Stranger Things season 3 failed Jonathan and Nancy, and the Netflix hit might kill their romance once and for all with the upcoming season 4. Beloved by critics and audiences alike, Netflix’s sci-fi horror meets coming-of-age dramedy Stranger Things is a unique genre fusion that succeeds thanks to its stellar cast, fast-paced storytelling, and fun ’80s homages. Yet another of the show’s strengths, its budding romances between young characters, might be out the window with Stranger Things season 4.
Stranger Things isn’t without its problems, as proven by the divisive season 3. Across the first two seasons of Stranger Things, Jonathan and Nancy were embroiled in a classic slow-burn teen romance that worked well thanks to actors Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton’s real-life chemistry. But season 3 had no clue what to do with the pair and it showed, meaning the forthcoming Stranger Things season 4 theoretically has the chance to fix their relationship. Going by the Stranger Things season 4 trailer, however, the opposite might be the case.
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In Stranger Things season 1, main characters Jonathan and Nancy were a classic ’80s teen romance – a nebbish geek from a dysfunctional family and a popular girl who takes a shine to him thanks to their shared (nearly lethal) adventure. Stranger Things season 1 may have had its problems, but Nancy and Jonathan’s arc was a compelling misdirect which saw the pair almost hook up only for Nancy to return to Steve by the season’s close, leaving viewers to wait until near the end of Stranger Things season 2 for their romantic subplot to finally pay off. It’s a terrific bit of romance that does justice to its ’80s movie inspiration, but unfortunately, Stranger Things undid this hard work with the chaotic, overstuffed season 3, and season 4 may continue to unravel it.
Jonathan and Nancy Are Better As A Team
In Stranger Things season 3, Jonathan and Nancy are abruptly out of school and hard at work for a cartoonishly terrible local newspaper staff. However, in a sloppy bit of characterization Jonathan is too meek to help his girlfriend stand up to their bullying co-workers until they turn into literal monstrous body snatchers, despite the character facing down Demogorgons and government agents and risking his life to save his brother in earlier seasons. Jonathan can’t stand up to the mean-spirited staff as Nancy needs to take them on alone to give her character a theoretically empowering moment that, like her heart-to-heart with her mother (who has just narrowly avoided having an affair with the Mind Flayer), falls flat as it doesn’t ring true to the established characters.
Not only does the newspaper subplot divide Jonathan and Nancy for a lot of their screen time, but it also leaves viewers wondering what happened to them since Stranger Things season 2. Jonathan and Nancy are a tenacious team throughout the first two seasons, working together to take on Hawkins Lab and the Demogorgon alike. They work great as a pair, and the co-worker bullying subplot fails to generate tension as it splits a couple who, until then, have been better together. Jonathan and Nancy should have their struggles, but going forward, anything dividing them should be more dramatic and impactful.
Jonathan And Nancy’s Relationship Problems Mirror Stranger Things’ Problems
Throughout season 1, fans wanted answers for Stranger Things’ many mysteries and were slowly drip-fed clues instead, much like fans wanted to see Jonathan and Nancy end up together in a classic ’80s movie fashion and instead got a near-kiss and an ambiguous ending. In Stranger Things season 2, the action and momentum ramped up considerably, just in time for Jonathan and Nancy to finally hook up, two developments which won critical and fan approval. But by Stranger Things season 3, the series was overstuffed with too many overlapping plot lines, and similarly, Jonathan and Nancy had gone, seemingly overnight, from unlikely sweethearts to a bickering, resentful duo who spent most of the season arguing.
