‘Stranger Things 4’: What to know about the main characters going into the new season

stranger things 4
Image via Netflix

It’s been a long time since we last visited Hawkins, Indiana — three years, to be precise — but thankfully the wait is almost over as Stranger Things season four finally debuts its first volume of episodes this weekend. Accounting for the run’s mammoth-size, Netflix has split the season into two, with the first seven episodes arriving now and the final two following in July.

But before diving into Stranger Things 4 volume one, you might be in need of a reminder for where season three left things for Eleven and the rest of the gang. Hey, a lot’s been going on in the world since the show was on our screens, we forgive you. It doesn’t help that there are so many characters involved in the series at this point and season three saw them torn apart and scattered to the wind.

Of course, you could just rewatch the show in advance of the new run, but in case you don’t have the time, here’s a quick refresher course on where the main characters are positioned going into season four.

Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder)

Joyce Byers in Stranger Things
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Joyce and Hopper’s “will they/won’t they” romance really kicked up a notch in season three, but tragically Hopper appeared to die in the destruction of the Russian lab under Starcourt Mall in the finale. Grief-stricken, Joyce moved her family — and Eleven — away from Hawkins. In season four, the Byers will be living in sunny California.

Jim Hopper (David Harbour)

Jim Hopper in Stranger Things
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While the characters are convinced he’s bitten the dust, nobody watching believed Hopper really died — and sure enough, season four will reveal his true fate: he was arrested by the Russians and is currently incarcerated in a soviet gulag. Expect Hopper’s “brutal” next storyline see him do all he can to escape and somehow travel back to the States to reunite with his loved ones.

Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard)

Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things
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What a difference a season made for Mike Wheeler. He began season three happily in love with El, but their teenage romance hit the skids when they temporarily broke up. They’d made up by the end of the run, but then his telepathic girlfriend was taken away from him when she moved to Cali with the Byers. In season four, Mike and El will be trying to maintain a long distance relationship.

Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown)

stranger things season 4
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Eleven — real name: Jane Ives — has really been through it over the first three seasons of Stranger Things. Sadly, she’s not about to get a break in season four. Now attending school for the first time in a new town, El will find herself the victim of bullying. Even worse, she’s lost her powers — maybe temporarily, maybe not — after the Battle of Starcourt.

Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo)

Dustin Henderson in Stranger Things
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All things considered, Dustin came out of season three pretty much OK. After a season of nobody believing that he got a girlfriend at summer camp, Suzie was revealed to actually exist in the finale, when the couple adorably sung The NeverEnding Story theme together. Hopefully, we’ll see more of Suzie in season four.

Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin)

Lucas Sinclair in 'Stranger Things'
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Much like Mike, Lucas was in a good place at the beginning of season three as he was dating Max, but their relationship faded into the background as things got dark. Now that Max is herself in a dark place going into season four (more on that in a moment), expect their romance to be even more strained this time around.

Will Byers (Noah Schnapp)

Will Byers in Stranger Things
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Will was frustrated and lonely throughout season three as his best friends had started dating while he was still figuring himself out. As arguably the other character who’s been through the most alongside El, Will really deserves some good times in season four — as well as maybe embracing his sexuality.

Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink)

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After losing her brother Billy in the season three finale, Max will be in a gloomy place in season four, having withdrawn from her friends. The character will have a much more prominent role than ever before this time, with episode four specifically being a Max-centric installment.

Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dyer)

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Nancy’s storyline has always revolved around her connection to boyfriend Jonathan, but with the Byers having moved away, things will be different in season four. We’ve been promised that she’ll develop a friendship with Robin instead, with the pair partnering up to investigate the latest weirdness in the town.

Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton)

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Jonathan and Nancy both lost their jobs at The Hawkins Post in season three, so that — on top of being pulled away from his hometown and girlfriend — will leave Jonathan somewhat lacking in direction in the new season. That might be why he’s become a pot-head, going by the looks of him in the trailers.

Steve Harrington (Joe Keery)

Stranger Things
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Steve is far from the jerk he was in season one, and in season three he got to the point where he opened up about his feelings for Robin. Of course, Robin’s gay so that didn’t work out but the duo remain best friends as they’re now working at Family Video together, following the destruction of the mall.

Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke)

Robin Buckley in Stranger Things
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As said above, Robin and Steve’s great double act will continue in season four as they’re still co-workers, plus she’ll get to form a new team with Nancy. Otherwise, here’s hoping we get a love interest for instant fan-favorite Robin somewhere this season.

Erica Sinclair (Priah Ferguson)

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After stealing the show in her few scenes in season two, Lucas’ little sister Erica was bumped up to a regular player in season three, joining Steve, Robin, and Dustin in their infiltration of the Russian bunker. She’ll have an even bigger role in season four, we just don’t know what that is.

Karen Wheeler (Cara Buono)

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Karen, Mike and Nancy’s mom, is a fascinating character as she’s always been kept on the outside of the action, with her story arcs revolving around her quiet frustration at being trapped in the life of a housewife. Could she finally find out the truth of what’s going on in Hawkins in season four?

Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine)

Dr. Brenner, Eleven’s “papa”, didn’t appear in season three, but he was a major villain in season one and featured via El’s hallucinations in season two following his death. He’ll be back in season four as we get some extensive flashbacks to El’s traumatic childhood at Hawkins Labs.

Stranger Things season four premieres Friday, May 27 on Netflix.