Stranger Things Season 4: An Ode To Eddie Munson
This post contains spoilers for both parts of Stranger Things Season 4.
From the moment Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) burst onto the screen playfully mimicking devils’ ears in the Hawkins High cafeteria, it was clear he would have an impact. Competition is stiff given how many beloved characters there are, but Stranger Things has a strong track record of introducing new figures that the group (and us) immediately embrace. As with Max (Sadie Sink) and Robin (Maya Hawke), it is now hard to imagine a time when Eddie wasn’t part of the team. Unlike Max and Robin, he doesn’t survive his first battle, and his heroic death hits hard in the Season 4 finale.
Eddie joins Barb (Shanon Purser), Bob (Sean Astin), and Billy (Dacre Montgomery) on the nearest and dearest departed list — they sure like to off people whose name begins with a B. It is hardly surprising the death toll continues to rise, considering monsters keep attacking the once sleepy Indiana town. Killing audience favorites is inevitable in a landscape filled with this much peril, although the Duffer brothers couldn’t have known how much the metalhead misfit would resonate when they shot the finale.
In a short time, Eddie went from the Hellfire Club’s Dungeon Master to fighting a swarm of actual demobats in the Upside Down. Throughout all nine episodes, Quinn has captured Eddie’s contradictions, including how his gregarious personality clashes with his newfound belief that he is a coward. It hardly seems fair that he won’t be around to fight Vecna in the final season, but Eddie more than made his mark.
Long before video games were blamed for instigating real-life violence, Dungeons & Dragons were cited in court as a motive for murder. In the premiere, Eddie’s dramatic reading of a Newsweek article that warns of the D&D dangers is not fiction invented for the series — though it should be noted that the article appeared the year before. The Duffers have drawn on other 1980s geopolitical and cultural events, so it only makes sense that the Satanic Panic swirling around this game would eventually play a role. Eddie wears his “freak” badge proudly, and his cafeteria table walk reinforces how little regard he has for the opinions of the popular cliques. This mindset makes this character a joy to watch, but it also turns him into an easy scapegoat when cheerleader Chrissy (Grace Van Dien) is found dead in his uncle’s trailer.
It would be easy for this new character to retrace the same moody steps as Billy or be a Bizarro World Steve. Elsewhere, Eleven’s (Millie Bobby Brown) bullies in California or basketball douche Jason (Mason Dye) highlight a tendency to lean hard into ‘80s teen movie clichés. No one is writing odes to any of those figures. Thankfully, Eddie is cut from a different cloth. Yes, he does circle the drug dealer with a heart of gold archetype, but there is more to him than being a misunderstood outcast. Eddie is no lone wolf, and his friendships reveal it is silly to assume that his metal aesthetic is a gateway to devil worship. Take his conversation with Chrissy in the woods in “The Hellfire Club” when his goofy antics make her laugh, temporarily breaking Vecna’s grip. His kindness (and her acceptance) goes against the way these interactions typically fare. Chrissy doesn’t pull the mean girl cheerleader act, and he offers empathy and a potential pharmaceutical solution without judgment. Unfortunately, this conversation leads to Chrissy’s late-night visit to his uncle’s trailer, leading to the accusation of murder, followed by the teenager being blamed for everything that hits the town in the finale.
Living Out His Metal Dreams
Over the excessive two-and-a-half-hour runtime — seriously, there is no reason they couldn’t chop this into smaller TV-sized installments — several standout moments do enter the Stranger Things hall of fame. Near the top of that list is Eddie Munson playing like his life depends on it (because it does) and ensuring that Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” gets a similar streaming bump as Kate Bush did. Eddie and Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) act as bait to lure the demobats away from Vecna’s attic lair, and what better way to draw attention than “the most metal concert in the history of the world?”
Stranger Things 4 Volume 2: First Look Images
It is a solid use of Eddie’s skillset, and his guitar shredding amid this nightmarish setting would impress his idols. Dustin is in awe and can’t stop smiling as Eddie thrashes those strings — despite the hairy predicament. Eddie has never looked more in his element, and for this brief window, before the terrifying bats reach them, it is a dream come true. Quinn nails the enthusiastic headbanging, guitar solo intensity, and rock star poses. Dustin is right when he labels this “most metal ever,” and along with “Running Up That Hill,” Season 5 will have to go some ways to outdo this musical moment. Even this sequence is an emotional roller coaster anchored by Quinn. From the poignant “Chrissy, this is for you” dedication to the overwhelming giddiness when the duo has achieved their mission.
Eddie’s Heroic Death
Okay, everything is going to plan, but of course, the post “Master of Puppets” performance afterglow can only last for so long, and those pesky bats are persistent. Before the gang returns to the Upside Down, there is a lot of foreshadowing regarding which character would bite it. My money was on Steve (Joe Keery) because he keeps talking about the future, but Eddie’s name was added to the RIP speculation list when he had a serious moment with Dustin in Episode 8. Mid-wrestle, Eddie implores Dustin to “never change,” and how he flips from high-spirited to serious suggests he is not long for this world. It is also significant that regret and a desire to be redeemed inform his every move.
Eddie’s arc has been dominated by what he deems cowardice. “Outside of D&D, I’m no hero. I see danger, and I just turn heel and run,” he tells Steve in Episode 7. Considering what Eddie witnessed when Vecna killed Chrissy, it is easy to understand why he fled. The town has brandished him a murder, but Eddie is already punishing himself for something he could not have prevented. Despite assuring Steve there will be no attempts at heroics, it comes as no surprise when rather than retreating, Eddie directly faces the demobats with his makeshift shield and spear. He doesn’t stand a chance but does so anyway, and the people of Hawkins do not deserve Eddie’s sacrifice, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I didn’t run away this time, right?” he asks, but his bloody body already answered the question. No, you can’t see the screen because you’re crying. As if we weren’t all already sobbing, Quinn’s final delivery, coupled with the tears that fall from his eyes, is a gut punch. This selfless act proves Eddie has as much heart and bravery as the rest of the Stranger Things squad.
His Friendship with Dustin
If you had told me at the start of Season 4 that there would be a friendship that rivals the brilliance of the Steve/Dustin dynamic, I would’ve raised a dubious eyebrow. Boy, would that eyebrow have been proved wrong. The thread of Steve and Eddie being jealous of the other is hilarious and wonderful, addressed during their heart-to-heart in Episode 7. Eddie isn’t a Steve replacement but a welcome addition to the Dustin bestie circle. It also becomes clear the instant Eddie dies in Dustin’s arms that Steve is going to survive because there is no way Dustin or the audience deserves to lose both older brother figures.
Dustin is the one person who defends Eddie when everyone initially believes he killed Chrissy. He continues to beat the innocent drum after Eddie has been declared missing and presumed dead. Only a handful of people know the sacrifice that the Hellfire Club founder made, and while the media is brandishing him as a villain, Eddie dies knowing he made a difference. “I love you too,” is the last thing Dustin says before his friend succumbs to the many demobat bites — shout out to Matarazzo, who also adds to this tearjerker.
“Even in the end, he never stopped being Eddie. Despite everything,” is a lovely, heartfelt (and heartbreaking) eulogy for a man that saved Hawkins (or at least semi-saved), and Dustin’s ode is impossible to top.