Warning: Stranger Things S2 spoilers incoming…
‘Stranger Things’ season 2 finally delivered justice for Barb Holland but there’s a new Hawkins resident who very much deserves his own – and that person is Bob Newby.
Sean Astin joined the cast as the loveable-yet-nerdy new boyfriend of Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) and proved once again how good he is at playing the heroic supporting character, but alas, unlike Samwise Gamgee, Bob didn’t survive until the end and I am heartbroken for him.
You see, Bob was clearly never going to make it out of season 2 alive. Bob couldn’t, because how would Joyce and Jim Hopper (David Harbour) be able to act upon their very obvious mutual attraction with him in the picture? But Joyce was certainly not going to end things with Bob because Bob was just too nice a guy and a welcome reminder of the normal life she could live.
Bob was the geek in high school who went on to work at the local Radio Shack and couldn’t believe his luck that he was dating Joyce, one of his most popular classmates. Bob made her feel loved and wanted and showed a ridiculous amount of patience when she became understandably anxious about Will, even though he didn’t know anything about the events of season one.
Joyce, however, didn’t show Bob the same level of affection. It was very clear that the balance of the relationship was very much tipped in her favour and clearly she knew that Bob was willingly allowing himself to be wrapped around her little finger. This is not an attack on Joyce, by the way, as surely anyone who has been through what she has would try and grasp onto some semblance of normalcy, even if her love for Bob didn’t run as deep as his. Even Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) recognised this, though his attitude towards Bob was pretty rude considering the support he’s shown the family and the fact that Bob let him and Will (Noah Schnapp) borrow an expensive video camera for their trick or treating outing on Halloween.
But it was obvious that Joyce was reluctant to commit and wasn’t in it for the long run as she didn’t let Bob in on any of their family’s secrets until half-way through the season, and that was only so she could use Bob’s intelligence to help find Hopper.
That brings us to Bob’s heroics. “Bob the brain” is what they used to call him in high school and Bob used his on several occasions to save our favourite characters’ lives. When Jim is stuck in the Shadow Monster’s underground tunnels, Bob is the one who works out that Will’s drawings are a map of Hawkins and helps them find the approximate location where the chief is trapped. Still pretty clueless to what the hell is going on, Bob then helps Joyce down into the tunnels and goes in himself to help find Hopper, putting his girlfriend’s needs before his own.
When Bob finally finds out what is going on he doesn’t run away, Bob stands by Joyce’s side, and Will’s, to ensure their safety even when a load of demadogs savage pretty much the entire staff of the Hawkins laboratory. And this is when super Bob steps up, again, by using his “nerdy” knowledge of computers and BASIC to turn the building’s power back on and unlock the doors so they can all escape. But it’s not just Bob’s brains that make him a hero in this moment, it’s his bravery too as Bob has to put himself in danger by surviving the journey to breakers room, located three floors down.
Of course, Bob doesn’t hesitate and even stands up to Hopper when the chief tries to run off and save the day without understanding the logic of the situation. The only person who could do this job was Bob and Bob knew it, and Bob wasn’t going to let Hopper risk his life in such a fruitless manner.
After successfully resetting the breakers, unlocking the doors and distracting a demadog with a sprinkler so that the group can make it out to the main exit, Bob’s heroic run comes to an end in the most cruel way – Bob is mauled alive mere metres from safety. I think I screamed as loudly as Joyce at this point because watching the demadogs munch on Bob as the others escaped made me realise that this stupid town didn’t deserve him as a hero.
Joyce strung Bob along, Hopper looked down on him and Jonathan outright criticised him to Will, but Bob still ended up sacrificing his life for them. This fight wasn’t Bob’s but Bob still fought it without hesitation and the fact is, Bob had more in common with those kids than any other adult, because Bob was once one of them.
As Mike (Finn Wolfhard) points out, Bob was the kid who founded their school’s A.V. Club and lobbied hard for it to be established. Bob was the geeky kid who most likely got picked on at school and had no luck with the ladies. Bob probably spent as much time reading comic books and playing fantasy games as these kids do now, and like them, it was Bob’s nerdy knowledge that proved most valuable in several dire situations. That’s why in one of the final scenes of the season we see a poster of Bob as a superhero, because that is exactly who Bob Newby was.
The sad fact is, Hawkins will probably never know how super Bob was because once again the government wants to cover up the strange goings on in the small Indiana town. Where there should be a day of town mourning for Bob the brain there will only be a hushed-up funeral and a fake reason given for his gruesome death.
So as I grieve for the loss of the great Bob Newby, I can only hope that the Duffer Brothers will will offer some sort of public recognition of his sacrifice in the next season, in the same way that they gave Barb the send-off she deserved at the end of season two.
Barb got her justice, now Bob deserves his.
‘Stranger Things’ S2 is streaming on Netflix now.