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Of course, the characters do need some conflict to keep their story engaging and there is no shortage of problems Jonathan and Nancy could face entering into Stranger Things season 4 (being a young professional couple in the mid-80s is a classic horror movie setup, as the denizens of Children of the Corn can attest). Unfortunately, as with Mike and El, it seems Nancy and Jonathan’s obstacles might have gotten the best of them; certain Stranger Things season 4 footage hints that the pair may have actually broken up. Nancy and Jonathan had very little time together as a couple before Stranger Things season 3 pulled them apart again, and viewers never got a chance to see them at ease before a nightmare job was ruining their relationship just as it began. As such, Stranger Things season 4’s story could theoretically give Jonathan and Nancy’s relationship a moment of peace by telling a slower story. But as it’s been pointed out, Stranger Things season 4 actually seems to be doing the opposite, which might spell doom for its romances.
Stranger Things Needs a Solid Romance
It’s possible that Mike and El will get back together, but Stranger Things season 4 needs to keep the pair apart for at least a while so as not to waste the poignant ending of season 3. Mike and El’s breakup was necessary for season 3’s dramatic climax (like the death of Hopper). Likewise, just as with the temporary nature of Hopper’s death, Mike and El’s breakup could be reversed in short order. Nonetheless, it’s a solid set up for the next installment – after all, if the characters were left happy and content, there would be no reason to keep watching next season. But with El and Mike apart, Stranger Things only has a handful of romantic subplots for the series to follow (Dustin and Suzie notwithstanding), and Lucas and Max are too minor a pair of supporting characters to carry this element of the show’s comedy-drama appeal on their own.
Hopper and Joyce’s “romance”, meanwhile, was one of the most (understandably) divisive elements of season 3, with the ostensible hero pushing Will’s perpetually frazzled mom to get over Bob’s horrific season 2 death and date him, a queasy subplot Stranger Things season 4 would do well to avoid revisiting. Hopper’s worsening character arc throughout season 3 was only exacerbated by his sudden and uncharacteristically entitled romantic attachment to Joyce, and Stranger Things could leave that misguided subplot in the past by making Jonathan and Nancy the lone stable couple of the series. Unfortunately, however, their romance might actually end up swinging the other way.
Have Jonathan And Nancy Broken Up In Stranger Things Season 4?
The Stranger Things season 4 trailer might suggest that Nancy and Jonathan have broken up. While this isn’t officially confirmed, several details make it seem likely that the romance has reached a breaking point. There’s no Stranger Things season 4 footage showing Jonathan and Nancy together outside of a much larger group, and other footage makes it look like Jonathan is having a rough time in California. It wouldn’t be odd at all if the Byers’ cross-country move from Hawkins proved too much for Nancy and Jonathan’s relationship to survive, especially given that long-distance communication in the 80s wasn’t what it is today. If a Nancy-Jonathan breakup is the case, Stranger Things season 4 will have to look elsewhere for a headlining romance, perhaps among the younger cast, or even between Joyce and Hopper, given that Joyce receives a package from Russia in the trailer.
Related: Stranger Things Season 4 Can Finally Fix Will’s Demogorgon Plot Hole
Will Steve And Nancy Get Back Together In Season 4?
The possibility of Stranger Things season 4 bringing exes Nancy and Steve back together would be the only romantic twist bigger than Nancy and Jonathan breaking up. Again, there’s no official word on whether Nancy and Steve are getting back together in season 4, but Stranger Things footage shows the pair exchanging the words “see you on the other side” with locked eyes and warm expressions. This moment briefly showcases some of the old chemistry between Nancy and Steve, romantic or otherwise. Whether Nancy and Steve are sharing a reconciliation or a romantic rekindling is unknown, but given the high chances of a Nancy-Jonathan breakup, it’s certainly significant. Whatever Stranger Things season 4 decides to do with its romances, it will likely be as dramatic as the rest of the season’s jam-packed story – but could rob the show of its dewy-eyed romantic optimism.
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About The Author
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Cathal Gunning has been writing about movies and TV online since 2020. His obsessions include The Simpsons, Stephen King, the Scream series, and the horror genre in general. He has spent more time thinking about Stranger Things than the writers of Stranger Things, and he has never seen a Star War.
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