dig Dug (Season 2, Episode 5)

"Dig Dug" is one of the hardest episodes of "Stranger Things" for Will, as he tells Mike that he can feel a deep, terrifying connection to the Mind Flayer. He can see everything the monster does, both in their world and the Upside Down. Mike naively tells Will that it's a good thing, and that he can be their spy against the monster, but the inverse happens. Will becomes the Mind Flayer's spy against the people of Hawkins.

While Hopper is stuck in the tunnels of the Upside Down, Will feverishly draws where the sheriff is trapped, producing a lot of drawings of blue tubes. Will's creation isn't just that, however, as Bob deduces that all of it is a map of Hawkins, linking the proximity of the Upside Down to the small Indiana town.

The drawings are cool, and they mark a great moment for Will, but the worst is yet to come for him in Season 2. Major kudos need to be given to Schnapp for his sinister, electric performance here. The young actor truly strikes fear into audiences with his physical acting as the Mind Flayer ravages his inner soul.

Best: The Sauna Test (Season 3, Episode 4)

For a brief moment in "Stranger Things" Season 3, Will's connection to the Mind Flayer actually becomes useful instead of just annoying. In "The Sauna Test," the party uses Will's ability to connect with the Mind Flayer to lure a "flayed" Billy (Dacre Montgomery) into a trap. It's also Will's past — specifically when his mom and brother overheated his body to expunge the Mind Flayer from within him — that inspires the gang to do the same thing to Billy, hoping he can be saved.

In a season that largely puts Will on the back burner, it's refreshing to see his past factor into the present. Sometimes, the show almost seems to forget all of the traumatic events he's been through and how strong he is. Luckily, Will gets a real moment in the sun here, acting as a spy for the party while Billy lurks around the Hawkins pool. He watches Eleven fight Billy in the sauna and makes it out unscathed.

Worst: The Gate (Season 2, Episode 9)

In one of the most uncomfortable sequences of "Stranger Things," the gang discovers that the only way to exorcize the Mind Flayer from Will's body is to purge it with heat, as the monster "likes it cold." What transpires is Jonathan, Nancy, and Joyce taking Will to Hopper's cabin and turning on every possible space heater and furnace they own, effectively burning the monster out of his body before Eleven can close the Upside Down's gate.

There's a caveat to this expedition, as Jonathan, Nancy, and Joyce must get the Mind Flayer out of Will before the gate is closed. If they fail to do that, Will dies, because the Mind Flayer is controlling him. Luckily, the heaters work and Will is saved again, just in the nick of time.

The ending of Season 2, when Will gets to dance at the Snow Ball, isn't joyful enough to undo the absolutely gruesome and uncomfortable scene in Hopper's cabin. We'll never know how close to death Will was in that moment, but if Jonathan's exasperated concerns for his brother's well-being are any accurate indication, it was a close call. Luckily for Will, Season 3 is much more favorable for him, though his life remains far from easy.

Best: The Battle of Starcourt (Season 3, Episode 8)

When it comes to the conflict in "Stranger Things" Season 3, Will doesn't have too big of a role, save for some telepathic connections to the Mind Flayer rearing its head again. What makes "The Battle of Starcourt" so good for him, however, is how he makes it through the episode unscathed. He's protected by Eleven and even gets in on the action of chucking fireworks at the Mind Flayer in the Starcourt Mall. For the first time, it's the other characters who are in much graver danger.

Maybe the best part of "The Battle of Starcourt" for Will, however, comes at the end, when he's given the chance to start over with his mom and brother. The Byers and Eleven move away from Hawkins, heading off to California to get a second chance on a life upended by mystical forces. Hopper is presumed dead, the city is ravaged by conspiracies of Satanism, and the mysteries surrounding Hawkins Lab still haunt the town.

At the start of Season 3, the future is uncertain for Will. But by its end, the pieces seem to finally be falling into place. His family grows by one, albeit because of unfortunate circumstances, and he's able to get away from the place that wrecked his childhood. Leaving his friends isn't easy, but he deserves greener pastures after almost dying three times.

Worst: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard (Season 3, Episode 3)

It wouldn't be a "Stranger Things" season without Will Byer having at least one traumatic moment, whether it be emotional or physical. In "The Case of the Missing Lifeguard," it's purely emotional, as Will has to come to terms with his friends outgrowing the things he still loves, like Dungeons & Dragons and comic books.

