Joyce Byers’ Best Moment From Each Season of ‘Stranger Things’

Fans of Winona Ryder, who plays anxious mom Joyce Byers on the Netflix hit Stranger Things, were thrilled to see her in the new series when it premiered in 2016. Ryder had largely disappeared from the Hollywood scene for a while. The series, steeped heavily in ‘80s nostalgia, was the perfect role to make her return. Joyce isn’t a perfect mom, but if it wasn’t for her persistence, we’re pretty sure Will (Noah Schnapp) would still be stuck in the Upside Down with a tentacle shoved down his throat.

Here are Joyce’s best moments for the first three seasons of Stranger Things.

Joyce Byers, played by Winona Ryder, in a production still from 'Stranger Things' Season 3
Joyce Byers | Netflix

When she’s relentless in her search for Will in ‘Stranger Things’ Season 1

We first meet Joyce Byers as she frantically looks for her keys in the Stranger Things opener. She’s late for work, and she enlists the help of her older son Jonathan to help with her search. It’s only then that they both come to the realization that Will never made it home from his friend Mike Wheeler’s house the night before.

For most of season 1, Joyce is essentially by herself as the people around her believe she might be crazy. Even after the body of Will is found, Joyce insists the body they show her is not her actual son. We can’t really blame the others for thinking she might be experiencing some extreme form of grief. However, it’s her refusal to give up on figuring out what happened to him that finally gets Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) on board. Together they go up against government agents and monsters from the Upside Down before finally rescuing Will in the Stranger Things Season 1 finale. 

When she refuses to take the doctors non-answers in season 2

While Stranger Things Season 1 might have started off with Joyce not knowing Will didn’t come home for a night, the Joyce we get in Stranger Things Season 2 puts a regular helicopter parent to shame. She won’t even let Will go trick-or-treating with his friends on Halloween night without his older brother in tow.

Will’s condition worsens after first having a seizure on the football field at school. Then he has another one when scientists start to burn back the ever-advancing vines from the Upside Down. When the doctors look at Joyce with blank faces when she asks what’s wrong with Will, she explodes. These are the doctors who promised her everything was fine when she asked about Will’s visions. It’s her refusal to take no for an answer that eventually saves the kid’s life yet again. 

We know parents were a lot laxer in the ‘80s about where their children were, but Joyce knows better. The Wheelers never even know if their kids are in the same house as them, let alone where exactly they are. We have to give it to Joyce for knowing she knows her son better than the government doctors and scientists.


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When she closes the gate in ‘Stranger Things’ Season 3

The third season of Stranger Things really amped up the action and the story. In previous seasons the main antagonists were monsters from the Upside Down. That’s still true in season 3. However, we’ve also got Russians trying to take over the world on top of just the monsters.

Throughout season 3, audiences enjoyed watching the will-they-or-won’t-they storyline between Hopper and Joyce play out. Hopper is finally ready to admit his feelings for Joyce. However, she’s still processing the death of her boyfriend, Bob Newby (Sean Astin), in Stranger Things Season 2. In the final episode of season 3, Joyce finally believes there might be something there between her and Hopper. The two make plans for a future date right before Hopper has to go in and try to close the gate to the Upside Down. 

However, things don’t go as planned. Hopper can’t get away from the gate in time for Joyce to close it, causing him to disappear. He sacrifices himself to save her, the kids, and the world. It’s gut-wrenching to watch him give her a smile that tells her it’s ok for her to do it. However, Joyce is still the one who has to pull the switches to close it. Not only does she have to say goodbye to the man she was possibly falling in love with, but she now has to tell his adoptive daughter that he won’t be coming home. We’re not sure how she had the strength to do it.

Thankfully, a teaser trailer was released in February 2020 that let us know Hopper survived, so there’s still hope the two can rekindle their romance in Stranger Things Season 4. The upcoming season will premiere at some point in 2022.