SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers from the first four seasons of Stranger Things. Please return to your normal programming if you’re not yet caught up.
From the start of the series all the way to the Stranger Things Season 4, Volume 2 ending, Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) has been at the center of some of the show’s most intense and emotional scenes. Whether it's disappearing in the final moments of the series premiere back in the summer of 2016, being known as “The Boy Who Came Back to Life,” or being at the center of one of the show’s biggest fan theories, the younger Byers boy has had quite the journey so far.
But, with everything that has happened to all the Stranger Things characters — both longtime favorites and the more recent additions — it’s easy to lose track of everything that has happened to Will Byers over the course of the show’s first four seasons. So, while we look toward the highly-anticipated Stranger Things Season 5, let’s also take a step back and see how the tormented character got to this point…
Will Is Abducted By A Demogorgon Riding Home From A D&D Game (Season 1)
The life that Will Byers lived prior to his journey getting started in Stranger Things is only briefly explored in the opening minutes of the show’s Season 1 debut. What started out as a normal night of playing Dungeons and Dragons with his best friends quickly turned into a nightmare for the young boy when he was abducted by a mysterious figure called the “Demogorgon.”
After racing Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) for one of his comics, Will rode his bike through the woods near the Hawkins National Laboratory, where untold horrors were being uncovered through hellacious experiments. One of those horrors, the aforementioned Demogorgon, followed the young boy home, chased him through the house, and then took him to what would would later become known as the Upside Down. And this was before the credits even began to roll…
Will Is Rescued From The Upside Down But The Damage Is Not Undone (Season 1)
In the Stranger Things Season 1 finale, Will Byers was rescued from the Upside Down by his mom, Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hawkins Police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) in one of the show’s most emotional scenes (the flashbacks to Hopper’s daughter dying is still just as heartbreaking six years later). It first appeared that the saga was over for the young boy and he could go back to living his normal life, he wasn’t out the woods yet.
In the final scene of the season, as he was was celebrating Christmas with his mom and older brother, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), Will went to the bathroom to “wash his hands” when he vomited out a slug and was briefly transported back to the Upside Down. But this wouldn’t be the last time he would return…
Will Briefly Returns To The Upside Down At The Arcade (Season 2)
Picking up nearly a year after the events of the first set of episodes, the detail-rich Stranger Things Season 2 didn’t waste any time thrusting the show’s heroes back into the action, including Will Byers. Though still haunted by his experience in the Upside Down, Will attempted to live a normal of a life as possible, but he was quickly reminded of his past during a brief yet terrifying episode at the local arcade.
While his friends argued with the arcade worker, something caught Will’s attention and distracted him from the conversation before he was transported back to the Upside Down. But, unlike the Season 1 finale that saw him go back for only an instant, this time Will was there for a prolonged period of time and was able to interact with the twisted world.
The Mind Flayer Possesses Will Byers (Season 2)
Will Byers briefly dipped his toes in the murky waters of the Upside Down a couple of times in the early goings of Stranger Things Season 2, but his connection with the Mind Flayer would reach new heights in the third episode. When searching for D’Artagnan with his friends at the school, Will was once again transported back to the dark dimension, only this time there would be major consequences.
Listening to the ill-fated Bob Newby (Sean Astin) and taking his words to heart, Will made a stand against the Mind Flayer, but instead of backing down, the mysterious entity possessed the young boy. This would start another journey for Will, one that would carry on through the rest of the season.
The Mind Flayer Is Burned Out Of Will (Season 2)
In the Stranger Things Season 2 finale, Joyce, Jonathan, and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) attempt to close the gate to the Upside Down without having to kill Will in order to send the Mind Flayer packing. This plan included exposing the young boy to extreme levels of heat as if they were trying to sweat out a virus.
Although the plan seemed to be working initially, the possessed Will began to strangle his mother as she got close to him on the bed. That is until Nancy poked Will with a heated rod which caused the entity to leave Will’s body, once again showing that the creatures from the Upside Down were not fans of fire or extreme heat.
Will And Mike Argue About Growing Up (Season 3)
Stranger Things Season 3 was the point where the growing division between Will Byers and his best friend, Mike Wheeler, really began to show, especially in the third episode when the two fight after Mike and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) were more interested in their respective girlfriends than the Dungeons and Dragons campaign Will created.
In the Wheelers’ garage, Will opened his heart to his childhood best friend about how their “party” was being ruined by his and the other boys’ infatuation with their girlfriends, implying that he felt left out by their maturing desires. The scene became even more heartbreaking when Mike asked Will if he honestly thought they would stay in his basement and play games the rest of their lives, with Will replying that he did. This incredibly heartbreaking scene ended with Will riding his bike out of the cover of the garage and into the massive rainstorm that had situated itself above Hawkins.
The Byers And Eleven Leave Hawkins For California (Season 3)
The Stranger Things Season 3 ending did not disappoint and did an amazing job of setting up the final stretch of the binge-worthy Netflix series. Following everything that went down at Starcourt Mall and around Hawkins in general, the finale brought to a close all the major stories before it split up the core group and had them move to various locations around country (and the world if you include Hopper jumping through the gate and ending up in Soviet Russia). This included the Byers and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who left the Midwest town for sunny California.
This created one of the show’s most emotional moments (which was made all the more emotional with Eleven reading a letter from Hopper discovered after he was presumed dead) and set Will on the next leg of his path of growth and self-discovery. Heartbroken and hopeful, Will and the rest of his friends were left to look toward an uncertain future where they won’t be sought after by government agents or creatures from another dimension.
Will Gives Mike A Painting (Season 4)
There have been a lot of questions about Will Byers and his sexuality as far back as Stranger Things Season 3 and those questions came up time and time again as fans watched the two-part fourth season in the summer of 2022. A lot of this came to a head in the penultimate episode of the second-to-last season, when Will gave Mike the painting he had been carrying around with him on their journey from California to find Eleven. But, when he showed off the painting, Will told his friend that Eleven commissioned it for him, which appeared to be nothing more than a poorly veiled cover story.
Throughout this incredibly moving dialogue, Will talked about how Eleven needed Mike and always will, but it was pretty easy to pick up on the fact that he wasn’t talking about Mike’s girlfriend, but instead, himself, and his feelings for his childhood friend. So much emotion.
Will Senses Vecna’s Presence Following The Monster’s Retreat (Season 4)
The final key event in Will Byers’ story (for now, at least) came in the closing minutes of the Stranger Things Season 4, Volume 2 ending after the core characters are all reunited following Vecna’s retreat. What started out as a joyful reunion quickly turned into something more unknown and sinister as everyone began to the pick up on the fact that something wasn’t right. And who was the first to notice this? Will Byers, who felt that tingling sensation on the back of his neck once more.
What this means for Will’s story going forward is just one of the big questions Stranger Things Season 5 will hopefully answer before the show comes to an end. Does this mean “The Boy Who Came Back to Life” will have a larger role in the final fight against Vecna and the Upside Down? We’ll have to wait and see…
With only one season left before the incredibly popular Netflix series rolls credits for the final time, expect to see some more major events go down in the story of Will Byers before everything is said and done. If you want to relive these moments before then, you can stream Stranger Things on Netflix.
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Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.