Stranger Things has a very large cast of characters and sometimes one of them must die, but the decision not to kill off Steve Harrington set a good precedent for the show. Since way back in season 1, there have been only a few deaths of the main characters–and only one that stuck. Sure, there have been impactful deaths of some main players, but the core group of Mike, Eleven, and co. has stayed intact.
There are a few deaths in the first season that make the threat from the Upside Down and the Demogorgon feel more real, like Benny in the diner and Stranger Things’ controversial death of Barb early on. One other character that was originally going to be killed off was Steve Harrington. The Duffer brothers, the creators of the show, confirmed this but said it was actor Joe Keery who informed their decision to keep him around as they watched his performance on set. Keery’s charisma and charm not only gave Steve a stronger arc of redemption, but it also spared his character’s life. Steve not being killed off seemingly set a precedent for the Duffers moving forward, and it’s a good one.
There have been plenty of times the original main characters could have easily been killed off, but they’ve survived. While supporting characters have died in every season, like Bob and Billy, the main core group of characters from the beginning has been virtually untouched. This decision has been to the benefit of the show. One of the best things about Stranger Things is the chemistry the cast has with each other. It’s resulted in some great team-ups that never would have happened otherwise. If Steve had died in the first season, for example, he wouldn’t have been around for season 2 to give viewers the best surprise pairing that year, Steve and Dustin. Not just a highlight of that season, the relationship between Steve and Dustin is one of the best and most important in the entire show and Stranger Things would have been worse without it. Likewise, even though Max hasn’t been in the show from the start, it feels like she has. If she hadn’t made it to the final season, as it looked like she might not have in the season 4 finale, it would have felt like a piece of the team was missing. But they’ve all lived to fight another day, setting up the final season for more of the great chemistry that has been the best element of Stranger Things from the start.
Steve has proved to be one of the best characters on the show, with much of the credit going to Joe Keery for his performance. But even more credit goes to the writers, who took Steve from school bully to kind-hearted friend and babysitter in an arc that earned it. Having Steve still around for the final season is great for the fans and for the characters of Stranger Things season 5 alike. Had he been killed, both would have been robbed of Steve’s journey, which is arguably the strongest character arc of the show. The same can be said for most of the core cast, as watching them change and grow from the beginning to the very end, has been incredibly fulfilling.
Keeping Steve alive past season 1 set a precedent for Stranger Things, one that has helped it become one of the biggest shows in the world. Stranger Things season 5 could see the death of anyone. There’s no guarantee that Steve and the rest of the gang will survive the events of the final season. But even if one of them does die in the fight to save Hawkins, they will at least have had the entirety of Stranger Things to unfold their stories. It’s certain to make for a satisfying end to the show.