For the first three episodes of Season 3, all Will wants to do is play D&D with Mike, Dustin, and Lucas. The only problem is that Dustin is trying to decipher secret Russian codes with Steve and Robin (Maya Hawke), while Mike and Lucas are too caught up in their own relationships with Eleven and Max (Sadie Sink) to humor Will and his proclaimed "day free of girls."

When Mike and Lucas purposefully kill themselves in Will's campaign so it can end, Will storms away, riding his bike home to Castle Byers in a torrential downpour. In a scene fused with montages of his best moments with his friends, Will destroys Castle Byers in a fit of rage. Adding insult to injury, when Mike and Lucas arrive at the fort, the hairs on Will's neck stand up, and he tells them that the Mind Flayer has returned.

Best: Dear Billy (Season 4, Episode 4)

"Dear Billy" isn't a fantastic episode for Will, but those are hard to come by in the timeline of "Stranger Things." Instead, it's pretty average. Mike, visiting California to spend spring break at the Byers' house, is plagued with guilt after fighting with Eleven before she goes on her journey to reactivate her powers. With Jonathan, Will, and Mike all in danger, and Eleven at a secret location, Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) deploys two of his agents to California to protect the boys. The plan to stay put while Hawkins is in danger doesn't sit well with them, so they hatch a plan to escape and get help.

The best part of the episode for Will comes when he and Mike are in his bedroom and Mike is lamenting about how he and Eleven left things. Will assumes a brotherly role by telling Mike that Eleven will be fine, saying that they need to shift their focus to their friends back home. After a period of awkwardness during the previous two episodes, Mike and Will finally get back into their lifelong bond — a friendship that acts as the heart and soul of much of the first two seasons.

It's always good to see Mike and Will having a good time, even if it's in the face of immense, traumatic chaos. They're always saving each other in some form or another, and at the heart of "Stranger Things" Season 4, their friendship shines brighter than ever.

Worst: Papa (Season 4, Episode 8)

When Jonathan, Argyle (Eduardo Franco), Mike, and Will are searching for Eleven in the "Stranger Things" Season 4 episode "Papa," Will and Mike share a heartfelt moment in the backseat. Mike openly worries that Eleven won't need him anymore if she gets her powers back, and Will tries to offer some guidance.

For most of the season, Will has been carrying around a rolled-up painting. Seeing Mike's distress, he finally reveals the picture, which is of Mike, Will, Dustin, and Lucas in a Dungeons & Dragons scene, fighting against a powerful dragon. The real kicker comes when Will reassures Mike that he's the heart of their party, and that without him, they'd never succeed — even Eleven.

The entire monologue is a pretty clear metaphor for Will's own feelings, as he fears that he's been pushing Mike away because he's afraid of losing him. In an interview with Variety, Noah Schnapp claimed that Will is gay in the show — something that's been heavily alluded to but never confirmed — and that he "does love Mike." In this scene, it's clear that he feels like he can't truly express his real feelings to his best friend yet, whatever they may be exactly. When Jonathan looks back at his brother through the rearview window, you might catch your heart breaking for Will.

Best: The Piggyback (Season 4, Episode 9)

Jonathan's presence in "Stranger Things" Season 4 is a bit reduced. He's easily at his best in the series when he's with his partner-in-crime Nancy, but that doesn't mean the small moments he shares with his little brother aren't just as great. Throughout Season 4, Will clearly needs someone to see him and love him for who he truly is, and fortunately, his big bro is there to do just that.

Jonathan heeds the call at a Surfer Boy Pizza when he notices Will sadly observing Mike and Eleven flirting. He notices his younger brother's emotions and tries his best to comfort him. Jonathan asks Will if he remembers when he was young and got a Lego stuck up his nose. He then pivots and becomes vulnerable, talking about how much he misses when his brother used to ask him for help. He apologizes for being distant lately and reiterates how much he cares for Will.

Perhaps the sweetest gesture of all comes immediately after, when Jonathan tells Will that he'll always love him no matter what. It's a beautiful moment between the brothers after four seasons of Will really going through it. Jonathan reassures his brother that he'll always be right by his side, and they bring it in for a heartwarming embrace.