While Steve Harrington no doubt had the best character arc among all characters across all seasons of Stranger Things (and he definitely remains one of our — if not *the* — most favorite characters), someone else has continuously caught our attention over the years we’ve watched the gang grow up. From telekinetic Eleven and curious Mike to introverted Will and skeptic Lucas to sarcastic Max and hardworking Nancy, there is no shortage of young heroes on Stranger Things. But we’ve gotta say that plot-wise, Dustin Henderson (played by Gaten Matarazzo) has consistently been the most effective character. Here’s why.
Warning: Some spoilers ahead!
He’s sensitive yet level-headed
In the very first season, Dustin was set up to be the level-headed friend in the group. Mike was too open-minded (he said yes to practically everything El wanted), and Lucas was too skeptical (he wanted to kick out El), and Will was, well, missing. Only Dustin maintained a neutral, level head when dealing with El and the mystery surrounding her.
He’s the peacekeeper
Among the original friend group, Dustin is the one who maintains and negotiates peace in the face of any friction. He’s also emotionally observant, able to quickly pick up on any changes within the dynamics of his friends. Remember in Season 1 when Mike and Lucas fought and stopped talking? Dustin is the one who knocked some sense into the two and encourages them to reconcile.
He’s the most scientifically inclined
This guy is a complete nerd, but all his scientific curiosity always comes in handy whenever the group faces an unexpected obstacle from the Upside Down. Remember in Season 3 how they got to close the gate with the help of his homemade radio (and a little duet with his girlfriend)?
He might even be the most intelligent among the original quartet, if not all the characters.
He’s the resident explainer
Dustin is the one who’s able to explain things to everyone else in better, albeit nerdy gamer, terms. He knows things — as in a lot of things. Most of them come in handy (e.g. parallel universes, the compass and true North), and others not so much. And he’s able to break down his knowledge into simpler terms to help others understand what’s going on in their wacky supernatural-filled town.
He keeps it real
Dustin is an unapologetic nerd who enthusiastically loves learning and random facts and Dungeons & Dragons. He doesn’t care about fitting in, as long as he has his friends. In later seasons, we see him show a more vulnerable side as a result of being a self-conscious bullied kid, but we also see him grow with the help of his friends. (Special shoutout to Steve!)
He gets on with everyone
the reason their dynamic was so good is because dustin was just relentlessly bullying steve the whole season pic.twitter.com/dSrmhHZ2al
— matthew 🪵 | 78 days till decide (@argylesblunt) May 29, 2022
Put him with anyone in the show and you’d get some hilarious and wacky dynamics. His unexpected team-up with Steve in Season 2 was a stroke of genius. And adding Robin and Erika with them in Season 3 made it even more interesting. Now, in Season 4, he’s part of the bigger group and still leading the pack towards a better understanding of the Upside Down — and you know, safety.
There’s a reason the Steve-Dustin pairing is a favorite dynamic among fans.
And he just gets sh*t done
Dustin is the one who used the compass to find the gates. He is the one who figures out what’s happening. He’s the one who explains things for the whole gang and the audience in an easy-to-digest manner. He is the one who comes up with names for the ~unknown~ variables in their quest against the Upside Down. I don’t think the gang can get anywhere without Dustin, really.
Gaten Matarazzo is just amazing
Please. Gaten was made for this role. And he continues to kill it (and all the Upside Down creatures) every season.