Eleven May Be the Hero of 'Stranger Things', But Dustin Is the Star
Can we all agree that Dustin is slaying the game this season?
Stranger Things is back, and not a moment too soon. Considering all the time that's gone by between one season and the next, it's easy to let the likability of each character fall to the back of your mind — how a gifted yet socially stunted Eleven communicates sparingly with short, quippy phrases that somehow make her words all the more mesmerizing; Mike's angsty sass and near constant state of frustration; Sheriff Hopper's strict yet endearing nature; and most prominent of all, Dustin's... everything. Dustin makes the show.
The realization came to us swiftly just before we hit the half-way mark of Season 2. Dustin is the fun friend, the comedic relief, the intrepid explorer, and the character whose unceasing Curiosity Voyage keeps the otherwise morbid show palatable. From the [spoiler alert] unflinching investigation that led to the discovery of Dart the aspiring amphibian to the show of bravery that led to the addition of Mad Max to the group, he is the driving force of much of the season's plot.
In crediting Dustin, we'd be negligent not to sing the praises of actor Gaten Matarazzo, whose adept pre-teen performance truly raises the show to the next level. As one of the less experienced young actors in the series, it's amazing to see him thrive as one of its best.
Meanwhile, group front man Mike has fallen to the wayside. Whereas he led the crew in Season 1, his head is somewhere else for the first half of Season 2, and who could blame him? If it weren't for Dustin's jovial antics and wide-eyed enthusiasm, our minds might have been on Eleven, too.
After all, as Mike stresses in Episode 3, El is the group's mage. She's the only one with the power and knowledge to get Hawkins through this bleakest of sieges. She's savage yet kind, and still so shrouded in mystery. To be sure, she is the hero of Stranger Things, but in our eyes, Dustin is the star.