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We Need to Talk About Bob

A brief ode to the underrated hero of ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2

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Here are some things about Stranger Things’ Bob Newby (played by Sean Astin) that I assume are true:

  • He never understood the term “dad joke,” because all of his jokes were inherently dad jokes—even when he was a little kid.
  • He funneled a beer once and decided it was not for him.
  • He loved working at Radio Shack, because at Radio Shack the other employees knew some things about electronics, but not all of the things like him, and so he could literally call himself “Bob the Brain” and no one would call him out.
  • He would’ve beaten Dragon’s Lair at the Hawkins arcade.
  • He talked about growing up in Maine in the ’50s and being terrified by a clown, but he was actually admitting that Stephen King based the novel It on his childhood experiences.
  • He thought splurging was ordering takeout from his favorite Italian restaurant once a week.
  • He loved bottle rockets.
  • He wore pajamas; like the serious, button-down kind.
  • He nicknamed every car he ever owned “the Bob-mobile.”
  • He ironed his clothes while rewatching old episodes of The Twilight Zone.
  • He was always a bit extra on Halloween.
  • He loved Star Wars: A New Hope (he liked Empire Strikes Back, but it was too dark for his taste).
  • He was too good for this world.

OK, I made those things up, but the last one is undeniably true. If you’ve finished the second season of Stranger Things—and if you haven’t, stop frickin’ reading this, dude—then you know that the story of Bob (alternate title: This Is Bob) was an emotional roller coaster. He didn’t get off to the best start—we first met him in a storage closet during an objectively awkward makeout session with Joyce Byers. He was a total dork; and at first, not in an endearing way. He said “easy peasy” too much. He also gave bad advice, like when he told Will that all he had to do was confront his fears, which led to Will getting possessed by an interdimensional shadow monster.

Not great, Bob!

But over the course of the season, Bob became a surprising beacon of lovable goodness, while also proving himself to be extremely useful. For starters, he solved the vague puzzle of Will’s drawings, almost immediately recognizing that the scribblings were of a complex tunnel system running underneath Hawkins. Right away, he figured out how to scale the tunnel system so that it corresponded to a map of Hawkins, even though the drawings were splayed across about six rooms. Bob did all this without knowing any of the strange things that were happening in Hawkins; he just went with the flow, even if that flow was “my girlfriend’s traumatized son just drew on 200 pieces of paper and, by the way, monsters are real.” This feat of Einstein-level genius literally saved Chief Hopper’s life.

Episodes later, Bob leapt back into action once more when he, Joyce, Will, Mike, Hopper, and Paul Reiser in a lab coat were trapped and surrounded by supernatural demon dogs. You’d expect Hopper to save the day here, but instead, Bob was the hero.

No questions asked—reminder, he’s only been dating Joyce for less than a year—he volunteered to traverse the bloody, corpse-filled corridors of Hawkins Lab, down into the building’s basement. That’s where he turned the power back on, because as it turns out, Bob is also a computer whiz who knows BASIC programming and can hack into a super-secret government facility with ease.

And then Bob died.

He probably shouldn’t have done the classic horror movie thing where someone pauses in the middle of the action to smile at a love interest, who’s so close. That was the dumbest thing the very smart Bob did.

It’s not the fate Bob deserved, but Stranger Things is an occasionally cruel show—I’m sure you remember a character named Barb from Season 1. However, unlike Barb, Bob was actually integral to the plot. If it wasn’t for him, Hopper would’ve died in the Upside Down’s tunnels, no one would’ve escaped Hawkins Lab, no one would’ve ever figured out how to plug a camcorder into a TV set, and Joyce would have never had delicious baloney sandwiches for lunch.

Bob was a lovable dweeb, the latest in a long line for actor Sean Astin, who has single-handedly assembled a Mount Rushmore of lovable dweebs: Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings, Rudy Ruettiger in Rudy, and now Bob. I already miss him so much. Maybe the internet can get him an Emmy nomination, too. I mean ...