WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Stranger Things Season 3, streaming now on Netflix.
One of the most appealing elements of Netflix's Stranger Things is how it focuses on embracing the concept of "the other." The theme runs through the relationships of the group of Dungeon & Dragons-playing teenage boys, and further enhanced by the addition of the rebellious girls, Eleven and Max.
You can even see that with Nancy falling in love with brooding photographer Jonathan Byers. However, Season 3 of the hit series carves out an even more nuanced story of acceptance with the introduction of the show's first on-screen LGBT character, Robin (Maya Thurman-Hawke).
Robin is the wise-cracking coworker of Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) at Scoops Ahoy who mocks his repeated, failed attempts to pick up girls while selling ice cream in a sailor uniform; she dubs him "dingus." She taunts Steve about how much he tries to maintain the "cool guy" facade, berates him both about his attachment to hair products and to his younger friends, to the point viewers might think she has a crush on him.
But when Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) ropes them into cracking a mysterious Russian code he intercepted on ham radio, the fates of Robin and Steve become intertwined. They realize Starcourt Mall is front for Russian scientists who operate a secret underground facility, later revealed to be devoted to opening a gate to the Upside Down. With the help of Lucas' scene-stealing little sister Erica (Priah Ferguson), they infiltrate the purportedly impenetrable subterranean lab.
However, Steve and Robin are captured, and bond between rounds of brutal interrogation and injections of truth serum. Robin confesses to being obsessed with Steve when they were younger, and was jealous that girls swooned over him. That leads Steve, and the audience, to think she's had a crush on him for years. The drugged-up duo is eventually rescued by Dustin and Erica, only to end up in a mall restroom vomiting into toilets. At that point, Steve admits he's over Nancy, and has fallen for his coworker.
Robin is stunned as he confesses she's hilarious and unlike anyone he's ever met. But rather than fall into his arms, Robin delivers a curve ball by explaining she admired Steve from afar, not because she loved him, but because she wanted to be him -- that is, the object of affection of their classmate Tammy Thompson. It takes Steve a few seconds to process what he's been told.
The show does a pretty solid job of handling the situation carefully, because you can see the apprehension in Robin. She's even more nervous, considering he just admitted he has feelings for her. But as awkward as the confessional begins, Steve handles it delicately by calling Tammy a total "dud," and mocking her singing voice. In short, he hints Robin could do better, and deserves better, which eases her anxiety.
In a series filled with heartwarming friendships, it's another class act by Steve, especially after taking Dustin under his wing. Robin is relieved he doesn't reject her friendship, and you can tell Steve genuinely cherishes her, especially as she's been in the trenches with him. He's matured so much, he doesn't care about a broken heart: Steve is simply happy his friend trusted him enough to come out to him.
By the time the season finale wraps, Robin and Steve are found looking for new jobs together, as the mall closed in the aftermath of the battle with the Mind Flayer. Robin is actually responsible for securing them a job at a video store, and it's clear we're getting Steve in an age-appropriate and platonic friendship that will do wonders for future stories as the "Scoops Troop."
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.