Stranger Things isn't exactly a series known for keeping its characters safe.
When dealing with the creepy crawlies of the Upside Down, death is always a distinct possibility. New characters seem to fare especially poorly, but even old favorites live in constant risk when matched up against Demogorgons and Mindflayers. It's wise to never get too attached to a character in Stranger Things, lest we find ourselves in another Barb situation, mourning a very nice girl who did not deserve to die such a slug-ridden death.
But in Stranger Things, death isn't just a source of shock value. Death is used as a means of character growth, motivation for the living, as well as plot advancement. Also, sometimes gore is fun. So to celebrate all the death in Stranger Things 3, here's a list of everyone who died this season, RANKED:
7. Jim Hopper
Okay, so obviously Hopper's death was the biggest, most impactful death of Stranger Things 3, and probably Stranger Things period. It was super sad and very emotional, and El reading the heart-to-heart speech he had written out earlier in the season was easily one of the biggest tearjerker moments of the entire series. So why is Hopper's death the lowest ranked entry on this list?
Because Hopper is so, so, so clearly not actually dead. First, we never actually saw Hopper die. We see the bodies of the dudes in Hazmat suits explode, but not Hopper. Isn't that suspect? Second, a major plot point this season revolved around El losing her powers, meaning she no longer has the ability to track someone's location. Honestly, this wasn't super relevant to the plot other than delaying her ability to discover Hopper's current status at the end of the season, which she'll inevitably do in Stranger Things 4 when she gets her powers back. Third, when the Russians refer to "the American" they have locked up in the post-credit scene, does anyone actually doubt that's Hopper? Because that's Hopper.
Tldr; Hopper is still alive.
Grigori was basically ripped from The Terminator, even being referred to as "Arnold Scwarzenegger" at one point. As the season's tertiary villain (after the Mindflayer and his avatar, Billy), and the only major human baddie acting of his own volition, Grigori deserved a big, brutal death. When Hopper pushed him into the machine's whirry parts and his body blew into chunks, it was certainly brutal, but it also felt a little anticlimactic. Grigori died quickly, and in spite of the nature of his death, he never received any real fleshing out. Considering he wasn't actually The Terminator, his death left me wanting more.
5. Mrs. Driscoll
Mrs. Driscoll was just a nice old lady who called the local newspaper when some rats ate her fertilizer. Sure, sometimes she gorged herself on fertilizer, too, but that doesn't mean she deserved to die such a grotesque death. Poor Mrs. Driscoll melted into a gooey pile of blood-mucus slime before melding into the Mindflayer. And while Mrs. Driscoll wasn't alone, joined in death alongside all the other flayed victims, Mrs. Driscoll is the one to mourn. We will always remember Mrs. Driscoll as she would want to be remembered: a feisty old dame who loved eating bags of animal poop.
3+4. Bruce Lowe + Tom Holloway
Under Tom Holloway's sexist guidance as editor-in-chief, The Hawkins Post local newspaper seems to exclusively hire other raging sexists. Chief amongst them is Bruce Lowe, played by Jake Busey (who was also in Starship Troopers, which is my favorite sci-fi movie ever, but that's neither here nor there). Both Tom Holloway and Bruce Lowe are big, douchey sexists who treat Nancy like garbage, so when they get flayed by the Mindflayer it's kind of okay. Their sexist brains are already mush.
Luckily, they don't die the same goopy deaths as Doris Driscoll and the other flayed. Special deaths are reserved for these massive sexists when they pursue Nancy and Jonathan throughout the hospital. Jonathan stabs Tom in the throat with a scalpel, and Nancy smashes Bruce's face in with a fire extinguisher. Best of all, because they've already been flayed, we don't even need to feel bad about them dying. Not that we would have, anyway.
2. Dr. Alexei
The adorable, childlike Russian scientist, lovingly referred to as "Smirnoff" by Hopper, was one of the best new additions to the Stranger Things 3 cast. After being kidnapped by Hopper and Joyce, Dr. Alexei defects from the Russians knowing full well that he'll be tortured and killed if he returns, due to presumably giving away Russian secrets. While Dr. Alexei is initially anti-American, he comes to love Slurpees and Looney Tunes and carnival games, expressing genuine delight when he wins a giant stuffed Woody Woodpecker. This makes his death all the more tragic, as only moments after winning his prize, he gets shot in the stomach by Grigory. Dr. Alexei dies alone, tucked away behind a ride at an American carnival. His dreams of becoming an American citizen and his big, infectious smile die with him.
1. Billy Hargrove
Boasting the most fleshed out character arc of Stranger Things 3 (aside from Hopper), Billy Hargrove goes from ultra-violent bad boy lifeguard to possessed bad boy monster to tragic bad boy whose anger is understood to be motivated by trauma. As El comes to understand Billy's tragic past as a victim of his father's abuse and his mother's abandonment, Billy's earlier behavior comes into focus. While we know Billy as a nasty bully and all-around punk, it's hard not to feel some empathy knowing that his dearest memory is a childhood day at the beach when his mom watched him surf. El reconnects Mindflayer-possessed Billy with this memory, allowing him to break free from the monster's control. With his newfound lucidity, Billy protects El from the Mindflayer, who immediately impales him in retribution.
Billy's final act of heroism absolves him of all his prior misdeeds on Stranger Things, giving him a hero's death and completing a complex, emotionally fraught character arc. Considering Hopper isn't actually dead, Billy's death is easily the most impactful death of Stranger Things 3.