Scene Breakdown: Steve Harrington’s Future Plans in ‘Stranger Things’

Joe Keery as Steve Harrington in Stranger Things "Papa"

We’ve talked about how Steve Harrington gives the love he’s never received, but now we need to talk in length about what his vision for the future represents and what it shows about his character. Steve Harrington is many things, but beyond his luscious, uber-cool (ridiculous) persona is a boy whose dreams of a simple life showcase what he’s missing. Steve doesn’t know how not to give, and he doesn’t know how to step back even when his life is at risk. “I still have hope,” he tells Robin later in the episode—hope for a future, survival, and for something greater than the circumstances at this very moment

He has hope for a “full brood of Harringtons…like five/six kids. […] Yeah. Six little nuggets.” He has hopes to “just see the country” and to “learn how to surf or something.” But it’s that or something I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since Stranger Things Season 4, Episode 8 “Papa” aired. Because “or something” implies that there’s still plenty in him he’s bursting to talk to someone about. It’s so easy to share this moment with Nancy, not because he’s still pining after her, but because during this quiet drive, it’s the one thing genuinely consuming him—the hope for something bigger. This moment, strangely, reminds me of Taylor Swift’s “august.” 

Joe Keery as Steve Harrington in Stranger Things "Papa"

Back when we were still changin’ for the better
Wanting was enough
For me, it was enough
To live for the hope of it all

“august” by Taylor Swift, folklore album

There’s something so achingly innocent in Steve’s vision here because, for starters, despite his experience, he has no idea what a handful six kids are when you’re the parent. He’s also not the one giving birth to them, but that’s neither here nor there. This moment is entirely about “the hope of it all.” The small glimmer of light he’s holding onto, believing despite all the darkness that there’s still a future someday. There are possibilities that will prove this pain was worth the endurance. It’s about the hope that they’ll each make it out of this purgatory, set their sights on somewhere safe, open roads, growth, and a whole lot of love to go around.

Every single person in the RV is lost in some way, hanging by a thread as they try to figure out who they are and where they’re headed. Steve’s vision is thus not only a representation of what he’s missing out on but what they could each desperately use. His desire for quiet moments and something more exhibits the profundity in finding oneself during the moments you least expect. We’re looking into the eyes of a boy who knows very little love but who’s willing to spread it far and wide because what’s in him is too vast to keep concealed.


The hushed confessions or the brutal battles are a part of their story, but there’s more. And the more lies entirely in the hope that’s unveiled in “or something.” It’s about holding onto something that revolves around the family they’ve all found, looking towards the pieces of themselves that intermingle with each other’s edges. Steve Harrington chooses to believe even when everything is falling apart because it’s the one thing that keeps him going.

These quiet moments are part of Steve’s journey, and more importantly, it’s what’s kept him going. He’s thought about this kind of escape more than once. He’s undoubtedly laid awake at night dreaming of a safer and better future—a future he’ll pave better than the past he’s known. It’s about the future where he’s in control of ensuring the safety that his kids will feel and the discoveries they will make in a loving home. It’s clinging to visions that will bring his life full circle, taking him to a place that feels just a little bit better. Steve Harrington doesn’t expect much, but he’s hoping for something that’ll be safe and precious.

He’s hoping for a future with moments of joy to hold onto, and through this hope, he’s doing everything he can to make the present is just as reassuring for those around him.

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