Noah Schnapp, Charlie Heaton, Finn Wolfhard, Stranger Things

"Stranger Things" is the biggest show on TV right now, and in the grand tradition of small-screen spectacle storytelling, it’s probably about due to kill some characters off. Past seasons’ home stretches have given bloody and dramatic send-offs to Matthew Modine’s Dr. Brenner (although he didn’t stay dead), Dacre Montgomery’s Billy, Sean Astin’s Bob, and David Harbour’s Hopper (although, again, he’s actually alive).

With only two episodes left of the season, viewers are entering full Death Watch 2022 mode and nobody seems to be safe. Though star Millie Bobby Brown recently joked that the show’s creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, are "sensitive Sallies who don’t want to kill anybody off," there seem to be at least a few deaths on the horizon. Brown’s co-star Noah Schnapp recently went on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," where he promised that there will be "some deaths coming" in the season’s final episodes.

So who’s most likely to kick the bucket by the end of the Netflix show’s penultimate season? Let’s investigate, starting with the most likely candidates.

Dr. Brenner

Matthew Modine, Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things

At the top of this season’s potential hit list is Dr. Ian Brenner, a man who has already lived the full character life cycle of a great villain and then, for some reason, came back again. His appearance in season 4 is one of the less logical plot points of the series, as he somehow quickly convinces Eleven (Brown) that he’s been on her side all along despite the heaps of evidence we’ve seen to the contrary.

At best, season 4 Dr. Brenner seems like an excuse to get the always-great Matthew Modine back on the show. At worst, he seems like a crutch used to move Eleven’s story along so she can finally understand the origins of Vecna and the Upside Down. Now that he’s served his purpose, it would make sense for him to die for real. It’s also pretty likely, given that teasers include a shot of Eleven standing outside what appears to be the exploded surface of the underground lab.

Jonathan

Charlie Heaton, Stranger Things

In terms of characters who aren’t doing much this season, Jonathan Byers (Charlie Heaton) is up there. It’s actually been kind of fun to see him transform into an aimless stoner after his family’s move to California, but his plot arc is less of an arc at this point and more of a flatline.

Combine this with the fact that his love triangle with Nancy seems to have no easy solution (I mean, they could just talk and part ways as friends, but people in ’80s adventure movies don’t do that), and Jonathan is starting to look like Vecna-bait. If the monster who feeds on secrets and insecurities ends up going after Will (Schnapp), the core character who seems to be hiding his sexuality, Jonathan would no doubt risk his life to protect his younger brother.

Jason

Mason Dye, Stranger Things

Hawkins High School’s star athlete has turned out to be one of the season’s stealth villains, as he’s spearheaded the witch hunt against Eddie in the wake of his girlfriend Chrissy’s (Grace Van Dien) death. Jason Carver (Mason Dye) has turned out to be a world-class tool, as well as an effective stand-in for the kind of flawed rhetoric that still stokes the flames of moral panics and conspiracies to this day.

Though the last two episodes of the season are being kept largely under wraps, Dye’s co-star Caleb McLaughlin, who plays Lucas, hinted to MTV News that the two actors have a particularly intense scene coming up in the season finale. Not to get too deep into the clues we’ve been presented here, but characters tend to die in "Stranger Things" finales. If we have to see Vecna crumple one more helpless teen, it would at least be nice if it was the one who’s a big jerk.

Steve

Joe Keery, Stranger Things

Before we get into this, it’s worth stating for the record that I do not want Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) to die. Nobody wants Steve Harrington to die. When we do broach the topic, conversations about the potential death of Steve Harrington have been unfolding in hushed tones these past weeks, as if the Duffer Brothers will somehow hear us and kill off our favorite hot, charismatic hero if we’re too loud.

And yet, there seems to be a more than zero percent chance that Steve could die. The character has always been a fan favorite (and has always been thrown into near-death situations), but this season more than any other has been giving him hero moment after hero moment as if to set him up as a perfectly coiffed fallen saint if he does bite the bullet. He also got bitten by a freaky Upside Down bat earlier this season, meaning he’s currently in poor health and not out of peril yet. As much as I hate to speak this into the world, it would be in line with the direction the season’s heading in if Steve got one last grand romantic moment with Nancy before bowing out for good.

Eddie

Joseph Quinn, Stranger Things

The best of the season’s new characters, edgelord Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) has weaseled his way into our hearts after just a handful of episodes. On the surface, he’s a rocker burnout who’s in it for the shock value, more concerned with striking fear into the hearts of freshmen with his melodramatic Dungeons & Dragons speeches than with ever actually graduating Hawkins High School. But scratch that surface and you’ll find an awkwardly endearing guy who coos words of love to his electric guitar and is sweet on the head cheerleader.

The only problem with Eddie is that the "Stranger Things" writers wrote his whole season 4 arc before they knew how much we’d love him. His status as a breakout star does nothing to protect him from this season’s endgame, which trailers have shown includes him playing a badass solo on that guitar from the depths of the Upside Down. Hopefully, he makes it out in one piece for an encore performance, but if the Duffers wanted to kill off a character we’re rooting for while keeping all the original core cast members alive, Eddie would be their guy.

