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Why Joyce Leaving For Russia In Stranger Things Season 4 Makes No Sense

"Stranger Things" Season 4 boasts a cast of fan-favorite characters undertaking separate journeys that, ultimately, lead to the same destination. For Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), that means teaming up with Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) to rescue Jim Hopper (David Harbour) from a Russian prison camp.

Hopper and Joyce share a will-they-won't-they relationship throughout the majority of the first three seasons of the Netflix series, but after Murray lays out the truth for them, the couple promises to finally go out on a date while infiltrating the Russian base beneath Starcourt Mall. While Hopper seemingly perishes during the destruction of the gate, Joyce learns of his survival early in Season 4, leading to her adventure in Russia with Murray.

Eventually, Hopper and Joyce reunite after a long and arduous journey. And while fans were overjoyed by the conclusion to their season-long arc, some are still scratching their heads over the nonsensical circumstances of their reunion.

Joyce leaving her family to go to Russia makes no sense

Fans first meet Joyce in Season 1 as she fights to find her missing son, Will (Noah Schnapp), while most of Hawkins believes he is dead. With Hopper's help, Joyce rescues Will from the Upside Down. In Season 2, she rescues him again when he is possessed by the Mind Flayer. In Season 3, the matriarch is on a mission of her own investigating the disturbance caused by the secret Russian base beneath Starcourt Mall while still working to protect her family.

In Season 4, however, Joyce abandons her family entirely, which can be seen as a failure of her character. This is the same Joyce who journeyed into the Upside Down to rescue her son after standing against an entire town doubting her (including her other son, Jonathan, played by Charlie Heaton). When it comes to her family, Joyce has no problem facing interdimensional monsters or government officials. So why would she leave her children — including Eleven, who needs a parental figure now more than ever — to go to Russia on the chance that she would be reunited with Hopper?

Not only that, but it also seems fairly obvious that Joyce is walking into a trap. A more logical (and in-character) decision may have been for her to contact Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser), a trusted government representative with the power to investigate Hopper's status, rather than gamble her life and potentially leave her children without a parent to care for them.

Joyce feels somewhat responsible for Hopper's death

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, Winona Ryder expressed, "Everything [in 'Stranger Things'] is driven by love and survival." Joyce's motivations in leaving her family certainly stem from her love for Hopper, as well as her faith in Murray. "I [Joyce] trust [Murray] with all of this stuff," revealed Ryder. 

Joyce's trust in Murray pays off, as do Murray's karate lessons. But ultimately, her decision to leave for Russia can be seen as guilt for her role in Hopper's apparent death. "I always feel that I'm [Joyce] somewhat responsible because [Joyce] was the one who ..." Ryder trailed off, gesturing the act of turning a key.

Indeed, it is Joyce who turns the key that causes the machine keeping the gate to the Upside Down beneath Starcourt open to explode in the Season 3 finale, seemingly vaporizing Hopper, who is standing next to it. Joyce's actions in Season 4 can therefore be understood as her needing to assuage her guilt and give Eleven a father again since she believes she is responsible for Eleven losing her adoptive father in the first place.