Dear Eddie Munson...
[This article contains spoilers for "Stranger Things 4", Volume 2, Episode 9, Verse 6, so viewer discretion is advised!]
This is for you, Eddie.
We are gathered here today to mourn the passing of a great television character. From the moment Eddie Munson stood atop a table in the Hawkins High Cafeteria and delivered his State of the Union in regards to Dungeons & Dragons and how the world reacts to those who participate in such role-playing activities, he captured the hearts of his younglings and millions of "Stranger Things" fans everywhere.
It was also in that moment that a bright,shiny bullseye was painted on his forehead, for, alas, Eddie Munson belongs to a proud but very dead group of characters that seem to pop up during every season of "Stranger Things".
The one thing that "Stranger Things" does not lack is humanity. At the end of the day, it is very much a character-driven show, with the Upside Down and all the creepy crawlies that inhabit it being the spooky icing on the cake. It didn’t take long for audiences to become attached to our core cast, and as such, the fear of losing any one of them became very real. But a show has to have stakes, or why will anyone care? If there’s no threat then there’s no tension, and without tension, you have a very lovely show about sweet people who meet a waffle addict with magical powers. No, death is important to the show, but this leads to another fear, and this is one felt by the showrunners themselves: Can you kill off a beloved main character without alienating or ticking off part of your fanbase? Why, absolutely you can! The Brothers Duffer can have their cake and eat it too thanks to their version of the Red Shirt.
So, in "Star Trek: The Original Series", nearly every episode featured the crew of The Enterprise (NCC-1701) beaming down onto a strange planet where they are met by aliens that immediately try to murder them. The main crew is rarely ever harmed (it would be an even shorter series if they were), but the threat needs to be real, so nameless crewmen are killed in their place and all of those ill-fated crewmen wore red shirts. So, Duffers Inc. has essentially taken the same technique but camouflaged it with warm and witty writing. Nobody ever cared about a Red Shirt on "Star Trek", but we all cared about Barb (R.I.P., Season 1), Bob (R.I.P., Season 2), Alexei (R.I.P., Season 3), and, of course, Eddie. So with this technique in place, the show’s various conflicts can continue to have teeth and we can have our heartstrings pulled without getting to angry or upset. Win/win?
Well, maybe not this time. Barb, Alexei, and Bob were sweet characters whose deaths did affect our leads on an emotional level, but ultimately they were never that important to the story. Even lovable Bob didn’t necessarily need to exist for Joyce to eventually take comfort in Hopper’s warm embrace and bitchin’ mustache. Flowers along the path, sure, but the path was always going to be there. Eddie, however, was a bit of an outlier. His character was actually necessary to the plot because, without it, you wouldn’t have the “small town paranoia” angle, nor would you have the angry jock hunters tooling about, which actually gave Lucas an interesting conflict early on in the series. So, this particular Red Shirt is more than just window dressing, and as such, there’s a bit more anger surrounding his untimely demise. He very quickly became just as lovable as any of our core characters, and this is in large part thanks to Joseph Quinn absolutely knocking this performance out the park. On paper, Eddie’s character is cute (and also potentially annoying), but in action, he quickly overshadowed some of the longtime players on the show. I don’t think Duffer 1 & Duffer 2 counted on that which makes his death all the more aggravating, because it ultimately didn’t mean much.
Eddie’s decision to sacrifice himself to [checks notes] buy the team more time is pretty thin in terms of storytelling, but even if we put that aside, once the deed is done, nobody seems to care that he’s gone other than Dusty-Buns and Eddie’s uncle. It is super sweet that Dustin decides to tell Eddie’s uncle that Eddie was a hero and not a minion of Satan. Thank goodness Eddie’s uncle didn’t start pestering Dustin with absurd questions like, “Where is the body of my nephew?”, or “How do you know how he died?” That would have been reeeaaallly awkward. So, nobody cares that Eddie is gone except two people in the world of the show and millions of fans outside of the show.
Give Eddie back to us. It’s a simple request. They leave him in the Upside Down, but he’s not actually dead but only mostly dead. In fact, he’s getting better and could pull through. Maybe Vecna finds him and we get Evil Eddie for a spell before his Dungeons & Dragons crew have to bring him into the light again. And even of you do find it necessary to kill him off again, in this brilliant scenario that I have concocted and will absolutely accept screenwriting credit for, this time make the death count. You cannot introduce an insanely likable character, have that character be an intricate cog in the machinery of the story, and then simply kill him off after he performs a metal guitar solo in the middle of The Upside Down, which is clearly THE moment this entire series has been leading up to. You just can’t. It’s like… illegal or something.
Anywhoo, "Stranger Things" has enough money in the bank to overcome this little hiccup, and I along with millions of sad Eddie stans everywhere will be tuning in sometime during 2024 when "Things That Are Stranger" appears for a 5th and final time. However, unlike 99% of the main cast, we will not forget Eddie Munson and all that he did for Hawkins and untold scores of Dungeons & Dragons fans everywhere.
Rock on, Eddie Munson, wherever you are.