Major spoilers for Stranger Things 2 follow below. Turn back now if you’re not caught up.
Dan Cohen calls it “The Joe Keery Effect,” and Shawn Levy agrees. The two producers of Stranger Things were speaking to our own Steve Weintraub about Sean Astin’s turn as Bob in Season 2. Specifically, they were talking about the time we ended up spending with Bob over the course of the season, which was not initially planned out. Instead, the script called for Bob to be killed off pretty early on. When asked about potentially killing off any major character, Levy told us:
“That was never on the table. We had talked about the death of some major characters, that may or may not happen in the future near or far. But that was never part of the discussion for Season 2. The death of Bob was initially much earlier. In fact, in an early outline, Evil Will kill him in like Episode 3.”
What?! As Levy and Cohen explain, it would have been during that early car scene when Bob is giving Will advice about the Shadow Monster. “Will just straight-up murders Bob in that car,” they told us. That would have taken things in a much different direction if Will had killed Bob in that moment. Firstly, it would have solidified “Evil Will” earlier in the season, and also not given Bob his eventual hero arc (which was so moving).
Like Joe Keery, who plays Steve (who ended up being Season 2’s MVP), Astin’s performance charmed the Duffer Brothers enough to give him a lot more story time — he was just too good to waste.
“We wanted to keep him alive longer, and then use his death as Joyce’s engine,” Levy said. “The avenging of that would become Joyce’s engine for the finale.”
For those who have said that Bob is the new Barb, that’s not exactly true — Barb died very early in Season 1, and we spend a lot more time with Bob and getting to know him, and seeing him interact with Joyce and her sons. And in the end, he was not only integral to their survival, but he was avenged almost immediately. #JusticeForBob did not take long. Joyce burned her own son alive for him! (Although that also helped Will).
But Levy also notes how he accidentally spoiled Bob’s death during a Comic Con interview when he said “Bob is the new Barb,” meaning that fans would love him. Afterwards, he scoured entertainment sites to see if anyone had picked up on the deeper meaning of forecasting his death. “Thankfully no one is that interested in anything I have to say, so it didn’t catch fire” he joked.