Revisiting Billy Hargrove’s shocking death in ‘Stranger Things’ and his possible miraculous return

It’s time to brush up on your Hawkins history because season four of Stranger Things is officially lurking right around the corner.

In the opening sequence of the jaw-dropping new trailer, we see our favorite nerd, Max sitting in front of her brother Billy Hargrove’s grave. Below Billy’s name and date of death, it’s written “Gone but not forgotten” and that couldn’t be more spot-on because the events around Billy’s death in season three were some of the most memorable minutes in Stranger Things history. That being said, it’s been a whopping three years since the finale, so it’s more than fair to be asking yourself right now…

How exactly did Billy die in Stranger Things season three?

Billy Hargrove in Stranger Things

For starters, it all has to do with the Mind Flayer. After Will Byers’ possession by the Mind Flayer in season two, we saw just how destructive things can get when someone gets possessed by an Upside Down entity. As much as we love Will, though, his possession was child’s play in comparison to Billy’s — literally.

How exactly did Billy get possessed? It all started when he was on his way to meet Mike’s mom, Mrs. Wheeler at an off-the-grid motel for a little rendezvous because you know, Billy’s golden tan and washboard abs are simply too good to pass up. To her credit, though, Mrs. Wheeler never showed up and good thing she didn’t because on his way to the motel, Billy was abducted by the Mind Flayer who took him under its control.

Now a footsoldier for the Mind Flayer, Billy was able to directly communicate with the monster. We don’t see much of Billy until the last couple of episodes but that’s not to say the Mind Flayer wasn’t hard at work. In fact, it was busy possessing the townsfolk of Hawkins and melting them into gooey blobs and absorbing them to gain corporeal power. You know, just your typical day in Hawkins.

For the majority of the season, Eleven and our gang of nerds weed through various subplots that all end up coming to a head in the finale. After discovering Billy’s possession, Eleven decides to telepathically locate Billy in the hopes of learning the exact location of the Mind Flayer and thus the portal to the Upside Down. Of course, things don’t go according to plan and Billy sicks the Mind Flayer on them in a penultimate battle that leaves Eleven with a nasty piece of the Mind Flayer’s gooey flesh lodged inside the open wound of her leg.

Billy catches Eleven in Stranger Things

Everyone reconvenes at the Starcourt Mall as they learn that’s where the portal to the Upside Down is. In a last-ditch effort to extract the piece of the Mind Flayer’s flesh from her leg, Eleven musters every bit of power she has to get the thing out of her, but not without its consequences as the act leaves her powerless.

While Hopper and Joyce head underground to the Russian lab housing the portal to the Upside Down, the gang of nerds work to fight off the Mind Flayer who has now arrived at the Starcourt Mall. All they have to do is stay alive long enough for Hopper and Joyce to shut the portal, but with Eleven powerless and weak, Billy delivers her directly to the foot of the Mind Flayer, and that’s where things go from adrenaline-pumping to tear-jerking.

Having previously touched the inside of Billy’s mind, Eleven had already seen, and thus empathetically felt, the memories Billy had of his childhood. She saw how much he loved his late mother, and saw how pretty she was in her flowy white dress and blonde hair. Staring up at Billy with tears in her eyes, Eleven tries to remind Billy of all this and slowly, recognition dawns on Billy’s face as we watch him return to himself.

Just as the Mind Flayer is about to attack Eleven, Billy surprises us all by putting himself between Eleven and the monster, sacrificing himself in order to save Eleven and give Hopper and Joyce more time to close the portal to the Upside Down. Realizing it just lost control over its footsoldier, the Mind Flayer kills Billy on the spot.

Perhaps the most surprising part of Billy’s death was not that he died, but how fond we had grown of him despite the fact that he was majorly portrayed as an antagonist. His presence in season four will be sorely missed, but as his gravestone says, he will never be forgotten.

In fact, some fans refuse to believe he’s truly gone and have even speculated that the monster at the end of the season four trailer is actually an Upside Down version of him, while others speculate it is the Stranger Things newcomer, Victor Creel. Whoever it is, he’s officially the mouthpiece for the Upside Down and we’re equal parts terrified and titillated.

Whether or not we’ll get to see Billy, Volume one of Stranger Things season four officially airs May 27 on Netflix.