Warning: spoilers ahead for Stranger Things Season 2! You've been warned!
Even if you never watched the first season of Stranger Things, there's a pretty good chance that you probably heard about Barbara "Barb" Holland at some point. Shannon Purser's kind-hearted and conservative (but ultimately ill-fated) best friend of Nancy Wheeler became a pop culture sensation when the show unceremoniously killed her off -- leading to the widely spread #JusticeForBarb campaign. With Season 2 of the hit Netflix series now streaming, fans finally got some form of that justice, so let's dive in and discuss exactly how Season 2 dealt with the dearly departed (and still very dead) Barb.
Right out of the gate, Season 2 handled Barb by establishing a set of real consequences for her disappearance one year earlier -- something that Season 1 never really touched upon. Although much of Hawkins has forgotten about the poor girl (particularly with the return of Will Byers garnering so many headlines), we saw that the Holland family was ready to drive itself into financial and psychological ruin in its search to find her, and Nancy held herself responsible for Barb's gruesome death in The Upside Down.
From there, Barb became the driving force behind Nancy's call to action throughout Season 2. Wanting to do something about the disappearance of her best friend, she (along with Jonathan Byers) eventually found a way to sneak a recording device into Hawkins National Laboratory and actually got a confession of culpability out of Dr. Owens.
Taking the tape to disgraced journalist/conspiracy theorist Murry Bauman, they found a way to cut the audio together in a way that confirmed the government's guilt in Barb's death -- while also not forcing the idea of the Demogorgon or The Upside Down on a potentially unwilling public. Instead of telling the world about the monsters that have invaded the Indiana suburb, they opt to craft a faux conspiracy in which Hawkins National Laboratory and the Department of Energy covered up the poor girl's death after exposure to a chemical asphyxiate. Once the truth (or at least some version of it) got out, Barb's family received an abridged (albeit still comforting) version of her death, and Hawkins could adequately mourn her.
Oddly enough, Stranger Things Season 2 actually managed to transform Barb from a helpless victim to the most prominent catalyst for change in Hawkins. In the end, her death ultimately became the single-biggest contributing factor that causes the government to shut down its less-than-savory activity on the outskirts of town. Fans complained that no one cared about her during the events of Season 1, but she ultimately went on to (from a certain point of view) arguably become the show's most noteworthy hero. She didn't get to come back from the dead, but she still managed to help our heroes achieve victory.
Stranger Things Season 2 is now available to stream on Netflix. However, The Duffer Brothers' hit series isn't the only show to debut this fall, so make sure to check out our comprehensive fall TV premiere guide to get a better sense of what else is coming over the next few months! Beyond that, make sure to listen to The Cord Cutter Podcast to hear everything we have to say about the world of streaming content!
What do you think of how Stranger Things Season 2 handled Barb's disappearance?