Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things isn’t just known for its 90s-themed glory but is also popular in terms of love stories from teenage romances to complicated adult love. One of the best love stories in the small and mysterious town of Hawkins, albeit quite melancholic since it’s unrequited, is about Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) and Jim Hopper (David Harbour).
While the start of Joyce and Hopper’s relationship hasn’t been outright recounted in the past four seasons, some fans say they feel these two dated in their high school days. Even Jim’s co-worker once hinted at it. Unfortunately for Hopper, their love story didn’t become a happily ever after. Joyce was a single mom with two kids who were the center of her life, and he stayed single, pining for her.
Despite not ending up together, the chemistry between them remains undeniable. After all, who’s better to pair up with a hysterical and overthinking mom than the town sheriff, who looks so done with life?
So, before Stranger Things ends, and their story as well, let’s quickly unfold their romance season by season.
Joyce and Hopper’s first interaction in the series was when Will (Noah Schnapp) got abducted, which was later revealed to be by the monster they called the Demogorgon.
If you’ve watched the show, you’d know Joyce was the typical mom who was always anxious about her sons. So when Will disappeared, she immediately asked for Hopper’s help. Not just because he was an old friend but also because he was Hawkins’ sheriff.
At that point, Hawkins was still one of those towns that many would call uninteresting because nothing ever happened there. So Hopper assumed Will was just out playing, and Joyce was worried about nothing.
In episode 4, the police department discovered what they thought was Will’s body, and Hopper gently broke the news to Joyce. However, instead of leaving, he got in his car and slept in her driveway if she needed him.
Then, as the story progresses, Hopper comes to believe Joyce’s suspicions and helps her find her son in The Upside Down. Then, in the season finale, as they suited up to explore the realm beyond, he would talk her down whenever she would panic. When they finally found Will, he performed CPR, and he refused to give up on the boy.
He cemented himself as a father figure to Will and proved his loyalty to the Byers.
It had been over a year since the mysterious phenomenon passed and Will’s rescue. To help him cope with what had happened, he went on to see Dr. Owens (Paul Reiser). Hopper was in his full-on dad mode with him and appointed himself as Joyce’s support system. Owens even called them “Mom” and “Pop,” but that would not happen anytime soon as Joyce already found herself a nice guy by the name of Bob.
Despite that, Hopper continued to be present for her and her boys.
Just when things were going well, Joyce started worrying again about Will. He started drawing weird sketches repeatedly, and it turned out that he had been sharing a vision with what was later known as the Mind Flayer.
It was another monster lurking in the Upside Down. Unlike the Demogorgon, who only hunt and feed people, the Mind Flayer infiltrates its victims’ minds.
So, Hopper and Joyce worked together with the rest of the crew to fight off the Mind Flayer’s army and to save Will once again from being part of the hive. At one point in the heavily tense battle, the two shared a passionate hug after Hopper got rescued from the Upside Down while Bob stood right next to them.
Then, after the danger passed, the kids enjoyed their Snow Ball. Outside the venue, Hopper and Joyce shared a moment and a hug – for Bob, who lost his life in the process – and then a cigarette.
Things started to heat up between the odd couple in season 3. Joyce returned to being a single mom, while Hopper became a single dad after he adopted Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown).
This time around, it was Hopper’s turn to ask Joyce for advice as he was worried Eleven was spending too much time with her boyfriend, Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard). The two wanted some private, alone time, but Hopper was on the protective side. Joyce tried to coach him on how to approach and say things.
At the end of their conversation, Hopper took a leap of faith and asked her to dinner. Joyce turned the invite down at first, then she said yes, but ultimately stood him up to follow a hunch about the mystery she’d been experiencing, which she also mentioned to Hopper before.
However, they did have a chance at a date in a vacant building afterward, where they talked about traumas and Joyce wanting to move away from Hawkins. He replied that he wanted her to feel the town was still home.
Halfway into the season, Hopper and Joyce turned into a pair of detectives as they chased down answers about Hawkins’ latest conspiracy. As they adventured, they found themselves fighting off sexual tension. However, they never acted on it and were even in denial.
In the season finale, Hopper and Joyce found they were “a pretty good team.” As they quietly chatted, Joyce suggested that should they survive, they should celebrate at Enzo’s (the same restaurant where she stood him up). Unfortunately, that did not happen, as Hopper was thought to have been killed in the explosion.
Season 4 started with everyone thinking Hopper died, but not Joyce. She was convinced he was alive, especially after she received clues from Russia that said otherwise. As it turned out, Hopper was imprisoned in a Russian camp. Trusting her gut, Joyce journeyed to save him. They ended the first part of the season with a tight hug.
Following their emotional reunion, they shared their first passionate kiss for the first time. Sadly, their happy moment didn’t last long. Hopper decided to go back to the prison camp so they could help the kids who were fighting the Mind Flayer back at Hawkins.
Hopper almost got killed, but thankfully, he was rescued by Joyce, and the scene looks like a mirror of Bob’s sacrifice in season 2. The two returned to Hawkins together and reunited with the children.
Stranger Things will return for the last time, with Season 5 slated earliest in 2025. Hopefully, Joyce Byers and Jim Hopper will have a fitting ending to their story. In Duffer Brothers, we trust.