If you’re digging Stranger Things, but haven’t finished the season, be prepared: There are some spoilers ahead. And while we all love peeking at a solid spoiler, trust me. Stranger Things is so good, that you’ll want to witness everything that happens when it happens.
One of the most intriguing characters of the show didn’t end up getting that much screen time. And that’s Nancy’s best friend Barb, played amazingly by newcomer Shannon Purser. (Seriously — this was her first role ever, and she absolutely nailed it, which pretty much ensures she has quite the acting future ahead of her.)
Barb was the nervous, cautious best friend, who didn’t really fit into the “cool group” — nor did she want to. While fellow-nerd Nancy seemed eager to hang with the popular kids, Barb thought the whole idea of throwing weekday parties, and engaging in underage alcohol consumption, was pretty lame. Barb expressed things perfectly with a few choice eye-rolls that would make Liz Lemon proud.
After unfortunately cutting her hand while giving into the pressure of slicing open a beer can Steve’s party that she was kinda-sorta dragged to, she comes to the realization that her and Nancy are slowly growing apart. Reflecting on the night, she sits by the pool as her wound slowly drips blood into the water. And with a flash, Barb disappears into another dimension, dragged away by the monster.
Unlike Will, we later realize (with much sadness) that Barb just didn’t make it. It was an upsetting realization for all, especially Nancy, who realized that her last interaction with her closest friend was a negative one. If things went differently that night, Barb would likely still be alive.
This plot was even tough for the creators of the show, Matt and Ross Duffer, who liked Barb as well. But to them, the plot had to happen. In an interview with Geoff Berkshire from Variety, the Duffer Brothers explained the thought process behind Barb’s death a bit more.
“With the first episode we wanted someone to die very quickly — which was the Benny character [the diner cook played by Chris Sullivan] — someone set up who looks like a substantial character and dies. And then Barb who looks like a substantial character. We wanted it to feel unsafe,” Matt said. “…It’s something we want to preserve as we go into season two, where you feel everyone including the kids is unsafe and anything can happen. We pushed it this season with Barb, but I want to continue to amp up that threat. It makes it scarier, but it’s also sad. Shannon Purser who played Barb, we fell in love with her. She had never acted before, this was her first role in anything, she blew us and everyone away. It was sad to lose her, but some people have to go.”
Ross also adds that Barb’s death likely played a part as to who Nancy ended up with in the end — after all, it was hinted that something would happen with her and Jonathan, but she’s seen snuggling up with Steve in the last episode.
“Nancy obviously still has this tremendous guilt and anger over what happened to Barb. She’s lost someone … it’s certainly bittersweet for Nancy and she needs someone in that time.”
Makes sense, as she disappeared at Steve’s party.
While Barb’s death was definitely an upsetting one, we know we’ll be seeing Shannon Purser on our screens again soon.