This post contains spoilers for Stranger Things.
Ah, Will. From the start of Stranger Things, he’s always been the outlier, the kid wrested away from the gang by dark, supernatural forces. The first two seasons saw him dealing with massive, world-ending dilemmas as he got trapped in the Upside Down, then became an unwilling host for the Mind Flayer. But over the last two seasons, Will’s world has (somewhat) chilled out. His inner life has taken center stage, and fans have been able to focus on more personal details about the character. As they did, a question rose to the fore: Is Will gay?
Now that season four, volume two has arrived, the answer is…probably? But the show still hasn’t declared it outright. For the last two seasons, the show has been dropping hints here and there that Will isn’t like the rest of his friends. However, it’s never explicitly declared in season three or season four, volume one, leading fans to conclude that Will’s sexuality would be revealed in volume two, which was released Friday on Netflix. Alas, the show still hasn’t taken a firm stance on the character’s sexuality, dashing fan theories that there would be clarity on this part of Will’s life once and for all.
However, there were some hearty clues given along the way. In the beginning of episode eight, Will and Mike have a heart to heart in the back of a van while Jonathan, Will’s big brother, drives. Mike is beating himself up about Eleven, convinced that one day she’ll realize he’s nothing special. Will gives him a motivational speech, reminding him that Eleven probably doesn’t feel superior. “She’s so different from other people,” Will says. “When you’re different, sometimes you feel like a mistake.” He seems to be speaking about himself as much as Eleven, instantly becoming emotional at his coded speech. He then looks out the window and starts to cry, while Jonathan watches on in the rearview mirror, giving his little brother a knowing look.
In episode nine, Jonathan gently confronts his brother. He laments that their relationship has grown distant and that he hasn’t always been there for him. But, Jonathan continues, “You’re my brother and I love you. And there’s absolutely nothing in this world that could change that.” Will instantly begins weeping. It’s a warm and cathartic scene, a baby step in the right direction for Will to feel comfortable and finally open up about who he is.
And perhaps he will by the time season five rolls around, seeing as it’s the last season of the entire show. Maybe he’ll open up to his brother and his friends. Maybe he’ll prove the fan theories right and confess he had a crush on Mike all along. Or maybe the show will start fresh and introduce a new love interest for Will, as the Duffers did for Robin (Maya Hawke), the only openly queer character in the group.
Noah Schnapp, who plays Will, has responded to speculation about the character’s sexuality in the past. In a May interview with Variety about volume one of season four, Schnapp said the Duffer brothers, who created the show, “never really address it or blatantly say how Will is. I think that’s the beauty of it, that it’s just up to the audience’s interpretation, if it’s Will kind of just refusing to grow up and growing up slower than his friends, or if he is really gay.”
Costar Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven, added that “it’s 2022 and we don’t have to label things. He’s just a human being going through his own personal demons and issues.” Schnapp concurred: “I find that people do reach to put a label on him and just want to know, so badly, like, ‘Oh, and this is it.’ He’s just confused and growing up. And that’s what it is to be a kid.”
There were subtle clues in volume one that piqued fan interest in Will’s sexuality. Eagle-eyed viewers noticed that when Will had to do a class project on a historical hero, he chose Alan Turing, the scientific genius who was persecuted for being gay. He’s also the only kid in the core Hawkins friend group who’s never had a romantic story line. Furthermore, he’s frustrated throughout the season that Mike, his closest friend, is so wrapped in his relationship with Eleven. Their relationship also caused friction in season three, leading Mike to blurt out, “It’s not my fault you don’t like girls!” As pointed as that line seems to be, executive producer Shawn Levy, who also directed the episode, told Entertainment Weekly that “it’s not specific to sexual orientation or anything.”
But perhaps Levy was trying to throw viewers off the scent before the show could take a firm stance one way or another. Secrecy is the party line with a show this big, after all. However, it does seem like the journey of Will’s sexuality was actually an integrated element of the show’s inception. In the Duffer brothers’ original show bible for the series—back when it was called Montauk instead of Stranger Things—Will is described as a “sweet, sensitive kid with sexual identity issues. He only recently came to the realization that he does not fit into 1980’s definition of ‘normal.’”
Of course, Will spends much of season one trapped in the Upside Down, and most of season two playing host for the Mind Flayer, so he doesn’t have much time to explore his own identity issues. Two seasons—and several extremely long episodes later—it seems like Will’s personal journey is finally beginning.