Warning! Stranger Thing Season 3 spoilers below.
There’s a strange connection in “Stranger Things.”
Like the fan theories suggested, Season 3 of the Netflix show turned Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) into one of the main antagonists. He went around gathering residents of Hawkins, Indiana, so they could be enslaved by the Mind Flayer, turned into human goop and added into a real-world monster body. The season culminates in a final battle in which Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is able to remind Billy of childhood memories of his mum, leading him to break out of the Flayer’s control and ultimately sacrifice himself to save the others.
And that got people thinking about a very specific death pattern: In Season 3, it’s Billy; in Season 2, it’s Bob; and in Season 1, it’s Barb and Benny (the case is still out on Brenner). Are the creators of the show, the Duffer brothers, secretly killing off characters with B names?
If a show has an odd pattern, chances are fans will notice. Just look at The Walking Dead, which seems to constantly kill off doctors whenever more than one shows up. (The two tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse: Don’t get bitten and hide your medical degree, stat.)
Of course, people on Twitter quickly called out the pattern online after Stranger Things Season 3 was released on July 4.
“I heard a lot about that. I do not know,” said Dacre Montgomery, who portrays Billy, in a phone call with HuffPost. “Maybe it’s coincidence. I’m not sure, but you’re right. It has been the case thus far.”
So, should other B-named characters be on the lookout? (We’re looking at you, Murray Bauman ... Byers family ... Ben Schwartz if he turns out to be Steve Harrington’s son!)
Dacre said he’s not sure if any specific characters need to be on their toes.
“Who knows who’s next?” he added.
In the rest of our chat, the actor reflected on Billy’s last-second redemption, and also cleared up what was really going on when Billy gets trapped in the sauna in Episode 4. Was that really Billy breaking through the Mind Flayer’s control? Or was the Mind Flayer playing a trick before it attacked?
First off, it’s a bummer Mrs Wheeler will never get her swimming lessons. I guess she just can’t use the pool then.
Yeah, definitely. She’s not going to be taking part in that, and it turns to the worst pretty quickly.
When did you first hear about Billy’s direction this season?
We’d spoken about it a lot in Season 2 ... I guess the whole course of my character’s journey, so I was a little bit aware of it, but I didn’t realise how big it was going to be and how much a role Billy would play in the journey this season. That’s what I was grateful about, and so we just further fleshed it out. I did get to speak with the Duffers ... and I liked to hear a little bit more and discover about Billy’s biological mother and the story there, so I’m really glad they put that in because that helped gear toward the redemptive ending that Billy has, and to go into his past and see how that relationship or that component affected him.
That’s so interesting you helped get that story about his mum in there?
Yeah, we had a [talk] about three months before they started writing.
Was it originally planned for Season 2 but got moved to Season 3?
I think just because the story got so full in Season 2 there wasn’t a lot of space for that to take place. The Duffers had definitely been reassuring me of where the season could go.
What were you most excited about with what happens with Billy?
Truly what I tried to do this season was not just to play a possessed character. I tried to really push the envelope to someone experiencing internal struggles. I did a lot of research on people with bipolar disorder, split personality disorder, and how one personality has control over the physicality and the body, and tried to have this have control over the body, but have Billy still be seen in his eyes. I really tried to play the emotion of that character inside, play Billy through the show and push that emotion to my eyes.
So when you threaten Eleven and there’s a tear in your eye, that’s from Billy?
Yes, exactly. It’s that fight, that constant fight, as I say bipolar, split personality, I think all of those conditions have certain things that are synonymous with what I was trying to portray, which is an internal struggle, and I was trying to root it in that because I think people can relate to that more than the science fiction element, the fantastical element, because that’s grounded in reality.
OK, then in Episode 4, when the kids trap Billy in the sauna, that was real Billy breaking through and pleading with Max, not the Mind Flayer playing a trick?
Yeah, totally. I know at first it seems a bit like it’s a distraction, like he’s crying to distract her to grab the ceramic tiling and smash through the window, but I think it definitely was [the real Billy], and I said in that scene to Shawn Levy, who was directing the episode, I want when I’m on the ground his stomach to be out, it’s not supposed to be sexy, he’s in a pile on the ground trying to fight this, and as you know that’s the moment in the script where the Mind Flayer takes over and turns to be activated ... so that’s the final turning point, but I wanted to really show that struggle prior to that.
Billy in Season 2 is a bully, and just pretty awful overall. How do you feel about his redemption at the end?
It’s something that we talked about, but I never could’ve seen it happening like that. He ultimately saved Eleven who has lost her powers. You could argue that when the beast rips out his heart, it’s ripping out its own heart because he is its primary host. The same Hopper is closing the gate and all that stuff happening in the Russian lab, this beast rips out Billy’s heart and Billy dies ... So there’s multiple ways to look at it, and I think the redemption is fantastic because it’s not just rooted in that in that component, but her reaching into Billy and accessing where a lot of people could say he’s fundamentally broken, having had a parent, his biological father, play such an antagonistic role in his life.
We see Sean Astin’s Bob come back in Season 3. How do you feel about Billy coming back in some capacity?
I resign to the fact that if Billy shows up again or if he never shows up again, I’m grateful to have been a part of this.