Warning: This story contains spoilers from season 4 of Stranger Things.
The truth behind the painting! Following a dramatic buildup throughout season 4 of Stranger Things, Will (Noah Schnapp) addressed his sexuality and how it relates to his friendship with Mike (Finn Wolfhard) — by using Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) as a stand-in for his own feelings.
“Yeah [I painted this]. I mean, El asked me to. She commissioned it, basically. I mean, she told me what to draw. Anyway, my point is, see how you are leading us here? You’re guiding the whole party, inspiring us. That’s what you do,” Will gushed to Mike as he finally unveiled his artwork during episode 8. “And see your coat of arms here? It’s a heart. And I know it’s sort of on the nose, but that’s what holds this party together. Heart.”
During the conversation, Will noted to Mike that everyone would “fall apart” without him. Even though Will mentioned Eleven’s feelings throughout his speech, Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) seemingly picked up on his younger brother’s true intentions.
“These past few months, she’s been so lost without you. It’s just, she’s so different from other people, and when you’re different, sometimes you feel like a mistake. But you make her feel like she’s not a mistake at all,” Will continued. “Like she’s better for being different. And that gives her courage to fight on.”
He concluded: “If she was mean to you or she seemed like she was pushing you away, it’s because she’s scared of losing you, like you’re scared of losing her. And if she was going to lose you, I think she’d rather just get it over with quick. Like ripping off a Band-Aid. So yeah, El needs you, Mike. And she always will.”
The reveal comes after season 4 previously hinted at Will’s feelings for his best friend. During the first installment, which aired in May 2022, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) told Mike that Will was working on a painting, which she presumed was for a crush. Will later visibly flinched when a girl in his class attempted to flirt with him.
Following his emotional speech, Will turned away from Mike as he broke down in a sob. Jonathan later offered Will some support when he reminded him that he loves him no matter what.
Will’s progress discussing his personal struggles comes after season 4 previously hinted at Will’s feelings for his best friend. During the first installment, which aired in May, Eleven told Mike that Will was working on a painting, which she presumed was for a crush. Will later visibly flinched when a girl in his class attempted to flirt with him.
While on a mission with the rest of the California crew, Will hinted at his inner turmoil during a conversation with Mike. “Sometimes, I think it’s just scary, to open up like that — to say how you really feel, especially to people you care about the most,” Will told Mike. “Because what if — what if they don’t like the truth?”
Amid speculation that Will might be coming to terms with his sexuality, Schnapp, 17, noted that he liked the ambiguity to his character’s love life. “I feel like [creators Ross and Matt Duffer] never really address it or blatantly say how Will is,” he told Variety in May. “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.”
At the time, the actor praised the way Stranger Things allowed Will to explore his feelings toward romance. “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,” Schnapp added.
His costar Brown, 18, also applauded the show’s approach to Will’s story through the years. “Can I just say, it’s 2022 and we don’t have to label things. I think what’s really nice about Will’s character is that he’s just a human being going through his own personal demons and issues,” she shared during the joint interview. “So many kids out there don’t know, and that’s OK. That’s OK to not know. And that’s OK not to label things.”
The actress continued: “It’s such an amazing role for Noah to play. And to be that role model for kids out there who don’t know what they’re going through growing up.”
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