The guest stars on Stranger Things leave an impact I’ve not seen on any other show. It’s not often that the death of a character you’ve only known for about five minutes ends up being a slogan for every piece of merchandise or the trending topic on Twitter for what feels like ages. But Joseph Quinn’s Eddie Munson is different, and it’s why his death hurts the most.
We don’t know much about Eddie, not in the traditional sense, at least. Still, Eddie Munson feels like a character anyone could be friends with, no matter who they are or what they stand for. His innate kindness glistens through any chance he’s given to be his most authentic, and his compassion is rooted in his own unique excitement for all that he loves. Outside of his friendship with Dustin and everyone else, it’s how seamlessly he fits in with the core group that creates something unique. Eddie is on the same wavelength or whatever imperfections they all live through, allowing his own flaws to be a part of the grand mosaic.
So, why does a character we know so little about have such a profound impact? Yes, much of it is tied directly to Joseph Quinn’s doe-eyed, delightfully lovable approach to the embodiment, but it’s also the unbeatable heart that Eddie evokes, especially in his (hopefully temporary) final few moments in Season 4, Episode 9, “The Piggyback.” Did Eddie want to die a hero’s death, or did he merely want the world to see that he isn’t afraid of the unknown? It could be one or both, but it could also be the sorrowful and achingly relatable detail that many of us will understand all too well, which is the desire to be accepted as we are.
While some people push aside their actual desires to fit in where they undoubtedly don’t belong, others trek onwards, hoping that one day who they are will be worth adoring. Juxtaposing Lucas’ arc in Volume 1, Eddie doesn’t need or want to fit in. He doesn’t need the world to accept and understand his intentions, but every person, deep down, needs and wants love.
People want acceptance, and they want compassion, and there’s so much that can be said about the hope Chrissy’s attention brings to Eddie (and vice versa). Eddie didn’t need to fit in or be a hero, not really—he merely needed people to know that he wasn’t a coward. And, if we’re being perfectly transparent here, many of us would run in the opposite direction if the events in Hawkins took place in the real world. (Fact: I still haven’t seen the scene where Vecna takes Chrissy. I couldn’t look.)
Eddie Munson wasn’t a coward—he was just a boy looking toward something beyond his control. And in the end, he not only dies the hero’s death, but the cruel world they’re living in fails to remember him as so. I’d say that’s perhaps why his death has such a lasting impact on fans, but ultimately, it’s the detail that Eddie Munson deserved a second chance to live the life he wanted to live (and right alongside Chrissy, too). He didn’t need to prove himself to anybody else, but he needed more time.
Eddie Munson needed more time because his bizarre edges blend with the parts of every notable character while allowing the viewers attached to the show to see parts of themselves in him too. Eddie represents everyone who has been mistreated, ridiculed, and broken. And in truth, many of the characters on the show fit into this category, but Eddie’s brand of deliciously sprinkling love into his raging compassion hits different. It stings more because, with the main characters especially, he fits in a way no one else could have because he understood each of them even when they didn’t exactly understand themselves.
It’s in the way he looks straight into someone’s eyes, seeing and accepting the pieces of them that are still tucked away. It’s his perpetually comforting sincere laugh and how he adores what he loves unapologetically. It’s the fact that for four seasons now, no character has ever been so sincerely impactful strictly based on how their edges speak in a way that’s hard to describe.
Now, we’re all hoping he’s somehow coming back, right? Right.