WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the second season of Stranger Things, streaming now on Netflix.
Viewers had no sooner finished binging last year on the first season of Stranger Things than they began to campaign for justice for Barb Holland, the judgmental best friend of Nancy Wheeler who fell prey to the Demogorgon while sitting alone beside Steve Harrington’s pool. While seemingly forgotten by the residents of Hawkins, Indiana, who were more focused on the missing Will Byers, Barb was embraced by fans, who raised her to the status of breakout character, surprising the cast and producers of the hit Netflix drama.
Although series creators Matt and Ross Duffer said they wouldn’t resurrect Barb, whose body was last seen in the dark mirror dimension known as the Upside Down, they pledged “we will have justice for Barb’s death in some sense” in the second season. But with new episodes now available on the streaming service, did they follow through on their promise? In a sense, yes.
Shannon Purser, who was nominated for an Emmy Award for her performance, doesn’t reprise her role in Season 2, but Barb Holland does loom large over the story. A year after she disappeared, her grief-stricken parents display photos of their beloved daughter around their house (even, prominently, in the bathroom), which they’ve put up for sale to help fund the search for her by an investigative reporter/conspiracy theorist whom police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) accuses of bleeding the couple dry.
Riddled with guilt about Barb’s death, but unable to tell her parents anything about it, Nancy (Natalia Dyer) re-teams with Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) to get justice for Barb by secretly recording researchers from Hawkins National Laboratory, and then paying a visit to the shady reporter, who’s as interested in facilitating underage drinking and sex as he is diving down metaphorical rabbit holes after Soviet spies. They quickly set him straight, at least about the Soviet spies.
In the end, Mr. and Mrs. Holland don’t learn the truth about Barb. Instead, following the release of the tape recording, Hawkins National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy are forced to admit “their involvement in the death and cover-up of Hawkins resident Barbara Holland,” whom they say died because of exposure to “an experimental chemical asphyxiant” that had leaked from the grounds of the lab. While the town’s residents are shaken by knowledge of an apparent environmental danger, they and the Holland’s are left blissfully unaware of the Upside Down.
With that, Barb is finally given a funeral, and the Holland’s — and perhaps the viewers — are granted some sense of closure.
Now streaming on Netflix, the second season of Stranger Things stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Cara Buono, Matthew Modine, Noah Schnapp, Joe Keery, Sadie Sink and Dacre Montgomery.
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