Stranger Things makes it clear from day one that there’s something worth rooting for in Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper. It starts their dynamic through hesitancies without diving too deep into their history, and then it slowly establishes that what’s beneath the surface are two broken people who could find a type of comfort in each other that’s missing everywhere else. Season 2 slowly brings some of their histories to the shore, telling us where they’d once share cigarettes behind bleachers—today, they’re the partners in crime they never imagined they’d be. And it all happens when they quietly begin sharing their heartaches, sitting beside one another in times of need to provide the reassurance only their presence could.
Season 3 of the series finally ended with Joyce formally accepting Hopper’s invite to dinner, only to have him “die” in saving them all. In what resulted in the moment we’d all been waiting for, promises instead lingered in the embers of an explosion’s fire, and distance halted their plans. But Stranger Things Season 4 wasn’t going to end Volume 1 without at least reuniting the couple, bringing them close in a kind of hug that likely made every heart squeal or somersault.
The show feels complete again when Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper reunite. And though the two share zero dialogue from the moment they see each other, nothing is more apparent than the detail that though miles away, they’re home now—safe in each other’s arms, content and okay, no matter what comes their way.
Where the music goes at that moment and how Winona Ryder holds nothing back in her tearful walk towards him is everything we need to direct us towards how much grief she’s silently worked through even while she was staying strong for the kids. It’s subtle in execution but profoundly impactful in illuminating how intensely they missed each other.
Through a quick, effortlessly soft smile, David Harbour shows us much of Hopper’s heart and how it’s finally beating again. This is the moment where it becomes clear to him that he’s far from the curse he believes himself to be, but instead, he’s a man worth fighting for. He’s worth Joyce Byers traveling miles away from home to rescue him.
It’s the brief separation to look into each other’s eyes and take in every ounce of the other person’s being—to believe that this is, in fact, real and not a dream. It’s a moment to forget the chaos outside and the trials they’re going to face while taking each other in and holding on tighter than they ever have. They know the weight of loss, and they especially know what it’s like to be separated from each other, leading to a moment where they silently promise that this is the last time something like this would ever happen. This is the last of their time apart, and no matter how the series ends, it’s almost safe to be confident in the fact that they’re going out of whatever trenches they fall into together.
Now streaming on Netflix: What are your thoughts on Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper’s reunion hug? Come cry with us in the comments below.