It’s hard to choose the coolest character among a cast of cool Stranger Things. Perfect casting, and good characters… but there’s one element that stands out: Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo). And I’m not only talking about his acting, but something that makes Gaten extra special puts him in the group led by Cary Grant and other legends: the actor who makes the others stand out. It is a rare quality that demands generosity and talent. And it puts Dustin at the heart of the show’s success.
Since season one, Dustin has been the irritating, smartest, and often comic relief of a plot that destroyed a town in the US countryside (Hawkins is cursed indeed) as well as the lives of young and old alike. Within all the complexity of the Stranger Things plot, whoever is with Dustin stands out. For good.
In season 1, Eleven and the group of friends. In the 2nd and 3rd, he “rescued” Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), establishing an unlikely partnership that ended up gaining relevance and importance throughout the story, putting Steve in the role of unlikely hero (he had everything designed to be antagonist). Honestly, I’m one of the bunch who skips the Eleven drama if I can to see all the Steve and Dustin sequels first. For me, Stranger Things are the two that could easily get a spin-off.
In Season 4, it’s Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) who gets the light on Dustin, stealing the whole story for his tragic, yet heartwarming, unlikely hero narrative. Well, a little late, but this a warning. SPOILERS.
It was clear from the moment he showed up, leading the pack of geeks, with a terrifying face but a heart of gold, that Eddie was in high danger of dying. As in other seasons, we gained new faces, I kept my hope alive, but…
Metalhead, gamer, a fan of Dungeons & Dragons, and with excellent musical taste (his Dio jacket deserves a separate post), he leads the Hellfire Club. His tardiness at school and his apparent aggression is a sign of a life of physical and psychological abuse, of a young man, abandoned and misunderstood. Except for Dustin, who worships him.
The hero arc created for Eddie followed in the classic footsteps of the formula and when he makes the ultimate sacrifice, of course, it’s exciting. Moby‘s song When It’s cold I’d like to Die, which they use on the score, is not from the 1980s, but it is narrative freedom that is allowed by the excellent choice.
In every scene he appeared in this epic season, Joseph put on a show, especially when he fought alongside Gaten. The guitar duel with Metallica‘s Master of Puppets, the comic strips… all in perfect rhythm and delivery.
Hawkins’ hero is the young man the town demonized and forgot about, but Dustin – and Stranger Things fans – won’t forget. No wonder the series is such a worldwide fever.