Did Will Byers come out as gay in the Stranger Things finale?

Stranger Things spoilers incoming.

If you haven’t already binge-watched the epic finale of Stranger Things 4 then quite frankly, why are you reading this? Get yourself to Netflix, stat! 

The long-awaited volume 2 of season 4 dropped yesterday (1st July) and saw Eleven go head-to-head with the villainous Vecna, who is hell-bent on destroying Hawkins and taking over the world. But as well as Vecna’s soul-sucking, bone-crunching, generally all-round-terrifying evil ways, the internet is also alight with conversation about a certain scene between Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) and Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard). Fans think it confirms speculation that Will is gay.

Stranger Things has long been hinting that Will might be gay, and is struggling to come out after developing feelings for Mike. In the first instalment of season 4, we see Will upset with Mike for not staying in touch after moving to California, then in another scene, Will is noticeably uncomfortable when a girl flights with him class, during which he is doing a project on Alan Turing (the computer scientist that cracked a number of German codes during the war, and was persecuted for being gay in 1952).

But the biggest hint comes in episode 8, where Will and Mike are talking about Eleven in the back of Argyle’s pizza van. Mike is worried that Eleven doesn’t need him, and as Will begins to comfort Mike, it appears as though he’s actually speaking from his own feelings. Will shows Mike a painting – which was one of the mysteries from volume 1 – which depicts the original Dungeons & Dragons group as their fantasy characters fighting a three-headed dragon. Mike leads the group with a heart on his shield, as Will calls him the heart of the group, and says the painting was “commissioned” by Eleven (which isn’t true). Will says it’s hard for Eleven in California because she’s different, and it’s clear that he’s talking about his own emotions and how much he misses Mike.

Will says: “When you’re different, sometimes you feel like a mistake. But you make her feel like she’s not a mistake at all; like she’s better for being different and that gives her the courage to fight on.” Will’s eyes fill with tears as he looks out the van window away from Mike, which Will’s brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) sees in his rear-view mirror. Later, in an emotional scene between the two brothers, Jonathan makes it clear that he’s always there for Will and that nothing will change his love for him. 

It’s certainly the closest Stranger Things has come to confirming Will’s sexuality, but it’s left viewers divided. While some have praised the scene, others have accused the show of queerbaiting (where queer relationships are implied but never actualised). 

One viewer wrote: “stranger things went down in history. not for good queer rep like i’d been hoping, but rather for queerbaiting”, while another said: “THIS WAS THE BIGGEST QUEERBAITING IN HISTORY”.