While Joe Keery’s character Steve Harrington was merely meant to be the annoying jerk all the way through the incredibly popular TV show, the actor was so unbelievably nice the Duffer brothers decided to change his trajectory and keep him in the series, as reported to Rotten Tomatoes. Although Stranger Things fans were originally meant to despise Steve, the exact opposite has happened. With his staying in the treasured sci-fi series, the character has slowly become a fan favorite, gathering a whole lot of love from all over the world, and rightly so.
As much bad news Keery’s character throughout the first season was, towards the end he had already put himself back on the wagon and showed redeeming qualities. And then for the whole of season 2 his character development just got better and better. His transformation from part-time douche to full-time lovable dork took place. And once the audience realized, it was a little too late: Steve had mercilessly stolen everyone’s heart. So, what has changed?
While anyone could tell Steve genuinely cared for Nancy (Natalia Dyer) even if it got him teased by Tommy (Chester Rushing) and Carol (Chelsea Talmadge), it is undeniable how much more of a selfless character Steve has become. By choosing to deeply connect with others, he easily puts the needs of his friends before his own.
It is also extremely notable that Steve didn’t pressure Nancy, even though he loved her to death, into staying in a relationship with him in season 2. While Harrington was clearly emotionally wounded, he sincerelyjust wanted her to be happy with whomever she wanted to, even if he ultimately got no apologies in return.
The Evolution of His Hairstyle
If you thought Steve’s redemption arc was the only thing that highly influenced him to grow as a person, you’re wrong — his fabulous feathered mullet says hi. What’s so great about this hairstyle, besides looking generally better and fitting his face more, is the symbolic meaning behind it.
Apart from making Steve appear way more approachable and all in all more likable, head of the hair department Sarah Hindsgaul explained that the styling choice was due to the character letting his guard down and emotionally developing, contrasting with the first season.
He (Sort of) Became a Father Figure
If there is anything fans of the series were not able to foresee coming in the second season, it was definitely Steve activating his ultimate babysitter mode. The phenomenon was so big that in no time countless memes of the character being the “mom” of the group were spread over the internet at light speed.
All jokes aside, Steve’s role as a mentor and very positive role model (essentially to Gaten Matarazzo’s Dustin, who until then lacked a father figure) is certainly and unarguably one of the best things about his development. What’s even better is the way he tightly bonded with the kids in the meantime, that being the reason why he sticks around up until now. He even got a goodbye letter from Max.
Always Down to Slay Demogorgons
Not to say that Steve hasn’t always been corageous — before the second season we hadn’t really seen him in a situation that required him to be. But the way he’s completely transformed into someone who’s constantly eager to help the group and deal with every thorn in the side with no hesitation, be it confroting Billy (Dacre Montgomery) or a couple of Demogorgons, is pretty badass.
Always ready to face it head on, season 2 Steve basically risked his life for people he barely knew. While everyone had their reasons to be involved in the great scheme of things (helping Will or, in Nancy’s case, do Barbs justice) Steve was doing it because he wanted to. He could’ve taken the easy way out and go home, but he deliberately chose to stay and make himself useful instead.
Understanding and Accepting
Between realizing that being popular in high school doesn’t really matter at the end of the day and judging Robin (Maya Hawke), after revealing that he was in love with her, not for having a crush on a girl, but for having a crush on Tammy Thompson (Julia Reilly) specifically, Steve has proven to be full of surprises. In spite of pouring his heart out with unrequited feelings, he listened to Robin carefully, without judgments or any additional awkwardness.
Back in the ’80s liking people of the same sex wasn’t half the discussed topic it is now, so it isn’t hard to imagine how scary for Robin coming out to Steve must have been, especially after learning that her close friend was actually in love with her. While she probably thought those two things would likely ruin their friendship, they only brought them closer together.
There is no doubt that Joe Keery’s now very lovable character comes across as a generally nicer character than he was in the first season. Thanks to his wonderful maturing, Steve is shown to be more kind-hearted and more tolerant of things he would usually poke fun of almost immediately.
Although his caring nature goes to show in the first season — even if meticulously limited to Nancy — as soon as the second season starts the character broadens his horizons and comes to terms with his emotional side, embracing all the fuzzy feelings that come with it.
He Got Himself a (Much) Better Circle of Friends
This would be the perfect opportunity to put the “When Your Circle Small But Y’all Crazy” meme to use — but it just so happens that their circle isn’t really that small. Within a new squad filled with fresh faces who are crazy enough to confront the strangest living creatures, Steve found a place in which he fits perfectly.
There is no such thing as a perfect character, and this fantastic group of friends depicts exactly that. While they all have their own problems and anxieties, there will always be a place for learning and improvement; as long they’re all by each other’s sides, it will be all right in the end.