David Harbour promised justice for Barb while at Comic-Con this summer, but did Stranger Things 2 give Barb the story line she deserved?
Justice for Barb has been a fandom cry since Stranger Things season 1 premiered last year. Barbara Holland (and actress Shannon Purser) made an impact on our hearts. She was the loyal best friend Nancy needed when Steve was tearing Nancy down. She had goodness in her – a characteristic we came to love about all the best Hawkins residents.
She was pulled into the Upside Down early and unceremoniously. She disappeared in only the second episode of the series. While we got glimpses of her after that, they were only to confirm her torment and later death. A character so good certainly deserved a better send off.
So did Stranger Things 2 deliver justice for Barb?
New character Murray Bauman certainly wants to get to the bottom of what exactly happened last year. The Hollands hire him as a private investigator, hoping to finally find some answers about Barb’s fate. He doesn’t have the answers — which is evident when he points to conspiracy theories about Russia at first — but he’s searching for the truth.
Much of Nancy’s storyline this season was certainly dedicated to the cause. In the first few episodes, Nancy wallows in her guilt about Barb’s death. She eats dinner with Barb’s parents. Though we only see this once, we’re led to believe Nancy has been doing this regularly since Barb disappeared. Taking care of Barb’s family is one way Nancy tries to get justice for Barb.
Eventually, Nancy finds another way to get justice for her friend. With Jonathan’s help, she devises a plan to reveal the truth about Barb’s death. With three characters searching for a way to tell the truth, Barb certainly has her share of advocates this season.
As a part of Nancy and Jonathan’s plan, they find a way to get into Hawkins lab. While there, Nancy records Doctor Owens confessing that the lab made horrible mistakes that led to Barb’s death. This brings Nancy some satisfaction, but it still doesn’t quite bring justice for Barb.
With the help of Murray, Nancy and Jonathan are able to find some of that justice. Now that they all know the truth and have a confession on tape, they want to reveal the story to the world.
They know people will not believe the whole story about what happened, so they decide to tell people that Barb was killed because of dangerous toxins leaking from the lab. People won’t know the exact truth, but it will take down the people responsible for Barb’s death.
In other ways, Nancy proves how strong she has become since Barb’s death. When the demadogs come after everyone at the Byers’ house, Hopper asks Steve and Jonathan if either of them can use a gun. When they hesitate, Nancy says “I can.” She catches the gun with ease when Hopper tosses it to her.
Barb’s death allowed Nancy to step up in situations like this. While it doesn’t make up for Barb’s death, I think Nancy’s actions in season 2 are another way to give Barb justice. She learns how to protect those around her. She loves more fiercely and doesn’t take her experiences for granted. Losing Barb helped her acquire those skills.
With Barb so protective of Nancy in season 1 (back when we all hated Steve for the way he treated Nancy), I think this growth in Nancy is something Barb would be proud of. It is a way Nancy can honor her friend. Nancy’s actions embody what so many loved about Barb in the first place: a strong, smart, and loyal female character.
In the final episode of the season, all of Nancy’s work to get justice for Barb finally pays off. Hawkins lab shuts down. A news report announces that “under mounting pressure, several high ranking members from the US Department of Energy have admitted involvement in the death and cover-up of Hawkins resident Barbara Holland.”
The world knows the truth — or some version of it — about Barb. The men responsible for her death are taken out of positions of power. Barb’s parents finally get some closure. And Barb? She finally gets a proper burial and mourning from her family, Nancy, and other friends.
Stranger Things 2 certainly gave a satisfying story line to fans, but I hope this isn’t the end of justice for Barb. The gate to the Upside Down may be closed, but whatever killed Barb is still out there in some capacity. We still don’t know exactly what happened to Doctor Brenner, the man perhaps most responsible for what came out of Hawkins lab. When we finally get Stranger Things 3, I want more answers and more justice.