“One of the biggest things that changed from script to show was Steve’s character, who was originally supposed to die,” Natalia Dyer revealed in a 2017 video. Stranger Things cocreator Ross Duffer then echoed that statement in the same clip: “Steve started to change the second we cast Joe Keery because that is not how we were envisioning Steve at all—he was just sort of this asshole jock.”
That’s great news for Steve Harrington; it’s not so great news for Billy Hargrove.
You see, Billy (played deliciously campy by a crustachioed Dacre Montgomery) came into Stranger Things in Season 2 with the clear purpose of being Über Steve Harrington; he was meaner, he was cooler, he was more dangerous, he was even better at basketball:
As Steve himself relinquished his high school throne so that he could become a decent person/glorified babysitter, Billy stepped in as the show’s human villain, terrorizing Hawkins—and demolishing keg stands—while the show’s more supernatural enemies lurked in the Upside Down. He also came dangerously close to hooking up with Mike’s mom, which would have been messed up for multiple reasons. And sure, the guy had some deep-seated issues stemming from his relationship with his father—the behavior of bullies is often learned—but that revelation didn’t elicit much sympathy when Billy beat Steve to within an inch of his life in the Season 2 finale.
When we last saw Billy in Season 2, he had been vanquished—or at least quelled. As his sister Max held a nail-studded bat between his legs, he promised to stop being such a jerk. Whether he adheres to that promise when Season 3 premieres on July 4 is a whole nother question; in preview clips, he’s still strutting around like the living embodiment of Billy Squier’s “The Stroke”:
And as a lifeguard at the Hawkins public pool (a perfect summer job for a teen villain), he’s still coming dangerously close to hooking up with Mike’s mom.
(Mike’s mom, maybe it’s time to have a serious talk with your often-napping husband about how he’s not meeting your needs. It’s definitely time to stop entertaining the idea of having sex with a teenager. I get that he kind of has a mustache, but any relations would certainly be frowned upon by the state of Indiana.)
The thing is, as Replacement Steve, it feels like Billy has only one fate. The Duffers saved one asshole jock, and the Upside Down requires a sacrifice—that sacrifice must be Billy, another asshole jock. He took over Steve’s original story line, and he’s going to finish it the way it was intended. I’m not jumping off a cliff with this take, by the way—it’s heavily informed by the fact that, in the trailer for Season 3, Billy has a GIGANTIC THING ON HIS ARM:
That seems bad!
The only question that remains is how he’ll go: Will he be given a redemptive arc? Will he break down his walls, show vulnerability, and become an actual brother to Max? Or will he stay an asshole until the end, ripping cigs and punching people right up to the point when the Upside Down claims him for good?
I don’t have those answers. I just hope that, before he goes, he finds an age-appropriate mate.