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Sometimes, people don't really say what they're really thinking. When you capture the right moment, it says more.

–Jonathan, November 11, 1983


Jonathan Byers, portrayed by starring cast member Charlie Heaton, is a major character in Stranger Things. He is the older brother of Will Byers. His life was turned upside down following the disappearance of his younger brother.

During the events of second season, Jonathan assists in helping Nancy Wheeler exposing Hawkins National Laboratory as a threat following the laboratory responsible for the death of Barb and the disappearance of his younger brother. Towards the end, Jonathan helps his mother and Nancy into freeing Will from the Mind Flayer.

History

Young Jonathan

A portrait of Jonathan as a young child

Background

Jonathan was the first son of Lonnie and Joyce Byers. His father used to take him hunting, however, after his father made him kill a rabbit, he cried for a week in sorrow. Eventually, his father left his family, resulting in Jonathan becoming a role model for his younger brother Will. According to Joyce, Jonathan wanted to go to New York University ever since he was six years old. This could have been driven by his love for photography.

Jonathan had a love for music and of course, photography. Around 1982, Jonathan made a mixtape for Will, with Will's favorite track being a Clash single.

1983

On November 6, 1983, Jonathan decided to work late to cover a shift for his co-worker Eric, thinking that he and his mother could benefit from the extra cash. That same night, Will mysteriously disappeared. Jonathan blamed himself for the disappearance, saying that he should've been around at home to look after him.

Jonathan went with Joyce when they looked for Will, in and around, Castle Byers. Jonathan made a missing poster for Will and made photocopies of it, putting them up at various locations around town.

Jonathan left Hawkins, driving out to Lonnie's house to search for Will. This proved to be a pointless endeavor, as Will was nowhere to be found.

Jonathan-Photos

Jonathan takes photos in the woods.

Jonathan looked through and around the woodlands of Hawkins, taking photos in an attempt to find and capture evidence relating to Will's disappearance. He eventually got distracted and captured many pictures of Steve Harrington's party in motion including a shot of Nancy Wheeler in her undergarments. He unintentionally took a picture of Nancy's best friend, Barbara, with her feet dangling in Steve's pool whilst something strange stood behind her. Barb was abducted only seconds after, but Jonathan failed to notice, as he was too busy adjusting his camera.

Jonathan developed the photographs in the Hawkins High dark room. Nicole sneaked a glance at his photographs of the party, but Jonathan rushed to pull them off the dryer and bolted. Nicole told Steve and his friends about his photos, who then assaulted Jonathan and forcefully snatched his shoulder bag to see the pictures for themselves. Carol and Tommy H. mocked Jonathan by making comments about the topless photos of Nancy and calling him a stalker. Steve ripped up the photographs and dropped Jonathan's camera, breaking it. Jonathan scrambled to salvage remnants of his camera and photos. After Nancy saw Barb in the ripped photo pieces, she decided to collect as many pieces of the photo as possible before leaving with her friends.

Jonathan heard about a discovery at the local quarry, where Will's body had been found. As he drove to the quarry, he came across Joyce in the middle of the road. He got out and they embraced, sharing their grief and shock.

Hopper-Jonathan

Hopper consoles Jonathan.

At the Byers household, Chief Hopper attempted to console Joyce. Joyce was struggling to cope with the news, saying Will was hiding in the wall and that an "animal" that "didn't have a face" had chased her, and that this same creature was stalking Will. Jonathan and Hopper dismissed her, believing she was being hysterical.

The next day, Jonathan and Joyce went to see the body at the coroner's, but Joyce exclaimed the body wasn't Will's and refused to sign a document. Jonathan argued with her on the street, with Jonathan accusing her of being out of her mind.

Jonathan went to a coffin shop, where Nancy found him. She asked about an inconspicuous feature of the photograph he took of Barb, which she had pieced back together. He speculated this feature could have been produced as a result of "some kind of perspective distortion", although he was unsure and admitted it was "weird". Nancy mentioned that when she went to look for Barb near Steve's house, she saw a man with no face. In that moment, Jonathan realized that maybe his mother wasn't being as delusional as he had thought. Jonathan and Nancy went to the dark room to enlarge the photo, and Nancy was certain it was the same creature she had seen earlier. At Will's funeral, Jonathan and Nancy decided to look for the creature in the forest. Jonathan took a gun from his father's car and together they practiced shooting. In the forest, Nancy and Jonathan talked about the photos he took and ultimately ended up lashing out at each other.

Jonathan-Nancy-Shooting-Practice

Jonathan and Nancy practice their shooting.

After dark, they found a wounded deer. They agreed to kill it out of mercy, but before they could it was suddenly dragged away into the darkness. Following the blood trail, Nancy entered a portal in the base of a tree and found herself in the Upside Down. She saw the Monster appearing to feed on something and ran away as it gave chase. Following Jonathan's voice, Nancy made her way out of the dimension unscathed. Jonathan watched in wonder as the portal resealed.

Traumatized by the experience and wanting company, Nancy had Jonathan sleep over. The following day, she theorized about the Monster's nature based on her knowledge of animals, and they bought weapons to face it again. While downtown, they found Steve and his friends tagging slurs about Nancy. They realized that Steve had seen Jonathan in her room the previous night and tried to explain that he misunderstood. Jonathan and Steve ended up in a fist fight, which led to Jonathan's arrest and their weapons being confiscated.

Hopper and Joyce found Jonathan and Nancy at the police station and enlisted their help in trying to find Will's friends Lucas, Dustin, Mike as well as the escaped test subject Eleven. They eventually assembled at the Byers household, where they decided to build a makeshift sensory deprivation tank which Eleven could use to look for Barb and Will using her psychic abilities. The group broke into Hawkins Middle School, and Jonathan assisted Hopper in collecting de-icing salt. They learned through Eleven that although Barb had been killed, Will was still alive.

