Listen, in this house, we love romance, Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) and Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer). We also love the underrated second chance trope.
That said, it is now hard for us to watch Season 4 of Stranger Things and not want Nancy Wheeler and Steve Harrington to end up together. Throughout the four seasons of Stranger Things, these two have been through incredible growth and insane experiences, making them stronger as individuals. In this essay I will explain why they should be together… Jokes aside, let’s look at the journey these two have been on together and apart.
In the first season, we watch as Nancy and Steve grow closer and enter a relationship. At this point, Steve Harrington was not at his best. He made some decisions that were not great such as standing by while his friend vandalized the marquee of the movie theater with graffiti calling Nancy a slut and getting into a fight with Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton). He also broke Jonathan’s camera after it was revealed that he took photos of Nancy without her consent while she was not fully dressed. It’s imperative to say that I don’t condone him breaking the camera, but I also cannot be too mad about it because that was poorly done on Jonathan’s part, putting it lightly. (Consent is a whole other can of worms we could open with this show.)
Despite the rough patches, they are together again at the end of the season and into Season 2. But much of the rift comes down to the detail that Nancy had a lot of guilt over being with Steve when the Demogorgon took Barbara Holland (Shannon Purser). Her guilt, growth, and feelings for Jonathan Byers ultimately lead to their break up in Season 2. It made sense for Nancy and Jonathan to develop feelings for each other after going through similar situations. Jonathan dealt with Will’s (Noah Schnapp) disappearance as Nancy tried to find Barb, only to discover that she had been killed. At this point, Jonathan understood her more than Steve was able to.
We then learn in Season 3 that Steve no longer has feelings for Nancy. They have both grown so much in their time apart, ultimately proving that they needed to break up. Steve needed to find himself, and while he is still working on that, the growth he experiences has been tremendous for his development. Nancy needed to be with someone that understood and challenged her. As we entered Season 4, Volume 1, things seemed to have aligned differently.
Here we are in Season 4, not so patiently waiting for Volume II, and with the chemistry between Steve and Nancy as well as their situation, well, we can’t help but ship it.
At this point, after everything Steve has been through since their breakup, he has grown into a better person who’s consistently showcasing that he genuinely cares about people. While he is not the brightest and still doesn’t quite know what he wants to do with his life, he is wise in his own right, loyal, and a supportive friend. His friendship with Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke) and Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) shaped him to become more responsible and caring, extending that cautiousness to all the kids.
Nancy’s relationship with Jonathan seems not to be going well since the Byers moved to California. Jonathan even canceled on Nancy when he was supposed to visit her during her spring break because of his fears regarding their relationship and his new desire not go to Emerson with Nancy.
Back in Hawkins, Nancy teams up with Steve, Robin, Dustin, and Max (Sadie Sink). When she sees them get out of the car after Fred Benson (Logan Riley Bruner) is found dead on the road, the relief on her face is clear as day. She has people, familiar with all of the craziness that comes from the upside-down and can understand her concerns without being judged. Steve being the one she knows best and can now certainly count on. (His cautious wave that she returned was what pushed me to fall down this rabbit hole.)
Robin notices that, once again, Steve seems to have eyes only for Nancy. While she and Nancy spilt off from the group it is clear that she too wants Nancy and Steve to get together again. Supporting Steve’s rekindled interest when Nancy helps him get the spider webs out of his hair by giving them a moment alone.
It all comes down to a look. When Nancy stops Steve before he dives into the water looking for the gate and warns him to be careful, there’s more depth here than during their time together in the past. They care about each other. After everything they have been through and their shared traumatic experiences, it is gorgeously evident at this moment. Once Steve is successful in his search for the gate, he’s taken in. And who is the first to dive after him with no hesitation? Nancy. Nancy Wheeler and Steve Harrington are two people who are all for actions speaking louder than words and doing the right thing.
Thankfully, Steve is saved, although injured, and we also get a lovely moment of hurt and comfort, which is our undoing. (They all make a good team, but Steve and Nancy’s dynamic is now far greater to watch, and we want more.)
Then Vecna comes for Nancy as they are about to escape the upside-down. Is it what she saw seeing her old diary that mentions Barb? Or has her guilt about being with Steve the night Barb goes missing come back because she is starting to feel something for Steve again? It’s time for Nancy to forgive herself for what happened to Barb. While Nancy did not do right by Barb at the fateful party, she did tell Barb to go home. And the fact remains, Barb decided to stay after it was clear what Nancy’s decision was. Nancy’s guilt is connected with Steve, but after all this time and the growth they have both experienced, it is imperative for Nancy to forgive herself. And if they have feelings for each other, giving themselves another chance and healing from the past could result in an exciting story.
Nancy Wheeler and Steve Harrington can be great together. As fans of the second chance trope, it could work wonders to showcase what it looks like when two people drift apart and then find each other again in life. And while Jonathan is indeed great, it feels as though their relationship has run its course this season. The chemistry is no longer as palpable as it was when they initially got together, and the growth they needed to go through together is still something that could be a presence, even when they’re separated. If nothing else, they tried. If nothing else, they made an impact on each other. Or, maybe this time apart will make the heart grow fonder.
The future remains unknown, and we still have a little longer of a wait until Volume II, which drops on July 1st. But there’s an understanding that Steve and Nancy share that’s rooted in their inability to step back when someone needs them. They both jump head first into combat, fighting with everything in them to protect those who cannot defend themselves. And though they’re also significantly different in various ways, those differences make them compatible too.
We will finally get answers to whether Nancy is able to get out of Vecna’s grasp and if she and Steve make it back to Hawkins. And when that day comes, we will be watching and hoping that Nancy Wheeler and Steve Harrington find their way back to each other and stay safe the rest of the season because it is hard to imagine Stranger Things without either one of them.
Thank you for coming to my TED Talk. Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 1 is now streaming on Netflix.