Victor Creel

Robert Englund, Stranger Things

There’s a good chance the scene we saw in episode 4 of the new season of "Stranger Things" is the only Victor Creel (Robert Englund) content we’ll get. After all, he told his story, he gouged his eyes out, and horror fans got the chance to applaud at an appearance from "A Nightmare on Elm Street" alum Englund.

But if Victor does come back, it’ll likely be in some sort of face-off with Vecna. After all, the mid-season finale revealed that the monster is actually Creel’s long-lost son, who was secretly responsible for the disturbing events Creel assumed were a haunting decades earlier. This means Vecna killed Creel’s wife and daughter, and Creel is still in Pennhurst Mental Hospital totally unaware of the truth. There’s no real reason to think Creel couldn’t survive his encounter with Vecna, but I can’t exactly picture the horror figure rehabilitated and happy in the season’s epilogue, either.

Murray

Brett Gelman, Stranger Things

While much of "Stranger Things" follows familiar story beats from ’80s genre classics, this season’s Russia plot has been off-the-wall and utterly unpredictable. So far, conspiracy theorist Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) has survived a plane crash, impersonated a peanut butter-loving Russian smuggler, and helped Joyce (Winona Ryder) reunite with Hopper.

There aren’t a ton of signs pointing to Murray’s demise in the tail end of the season, but one particular frame of the Volume 2 promo gives me pause. In it, we see the eccentric hero inside a building, with the reflection of a red-orange explosion (or the open gate?) in the frame of his glasses. Murray’s mouth is wide as if in a scream, but it seems less like an exclamation of fear and more like a bracing-oneself-to-go-for-it holler. Maybe he’ll charge forward and attempt to save Joyce or Hopper from something? It’s entirely possible that I’m reading way too much into this, but Murray does seem fairly expendable if blockbuster rules dictate that someone has to go.

Dr. Owens

Paul Reiser, Stranger Things

Like Dr. Brenner, Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) is a character most fans didn’t expect to see much of this season. The former Department of Energy employee turned director of Hawkins Lab has mostly been a good guy throughout the seasons, and was last seen in season 3 helping the Byers family move to California.

Dr. Owens plays a major part in the new season, telling El there’s a coming war between Earth and the Upside Down and trying to protect her whereabouts when government officials come looking for her. "Stranger Things" loves to show us nice dudes dying in laboratories (see also: Bob), so it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for Dr. Owens to meet his fate soon. On the other hand, it seems like he has more info to share with Eleven, so he could be instrumental to the series’ season 5 endgame.

Hopper

David Harbour, Stranger Things

Former police chief Jim Hopper has been absolutely put through the ringer this season, to the point that killing him off now would just be cruel. Still, his character has gone through a sort of internal metamorphosis that makes him more capable than ever of being the hero Joyce and Eleven need right now. If the show is going to have a sacrificial character this season, it could well be a newly revitalized Hopper.

On the other hand, Hopper’s fake-out death ended season 3, so it’s kind of a played-out plot point. As of now, he’s still in Russia with Joyce and Murray, and the volume 2 promo shows him uncovering some sort of stasis chambers with what look like Upside Down monsters in them. His death is possible, but it’s more likely he’ll return to Hawkins armed with a new outlook and a bunch of new information that could help the group as they face off against Vecna — or whatever comes next.

Will

Noah Schnapp, Stranger Things

Poor Will Byers has been treading water all season (or, more accurately, for several seasons now). The seemingly closeted teen has been along for the ride with the California group’s adventures this season, but he’s also mostly been relegated to background status. We know that he painted something that seems to be a gift for Mike (Finn Wolfhard), and that his previously vague sexuality seems to have given way to a full-blown angsty crush on his bestie.

Theories surrounding "Stranger Things" season 4’s finale have been swirling around since the first batch of episodes dropped, and the one that seems to fit most neatly into the tale the season’s been spinning involves Vecna coming for Will. The monster preys on secrets, and Will seemingly has a big one, so it only makes sense that everything he’s been trying to hide will be brought into the light by Vecna. But will his family save him? Will Mike? As the self-appointed president of the Will Byers Defense Squad, God I hope so, but I do worry that the painting is just begging to be opened posthumously by a group of teary-eyed teens.

Max

Sadie Sink, Stranger Things

This is another death that is included here for posterity’s sake, but that I’m writing about with both fingers crossed in fervent hope that it doesn’t come true. Max (Sadie Sink) already had a major close call this season, and her run-in with Vecna formed the basis of one of the best scenes the series has ever done. The monster exposed her innermost thoughts, pointing out that in her darkest moments, Max wants to die. But she was saved through the power of friendship, good memories, and Kate Bush’s epic classic "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)."

Max’s showdown with Vecna felt like a turning point for the character, so it wouldn’t make sense to have her meet an early demise after she just regained the will to live. Still, the promo for Volume 2 does include a shot of her pulling at the boarded up windows of a decrepit building, an image that eerily echoes Chrissy’s last moments of life. Still, Chrissy had no clue who Vecna was, whereas Max has already beat him once before. Hopefully, if she does get caught in his clutches again, it’ll be part of a fakeout that lets her KO him once and for all.