Warning: This post contains big spoilers for the Season 4 finale of Stranger Things
For those about to rock — and die — we salute you. Joseph Quinn went down shredding in the Season 4 finale of Stranger Things, as his alter ego, Eddie Munson, slayed Metallica's classic 1986 track "Master of Puppets" before getting slayed himself by a cauldron of Upside Down bats. It was a grand farewell for a character who quickly rose to fan-favorite status across the fourth season's nine super-sized episodes. And Quinn tells Yahoo Entertainment that he held out hope of a reprieve even after filming his emotional death scene in the same way that the finale's other fallen soldier, Max Mayfield (played by Sadie Sink), narrowly avoided a permanent farewell.
"I'm not gonna lie: I thought that if I worked hard enough, they might bring me back," admits the 29-year-old British actor. "We got the scripts during the pandemic, so we kind of knew the lay of the land before we even got started. I knew it was going to be a one-and-done kind of thing, which is kind of sad. But it's a beautiful arc for the character, so while I'm very sad not to come back and be with these lovely people, there's worse ways to leave a show." (Watch our video interview above.)
Eddie's death — witnessed by fellow Hellfire Club member, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) — was actually a casualty of the show's pandemic-impacted shooting schedule. Quinn filmed his side of the scene at the end of what he calls a "brutal night shoot" that started with the bat fight. "Then I went into a make-up prosthetic surgery table ... for about two hours with these fantastic make-up artists putting all this stuff on me and stuff in my mouth and these contact lenses in my eyes. Then we turned the cameras on and had a go at it, but we didn't have enough time to [finish the scene]."
Roughly a month later, he and Matarazzo reconvened on a studio soundstage to shoot Dustin's teary reaction to Eddie's passing. "He had to carry that burden of getting back there weeks later," Quinn remembers of how his co-star recreated the emotion of the moment. "But obviously he smashed it out of the park."
Eddie Munson playing Metallica's Master of Puppets in the Upside Down to lure the demobats is easily one of the Top 5 coolest things I've ever seen on Stranger Things. pic.twitter.com/ii1A0By7L9
— Netflix (@netflix) July 5, 2022
Quinn hit his own home run with Eddie's Metallica moment, which has already granted "Master of Puppets" the same resurgence that Kate Bush's "Running Up that Hill" received after the first half of Season 4 dropped in May. The actor says he hasn't heard from the beloved metal band yet but did his best to honor them with his guitar playing. "I can't take credit for all of it," he admits. "For the solo, we had a heavy metal guitarist come in and save me, but for the rest of it, I'm doing my best."
Even though he was introduced as an antagonist, Eddie ended his life embraced by the show's heroes and viewers alike. Tributes have been pouring in on Twitter since the final two episodes premiered on Friday. "It's so heartwarming to think that people have responded this way to a character I played," Quinn marvels. "As an actor, you want to be involved in stories that mean things to people, and I really like that with this. I think Eddie's tale is ultimately about redemption and bravery, which is a good thing."
Stranger Things fans are understandably more reluctant to embrace the hero's journey being undertaken by Vecna aka One aka Henry Creel — especially since that journey caused Eddie's death and Max's near-death. But Jamie Campbell Bower says he absolutely believes that the show's big bad is the Upside Down version of a protagonist.
"A lot of people who play villains say they're misunderstood, and I feel that way about Henry," he explains. "There's a fantastic speech in the seventh episode where he describes how he truly feels about the world: the idea of isolation and being outside of your own social group and this belief that the world is a lie. I'll be honest with you: I feel there's injustice in the world that Henry sees, and I can relate to that. A lot of what he says is deeply personal and very true."
Throughout the season, Henry has attempted to convince his would-be protege, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), about the justness of his cause, in much the same way that Darth Vader tries to tempt Luke Skywalker to the Dark Side in George Lucas's far, far away galaxy. Funnily enough, Stranger Things premiered on Netflix the same week that Obi-Wan Kenobi arrived on Disney+ and featured Hayden Christensen suiting up again as a "more brutal" Vader.
It goes without saying that Vader vs. Vecna has been a trending topic on social media for weeks now, but Bower insists that the Sith Lord never made an appearance on the "mood board" he used to get into his character's troubled mind. "I started with characters like Dracula and Pinhead," he explains. "Vader isn't someone I've ever really gone to."
It's worth noting that the Season 4 finale of Stranger Things has big Empire Strikes Back energy. Even though Eleven defeats Vecna (for now) in a head-to-head battle, her victory ultimately feels more like a defeat. That's because Max's minute-long death fulfilled his grand plan of opening a permanent gate between the Upside Down and Hawkins, devastating the town with earthquake-level damage and unleashing supernatural forces in the natural world. Sure seems like Vecna's won this round, although Bower still thinks of him as the underdog.
"Have I won this round?" he asks, laughing. "On a personal level, I don't know. I'd say it's more like 60/40. But the Duffer Brothers are so smart and such good writers, so who knows where we'll be next!"
Stranger Things is currently streaming on Netflix