Warning: This story contains spoilers about the plot of Stranger Things season 4.
Finding love in a hopeless place? Season 4 of Stranger Things introduced Vecna as the worst villain to wreck havoc on Hawkins (yet) — but that doesn’t mean the characters didn’t make time for romance amid battle.
During the first installment of season 4, Joyce and Hopper’s love for one another drove much of the story. Even though the pair shared almost no screen time in the first seven episodes, their connection pushed both of the characters to survive.
Ahead of the show’s return, which aired in June 2022, Brett Gelman weighed in on Joyce and Hopper’s future after playing third wheel for several seasons. “Absolutely. I definitely ship it. They love each other. That is all that matters,” the actor, who portrays Murray on the Netflix hit series, exclusively told Us Weekly in May 2022. “When you meet single people and they are putting together a criteria of what you want, I am like, ‘You are wasting your time and you are stressing yourself out for nothing.'”
At the time, Gelman noted that Joyce and Hopper were destined to be together. “At the end of the day, the person that you connect with is the person that you connect with,” he continued. “The person you fall in love with is the person you fall in love with. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It is almost — it is potentially even chemical. Then relationships are a process. So go for it. See what happens.”
Following Joyce and Hopper’s emotional reunion in episode 7, David Harbour addressed why it took so long for the couple to get to a place of potential romance. “I certainly feel like, from what happened in Season 3, it couldn’t work. The guy from Season 3 and woman from Season 3 could not work,” the Black Widow star told Variety that same month. “Clearly there’s some chemistry and there is a longing for them to be together, but they would have to become different people.”
Harbour also recalled building a backstory for Joyce and Hopper over the years with Winona Ryder.
“It’s something that we’ve mapped out — how much they want to show is really up to [the Duffer Brothers]. Winona and I postulate a bunch of stuff, we have a bunch of theories. Some of them are very wild, and some of them are very tame,” he added. “In general, they had a time in high school — they knew each other when they were super innocent, and they had all this potential, both of them. Now they don’t have much potential. They’re sort of what they are.”
The New York native added: “Knowing someone who, when you look in their eyes, you see that young person they were, is part of the bond between the two of them. They’ve known each other for so long and knew what you wanted to be and what you couldn’t be and what you couldn’t be. I think they have a very complex love for each other. It’s not just romantic. It’s much more complex than that.”
Harbour later took to social media to praise Ryder for her hard work bringing Joyce to life. “The vital beating heart behind every season of ST is Joyce and Winona Ryder’s stunning performance for the last 7 years,” he wrote via Instagram in June 2022. “Joyce will save her son, all the Hawkins kids, her old pal Hopper and the withering magnetism of her funky kitchen magnets.”
Scroll through the gallery below to see how each couple ended up in the fourth season: