This story contains spoilers for Stranger Things 4
With the release of its final two episodes on July 1, Stranger Things 4 has ended—and a couple of major characters meet their end by the finale, too. Netflix’s flagship sci-fi show has never been afraid to kill off characters before (RIP Barb), and the final feature-length episodes included a couple of big deaths—and some near-death moments sure to have huge ramifications for the show as it heads into its fifth and final season.
Here’s everything to know about the major—and devastating—deaths of characters in season 4, the characters who nearly died, and the few whose fates remain unknown. (A full recap of the ending of season 4 is available here.)
Who died in Stranger Things 4?
Fans have long assumed that Doctor Martin Brenner (Mathew Modine), the researcher in charge of Hawkins Lab who studied and abused Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and the other telekinetic children, died when a Demogorgon attacked him in season 1. But in season 4, it’s revealed that Brenner survived his injuries and created the NINA Project—a top-secret lab in the Nevada desert designed to give Eleven her powers back.
While Eleven and her “Papa” maintain an uneasy alliance at first, and work together to unlock memories of Vecna’s origins and restore Eleven’s powers, Brenner eventually betrays her. Instead of allowing Eleven and Doctor Owens to leave for Hawkins, Brenner says Eleven isn’t “ready yet” and has his men handcuff Owens while he sedates Eleven and puts a power-inhabiting collar on her.
Just then, though, Lt. Colonel Jack Sullivan (Sherman Augustus)—the leader of a rival governmental faction who thinks Eleven is a threat who should be killed rather than empowered—attacks the base. Brenner attempts to flee with Eleven, but he’s shot multiple times by a sniper in a helicopter. Despite the collar, Eleven is able to use her powers to bring down the chopper. It’s too late for Brenner, though, and in his dying moments, he unlocks Eleven’s collar. He was a megalomaniacal monster who abused Eleven and many other children, but he did have an earnest if extremely toxic and warped affection for Eleven. Likewise, Eleven’s complicated past with “Papa” meant it was still a touching moment when he died.
Continuing Stranger Things’ grand tradition of introducing a new main character only to kill them off by the end of the same season they debuted in (See: Bob Newby, Alexei), Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) does not make it to the end of season 4 alive.
Eddie and Dustin had an important role in the plan to defeat Vecna. While Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Steve (Joe Keery), and Robin (Maya Hawke) went after his body, the pair would create a distraction to lure his hordes of demobats away. Eddie, in the most metal moment of the series, does this by crushing a Metallica solo on the roof of the Upside Down RV. Despite their fortifications, the bats are able to break into the RV. Eddie tricks Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) into retreating into the real world for safety, but he stays behind to buy his friends more time. All season, Eddie had been plagued by guilt for just running away when Chrissy (Grace Van Dien) died, horribly, in front of him back in the premiere. In the end, he finds his courage, first luring the bats away from the RV and then making a fateful decision to charge right into battle with them. The bats fatally wound him, and Dustin makes it back to the Upside Down just in time for Eddie to die in his arms.
Eddie died a hero, but the people of Hawkins think he’s a villain. He’s still the prime suspect in all the brutal murders, and people think his love of metal and Dungeons & Dragons is actually part of some satanic cult—a reference to the real-life satanic panic in the 1980s. Only his friends know how brave he was in the end, but Dustin attempts to tell Eddie’s uncle the truth. He can’t tell the whole truth, of course, but at least Eddie’s family can take some solace in knowing that he fought (against an earthquake?) for his friends. RIP Eddie, you’re shredding with the angels now.
Whose fate remains unclear in Stranger Things?
Max (Sadie Sink) almost dies in the first half of the season when she becomes Vecna’s target. Thanks to her favorite song—Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)”—that Max regains a tether to reality and escapes Vecna’s psychic realm. She spends the rest of the season with her Walkman nearby so she can blast the song again to keep Vecna at bay, but in order for the plan to fight Vecna to work, she needs to be bait. She forgoes the Walkman and makes a plan to avoid Vecna within her own memories since it’s her mind that he’s invading. The plan works—at first.
Disaster strikes when Vecna overpowers all of Max’s friends. His bats take out Eddie while his vine-like tentacles ensnare Nancy, Steve, and Robin. And, although Eleven comes to her rescue and projects into Max’s conciseness to battle Vecna, the villain is able to defeat Eleven. To make things worse, Chrissy’s psycho boyfriend Jason (Mason Dye) accosts Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) while he’s defending Max’s body, accusing him of being involved in Eddie’s “satanic” cult. Jason accidentally destroys the Walkman, which means Kate Bush can’t come to the rescue.
Max floats into the air, her eyes start bleeding, and her limbs begin to snap like twigs. Then, Eleven, with Mike’s encouragement, summons the strength to defeat Vecna while Nancy’s crew torches his physical body. Max falls to the ground before her eyeballs explode like past victims, but she’s been fatally wounded. She dies, scared, in Lucas’ arms. With her death, the fourth gate to the Upside Down opens.
Eleven won’t stand for this, though, and she uses her power to bring Max back to life. After a two-day time jump, we learn that Max is alive again, but barely. She’s in the hospital, all her limbs are horribly broken, and she’s in some sort of coma. The doctors don’t know if she’ll ever wake up, and when Eleven tries to go inside Max’s mind, nobody is there. Though Max is technically alive, it remains to be seen to what extent she’ll ever recover.
Doctor Sam Owens
It’s unclear if Doctor Owens (Paul Reiser) survives the season. We last see him handcuffed to a pipe after Brenner’s betrayal, begging Lt. Colonel Jack Sullivan not to kill Eleven. While Sullivan’s men have no qualms about killing, it’s unclear whether he would have Owens executed when he’s already got him captive as a prisoner. Owens may or may not be alive, but even if he survives the season, he is going to be in a bad place when season 5 begins.
Who is definitely still alive in Stranger Things?
Eleven defeats Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) in a psychic battle, Steve and Nancy light his body on fire, and Nancy shoots him several times with a sawed-off shotgun. But it’s not enough. Vecna’s body goes flying out the window of the Upside Down Creel house and he lands with a thud. However, the body soon disappears—almost certainly a direct homage to when Michael Myers does the same disappearing act at the end of Halloween.
Some of our heroes are hopeful that he died of his wounds after all and really is gone for good. But Will (Noah Schnapp), who was possessed by the Mind Flayer (revealed to have been a servant of Vecna) in season 2, has a connection with the Upside Down, and knows Vecna isn’t gone. His theory seems to be proven correct when, in the closing moments of the finale, ash starts falling from the sky as the Upside Down invades the real world.
It’s as Vecna warned: His defeat wasn’t the end, it was only the beginning of the end. He’s almost certainly still alive and our heroes will have to finish the fight in season 5. Let’s hope they all survive.