Spoiler alert: this article references key storylines from Stranger Things 2. Reading on is entirely your own decision…
Stranger Things was a huge hit the moment the first series dropped on Netflix in 2016, so anticipation levels for the second were high.
And now its creators, the Duffer brothers (aka Matt and Ross Duffer), have revealed the death of one particular character was the “hardest scene” to write in season two.
To recap, the second season saw a bigger foe in the form of the mind flayer, pubescent growing pains complicating friendships and much-boosted strength (and a new look) for Eleven. There were also several fresh characters, including Bob Newby – Joyce Byers’ jolly new boyfriend.
As viewers will know, Bob (played by Lord of the Rings’ Sean Astin) is initially of the harmless, kind-hearted, slightly bumbling ilk.
In fact, his bumbling results in some well-intentioned advice to Will (Noah Schnapp) to face down his demons going incredibly awry – physically and telepathically linking a terrified pubescent boy to an evil shadow monster from another dimension.
(Well, poor Bob thought he was helping Will with PTSD issues. How was he to know that Will’s waking nightmares were actually dangerous?)
Anyway, unassuming Bob Newby soon evolves into Bob Newby: Superhero, playing a pivotal role.
Not only did he find a near-death Jim Hopper (David Harbour) down in the tunnels (barely questioning how or why he so desperately needed to work out the secrets behind Will’s scribblings), but helping Joyce (Winona Ryder), Hopper, Will and Mike (Finn Wolfhard) escape the Demodogs (yes Dustin, we’re on board with the name) roaming the Hawkins lab.
But no good deed goes unpunished, and Bob was killed for his trouble in episode eight, torn into by the monsters in front of Joyce’s very eyes as they left the lab. RIP Bob Newby.
In an interview with Variety, Matt and Ross Duffer say that Bob’s death was an incredibly difficult decision to come to – especially as Astin had made the role so much bigger than originally intended.
Saying Bob was meant to be “Joyce’s dorky, boring boyfriend”, Matt Duffer tells the publication that Bob was going to die “around episode four”, after giving Will the doomed advice.
But after seeing what Astin could bring to the part, the pair decided to give Bob more screen time.
Matt says: “I was not imagining Bob like Sean Astin at all. And then we met Sean and I kind of fell in love with Sean and his real-life personality and so we sort of fused him with this character of Bob.
“It created this character who was so much more lovable and interesting than the one we had initially written. I think he had the biggest impact on the narrative of the show this year. Very much the same way Winona did in season one when we cast her, because Bob went from being a character who we didn’t really care about to a character we cared very dearly about and an actor who we cared a lot about.”
But poor Bob met his end, albeit later than originally planned – and Matt says it was “the hardest scene to write.”
“We kept postponing his death until eventually we got to episode eight when it couldn’t be postponed anymore,” he reveals.
“I think it was still narratively the right thing to do but for me it was the hardest scene to write because I really didn’t want to do it but I felt it had to be done. Sean really didn’t want to leave the show either. So it was hard to part ways with him.”
Ross, speaking to Entertainment Weekly, adds: “This is not a kids’ show and there are consequences and people do die. But we are sad to lose him because he really just blew us away.”
While some on Twitter have been asking for #JusticeForBob, recalling the way Barb (Shannon Purser) met an unceremonious end in season one without making much of a ripple in the town, Astin himself actually says he believes his character doesn’t need ‘justice’ given he managed to be the hero for Joyce he’d always wanted to be.
Fair enough, it must be difficult watching the woman you love attempting to deal first with the fact her son, whom she recently rescued from the brink of death in an upside-down underworld, is now linked at the soul with a terrifying creature beyond the comprehension of man. Definitely nice to be able to do something useful in that scenario.
Astin told Entertainment Weekly: “The sequence with the dogs bursting through the door and screaming on the ground and [Winona Ryder] seeing me get eaten took a long time and was exhausting for everybody. But it also felt really heroic […]
“I was like, ‘I don’t care if Bob dies, but if I could do something heroic, I would love that. Just anything heroic.’ No justice required for Bob.”
He added: “To me, the thought completed itself. Bob wanted to provide for her and so he rescued her and saved her life. It’s a satisfying end for me.”