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Stranger Things “Dear Billy” is a Testament to Friendships and Max Mayfield’s Strength

Stranger Things “Dear Billy” Spoilers Ahead

Sadie Sink as Max Mayfield in STRANGER THINGS "Dear Billy"
Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

Stranger Things Season 4 is a wild, unexplainable ride in more ways than one, but friendships are still the crux of the series, especially in Chapter 4: “Dear Billy,” where Sadie Sink shines brilliantly. Where victims of Vecna aren’t able to avoid their death, Max Mayfield comes close to succumbing but survives by virtue of her favorite song, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” and the friends pushing through for her.

Sadie Sink is the season’s top performer, and this episode showcases all the reasons why. In truth, Billy shouldn’t be canonized, and his father shouldn’t be sympathized with, but Max does so through a series of letters—for no one, ultimately, but herself. If she believes she’s going to die, then she has an advantage no other victim of Vecna’s did—the chance to say goodbye. Except that’s not thankfully not in the cards for her, and the friendships she’s fortified since moving to Hawkins (along with music) prove that there’s strength in the things we choose to love. 

Max doesn’t defeat Vecna, but as the only one who escapes his clutches, she beats him as his own game. She beats him with Robin and Nancy working behind the scenes while Lucas, Dustin, and Steve physically help her through it on sight. In what appears to be her final few moments, Max breaks through, running quickly towards the voices calling to her, giving everything she has to push through the forces that have a hold on her.

I’m still here—three words, but perhaps the most powerful in the entire season. This fight against Vecna isn’t Max’s first combat against darkness; as a victim of verbal abuse (and maybe even physical), Max has fought through more hurdles than any kid should, and as a result, she’s chosen to love harder. She’s chosen to hold onto the people she loves, and she’s chosen to fight for them. She isn’t accepted in the group easily when she comes to Hawkins in Season 2, but Max still tries—she continues giving people the benefit of the doubt, and she continues to try. And the episode’s title is proof of the fact that she’s still here. 

It should’ve been called “Still Here,” but “Dear Billy” holds power differently. In her decision to forgive Billy, she stands firm in keeping his memory alive and hoping that he could’ve had a chance at a proper redemption. Because more than anything, Max forgives, even when people might deserve it. She pushes back when Lucas begs her to let him help her, but she learns to accept its importance when she understands that this fight isn’t one she’s meant to take on alone. There’s no shame in unity—there’s no shame in asking for help. It’s not a weakness but a strength to lean towards the people extending their hands forward, wanting nothing more than to pull you through the ashes. Or, in this case, the open gate. Where she physically rises while cursed, she’s grounded by friendships when she falls. 

Thematically, the episode brilliantly showcases what strength equates to in a world where the powerful and powerless are defined by their physical capabilities. Thus, Max’s power is defined by her endurance, her loyalty, and her heart—the detail that once she decides she cares for someone, she never stops, holding on to the best parts of them even while they step behind the shadows. In more ways than one, this episode highlights Max’s strength by allowing her to see that she is surrounded by people who care for her, and she’s capable of fighting through anything because she’s loved as profoundly in return as she chooses to love others.

Now streaming on Netflix: What are your thoughts on Stranger Things’ “Dear Billy?” Let us know in the comments below.

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Gissane Sophia View All

Gissane (pronounced Geese-enny) or, as people often call her, "Goose," is a Christ fan above all and a romance enthusiast who's taken her Master's degree in English and love for essays into writing lengthy analyses about pop culture.

She is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Marvelous Geeks Media and the co-host of Lady Geeks' Society Podcast. She drinks too much coffee, wants to live in a forest, and cries a lot because of her favorite characters. She's a member of The Cherry Picks and can also be found writing features for Looper.

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