WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Stranger Things Season 3, streaming now on Netflix.
Billy Hargrove has been one of Stranger Things' most hated characters his debut in Season 2. Played by Dacre Montgomery, he was abusive to his step-sister Max, and antagonized the other kids, going so far as to nearly beat Steve Harington a pulp.
All in all, Billy was your typical testosterone-driven bully from 1980s movies whom we wanted to see receive his comeuppance. Season 3 sort of does that by having the Mind Flayer infect and use Billy to help amass an army. However, while Billy goes on to turn Hawkins, Indiana, upside down,, he plays an even more pivotal role in the finale that earns him a degree of redemption.
In the season premiere, Billy crashes his Camaro near Brimborn Steel Works, where he's infected by the Mind Flayer. The dark entity has returned, sinking its tentacles into Hawkins once more, due to efforts by the Soviets to re-open the rift to the Upside Down. That leads to Billy bringing even more victims for the Mind Flayer to infect, so it could amass an army of humans (referred to by the kids as "the Flayed), and create a Meat Monster, a physical manifestation of last season's Shadow Monster, to take down Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown).
Honestly, it couldn't have picked a better host, as Billy is the unlikable character you want to see die. Beyond his near-affair with Karen Wheeler, he's a violent psycho who believes in nothing but looking out for himself. So when the selfish Billy gets taken, you do feel it's karma. However, when Eleven searches for him after suspecting him of being the key to the season's big mystery, she finds a memory of young Billy on a California beach, enjoying the happiest day of his life with his mother. We then witness his father physically abusing her, which pushes her to run away and abandon the boy. That leads to Billy internalizing that pain and becoming aggressive, just like his father -- which we received insight into last season when he was beaten by his dad after Max went missing.
Despite Stranger Things attempting to make Billy a somewhat-sympathetic villain, it's difficult to root for him, as he's literally an avatar of the apocalypse at this point. It doesn't help that he's on a mission to kill the kids, simply so he can get Eleven and offer her as a sacrifice to the Meat Monster. It all comes to a head when he gets his hands on her in the finale, "The Battle of Starcourt Mall," and with the girl de-powered, and her friends struggling to hurt the creature using fireworks, it looks as if Billy has fulfilled his duties. That is, until Eleven verbally recalls the memory she experienced and appeals to Billy's humanity.
Max tried that earlier before, but got slapped aside. But here, Eleven knows the pain of losing a mother, and in a last-ditch attempt at survival, she connects emotionally to what Billy buried deep down inside. He tears up and, just as the creature's spiked tongue is about to kill Eleven, Billy suddenly catches it and saves her. She slowly crawls back as Billy yells at the beast, making it clear he's no longer its puppet.
Sadly, the Meat Monster punishes him by planting its six tentacles into his body, and then its tongue straight into his chest. Eventually, when Hopper (David Harbour) and his team shut down the rift in the secret Russian facility beneath the mall, the creature dies, but alongside its lifeless body is Billy.
Max goes over only for him to whisper how sorry he was for his past transgressions, and as everyone watches him die, it's clear he's absolved of his sins. Billy saves the show's main hero and in doing so, he grants not just the townsfolk, but the entire world, a second chance. And so, when Max is spotted in her room, grieving for him three months later, you can't help but feel sorry he had to endure such a tragic life that ended in such a monstrous fashion.
Created by the Duffer Brothers, Stranger Things stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Noah Schnapp, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, Joe Keery, Priah Ferguson, Cary Elwes, Jake Busey and Maya Thurman-Hawke.