Will Byers has had a rough childhood. Through two seasons of Stranger Things, the Duffer brothers have found myriad ways to torture him. Heading into the much-anticipated release of Season 3 on Independence Day, Will could really use a break. And we may finally get to see a world where he isn’t The (Unluckiest) Boy Who Lived.
Within the opening moments of the Netflix series’ premiere, Will is trembling in a shed behind his house, aiming a gun at the door in anticipation of a monster chasing after him. He’s abducted and brought to the toxic world of the Upside Down, where he’s all alone and running away in perpetual fear of being devoured by the Demogorgon. Even Barb, who was memed into oblivion and somehow earned an Emmy nomination for it, lasted only minutes in the alternate dimension before the monster ended her suffering. Will is trapped there for a whole week. I mean, just look at the state he’s in when his mom and Chief Hopper find him:
That’s a massive tendril being yanked out of his throat like a clown’s never-ending handkerchief. And all of this is just Season 1.
In the next season, Will is treated like even more of an outcast at school than he was before being abducted, earning the nickname “Zombie Boy” after many of the other Hawkins students attended his funeral and never learned the truth behind his mysterious disappearance. He suffers from what the doctors of Hawkins Lab diagnose as PTSD, but in reality the traumatic episodes that Will experiences are real-time moments when he briefly switches dimensions to face a massive smoke monster that the gang dubs the “Mind Flayer.” And after listening to some terrible advice from the unsuspecting Bob Newby (no disrespect to the GOAT, may he rest in peace), Will gets taken over by the Mind Flayer and is used as a spy for the majority of the season. He slowly starts to forget things, until his family straps him down and essentially burns the Mind Flayer’s virus out of him in the season finale.
All of this recapping is to say, it’s about damn time the Duffer brothers let my guy Will live his life. Possibly the only good thing to happen to this poor kid up to this point is getting asked by some random girl to dance at the Snow Ball in Season 2’s closing moments—and even then she called him “Zombie Boy.” But after being the series’ punching bag through 17 episodes, it’s thankfully time for a change.
Producer Shawn Levy revealed to Glamour last year: “We’re going to give Will a break. We’re not going to put Will through hell for a third season in a row. He’ll be dealing with stuff, but he won’t be at rock bottom the way we forced the amazing Noah Schnapp to play.”
Hallelujah! But now that that’s settled, what will Stranger Things look like without a central plot revolving around saving Will Byers? What will Will’s role be now that he’ll be able to fight the Mind Flayer alongside his friends in the human realm? And what will his mother, Joyce, do with all her extra free time now that her son isn’t being abducted by a supernatural being?
Even when Will was offscreen for the vast majority of the first season, he was still responsible for driving the plot forward as his friends and family relentlessly searched for him. And despite not having full control of either his mind or body for much of Season 2, Will eventually figures out a way to use his connection with the Mind Flayer to help save Hawkins. Whether he’s onscreen or not or an empty vessel possessed by a being from an alternate dimension, Will the Wise has always found a way to bridge the gap between the two realms and figure out how to help prevent the Upside Down from tearing his town apart.
In the final trailer for Season 3, we see that Will still has some type of connection to the Upside Down, and potentially the Mind Flayer, as he grabs his neck—not once, but twice!—in what appears to be some sort of reaction to something happening beyond the natural world (or maybe it’s just a puberty thing, I don’t know). But more decisively, he says of the Mind Flayer: “What if he never left? What if we locked him out here with us? He’d want to attach himself to someone again.”
Will likely still possesses “True Sight”—one of the series’ many borrowed Dungeons & Dragons terms—which allows him to see brief visions of the Upside Down. If so, he would find himself with abilities shared only by the clairvoyant Eleven, capable of looking beyond the human realm in order to provide insight into the Mind Flayer’s impending attack on Hawkins. At the very least, Will is shooting 1-for-1 based on the latest trailer, as it’s evident that the Smoke Monster attaches itself to Billy to serve as his new host.
For the first time, Will is (hopefully) going to be in Hawkins for an entire season in both body and soul, free of the Mind Flayer’s possession. He’ll have the chance to properly meet both Eleven and Max, and finally be reunited with Mike, Lucas, and Dustin. Obviously, Season 3 of Stranger Things won’t exactly be the pleasant summer vacation that any of the Hawkins kids want and deserve after all the hell they’ve been through, but their ever-growing party is better prepared to take on the forces of the Upside Down than ever before. And though he doesn’t have all of Eleven’s telekinetic abilities and is otherwise probably useless in a fight, Will’s True Sight will be invaluable in stopping the Mind Flayer, as the gang’s problems appear to be expanding beyond the scope of small-town Hawkins. At least this time, Will won’t be facing them alone.