WARNING: The following article contains potentially major spoilers for Stranger Things Season 3, which arrives July 4 on Netflix.
After the death of Sean Astin's hapless Bob Newby, arguably the least-welcome development of Stranger Things Season 2 was the introduction of Max's abusive stepbrother Billy Hargrove, who certainly didn't earn any fans, even as he helped to soften our view of Steve Harrington. Over the past few months, a theory has begun to take shape about what the upcoming third season of the Netflix sensation has in store for the cruel teen, which could be dismissed as wishful thinking by those who want to see him receive his just desserts.
Except that a purportedly leaked clip appears to give it credence.
The new footage, which surfaced Tuesday on Reddit, aired Monday on Australian morning show Sunrise, accompanying an interview with actor Dacre Montgomery. In the scene, curly-haired Billy laughs as he drives his beloved 1979 Camaro, until something strikes the windshield, causing him to crash in front of Brimborn Steel Works, a name that should be familiar from one of the Season 3 posters (we'll get to that in a moment). It's worth noting that the clip that now appears on Sunrise's YouTube channel only shows Billy smiling as he checks out his reflection in the rear-view mirror, and omits the subsequent crash that leaves him slumped in the driver's seat.
That sequence certainly seems to buoy the fan theory that Billy becomes a literal monster in Season 3. Here's how.
Billy Hargrove Is Infected By the Upside Down
The first seeds for this theory are planted in the Stranger Things Season 3 trailer, released in March.
At the 1:54 mark, Montgomery's Billy stands beneath the shower before the camera cuts to his arm, which displays the telltale signs of infection by the Upside Down, the alternate, parallel dimension that's at the center of, well, all the weirdness and horror in little Hawkins, Indiana.
That might close the book on Billy being at least controlled by the Mind Flayer, except that the same trailer (at 2:19) depicts what appears to his signature mop of hair looking down as a fellow lifeguard being dragged underwater, into the darkness. We can probably safely presume she's the "Missing Lifeguard" of the third episode's title. If so, that likely means whatever happens to Billy occurs later in the eight-episode season.
Thanks For Visiting Brimborn Steel Works
If you recognized the signage for Brimborn Steel Works, it's because it was previously seen on the Fourth of July-themed Season 3 poster released last month by Netflix. At the lower right, beneath the legs of one of the monsters, is Billy and his Camaro in front of ... you guessed it ... Brimstone Steel Works.
Fans of the Netflix drama scour every teaser and photo for plot clues, and it was no different with that poster, with many noting the placement of Billy and the mysterious armed man. That the apparently shuttered factory is overrun by vines, surrounded by dead rats, and cast in a blue hue is more than enough to link the location to the Upside Down. That Billy is placed there too certainly supports the trailer's implication of his infection -- at least for starters.
The Original Plan For Billy -- and Season 3's Influences
However, that's not enough to get us to Billy as the grotesque monster seen in trailers and on that very poster. For evidence of that, we have to go back to Season 2, and the original plan for his character.
Series creators Matt and Ross Duffer borrowed a page from Stephen King, and introduced Billy as "a bad human character, a human villain.” "There’s a human villain who’s just as bad, if not worse than the supernatural one," Matt Duffer told Vulture in 2017. He is that, undeniably. But they also intended for him to play a larger role in that season than Hawkins' new resident bad boy, and all-around dick.
"We ended up having so many characters it ended up, in a way, more teed up for Season 3 than anything," Ross Duffer explained. "There was a whole teen supernatural storyline that just got booted because it was just too cluttered, you know? A lot of that’s just getting kicked into Season 3."
OK, so we're getting closer. Now add to that the stated primary influences for the third season: John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing), David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome) and George Romero (Night of the Living Dead). The first two in particular are evident in aspects of the Season 3 trailer, most notably in the flashes toward the end, of something -- or, rather, someone -- transforming into the monster. That the penultimate episode of Season 3 is titled "The Bite" suggests a zombie-like infection or outbreak (Romero), while the trailer delivers body horror (Cronenberg and Carpenter). All signs point to Billy.
Billy's Rat Tale
The clip, then, places Billy at the mysterious Brimborn Steel Works, but obviously doesn't reveal what happens next. We're left to wonder what struck the windshield of his Camaro, causing the wreck, and how Billy contracts this infection. Are we to take the Romero influence literally, and assume that Billy dies, only to be brought back as ... something else? Probably not.
But, as we saw with the pumpkin patches in Season 2, the Upside Down contaminates any ground it touches, rotting the vegetation in the area. Is it similarly poisoning the rats at the abandoned factory, or is it infecting them? We might then theorize that a concussed Billy stumbles out of his car and into the mass of dead and dying rats. Hence, "The Bite."
It would be a horrible way to go, transformed by a rat bite into a grotesque vessel for the Mind Flayer. But we can't say we'll feel sorry for Billy Hargrove.
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. Season 3 arrives July 4 on Netflix.