The Monster pinning Jonathan down

Jonathan is momentarily pinned down by the monster.

The group separated, with Jonathan and Nancy deciding to lure the Monster to the Byers household. They went to the police station, taking back their weapons, before setting up a trap at the house. The two cut themselves, drawing blood so that the Monster would be attracted. Steve came to the house to apologize to Jonathan, although they were distracted by the Monster breaking through the ceiling. With Steve's aid they caught the Monster in the trap, setting it alight and maiming it. The Monster escaped into the Upside Down and would later be destroyed by Eleven.

Hopper and Joyce were successful in their attempt to find and save Will; Jonathan was the first visitor at the hospital.

One month later, on Christmas Eve, Jonathan went to the Wheeler household to pick up Will after his Dungeons & Dragons game. As they were leaving, Nancy handed Jonathan a Christmas gift and affectionately kissed him on the cheek. While Jonathan turned on his car engine, he let Will open the gift for him. The gift turned out to really be from Steve. He got him a new camera to replace the one he broke as a token of good will and turning over a new leaf. They drove home, and before their meal, Jonathan tested out the new camera, taking photos of his mother.

1984

On October 30, as Jonathan and Nancy were leaving class, they received a flyer for Tina’s Halloween party. Nancy tried to convince Jonathan to attend, however, he refused.

The next morning, Jonathan photographed Will in his Ghostbusters costume. That evening, after being lent Bob’s video camera, Jonathan and Will left to go trick-or-treating. While he was originally supposed to stay with Will, Jonathan decided to instead let him go by himself. Now having nothing else to do, Jonathan decided to go to Tina’s Halloween party. When he arrived, he spotted Nancy and Steve dancing among several other people. He was then approached by Samantha, another party attendee, and had a brief conversation with her. Sometime after Steve had left the party due to Nancy’s intoxicated confession that she did not have feelings for him, he asked Jonathan to take her home.

During lunch the next day, Nancy spoke with Jonathan for confirmation of the party’s events. She then confided in Jonathan, telling him how she’s had to pretend everything was okay and tired of how the people at the lab have gotten away with what they have done. Nancy then got an idea on how to possibly expose the lab. They both skipped fourth period, going to RadioShack to buy a Walkman. After school, Jonathan accompanied Nancy to her house, where she called Mrs. Holland, telling her that she hasn’t been honest about Barb and to meet her at Forest Hills Park the next morning.

As Jonathan and Nancy waited in the park, they had a suspicion they were being watched, prompting them to go back to the car. After getting inside the car, they were then approached by agents who has been disguised as regular people. After being taken to the lab, Nancy and Jonathan were locked in an interrogation room. Eventually, Owens appeared and began giving them a tour of the lab, all the while explaining how the lab is trying to fix their “mistakes”, admitting culpability to Barb’s death in the process. After being warned not to say anything, they were allowed to leave. Once in the car, Nancy revealed the Walkman, having recorded everything that Owens had said.

Jonathan and Nancy then traveled in the direction of Bauman's location, spending the night in a motel. While there, they showed each other their matching scars, reminiscing about their previous adventure. Nancy asked what happened between them, saying that she waited for Jonathan before ultimately ending up with Steve again. Jonathan retorted by saying she only waited a month and he was busy looking after Will. No more was said and the two went to sleep.

When they arrived at Bauman’s residence, they presented the recording of Owens. Bauman claimed it wouldn’t be enough evidence to shutdown the lab, as it could easily be destroyed and the details of the story would be too extraordinary for the public to accept. He then proposed to Jonathan and Nancy that they “water down” their story in order to make it more appealing to the public. After altering their story to say that Barb died from a chemical leak originating from the lab, they placed the evidence in several envelopes to be sent to the Chicago Sun-Times.

When Bauman offered his guest room to the two of them, Jonathan asked if he could sleep on the couch instead. Bauman questioned them on their 'relationship' to which they denied being romantically involved. He easily deduced there was sexual tension between them, and suggested to forget their issues and finally get together. Jonathan and Nancy were both left restless, mulling over what Murray had said. Eventually, they gave into the sexual tension and Jonathan kissed Nancy, which was reciprocated and the two slept together, consummating their relationship.

Jonathan and Nancy left the next morning, after Bauman had served them breakfast. When they arrived back in Hawkins, they found the Byers household abandoned, strewn with Will's drawings of the underground tunnels. They traveled to Hawkins Lab to investigate, where they were met by Steve, Dustin, Lucas and Max. When they gained access to Hawkins Lab, they were unaware that they were in the midst of a Demogorgon outbreak, with Hopper, Joyce, Bob, Mike, and Will in the lab attempting to evacuate. After Bob was killed by Demodogs, the group fled Hawkins Lab and took refuge at the Byers' house.

The group formed a battle plan on how to stop the Mind Flayer. Everyone helped to free Will from the influence of the Upside Down. Jonathan, along with Joyce and Mike, attempted to free Will by sharing nostalgic stories with him. While Will was still controlled, he subconsciously tapped out Morse Code to signal a message to the group, deciphered to be 'CLOSEGATE'. With this information, Hopper and Eleven traveled to Hawkins Lab, Steve stayed and watched the kids, and Jonathan, Joyce and Nancy traveled to Hopper's cabin to force the entity out of Will. Jonathan found it incredibly difficult to watch his brother being tortured but was ultimately reunited with Will after the Mind Flayer his expelled from his body.

On December 15, Jonathan attended the Snow Ball, volunteering as a photographer for dance photos. He and Nancy were still together and appeared to be happy, sharing a smile with one another.

1985

On the morning of June 29, Jonathan and Nancy (who had spent the night) awoke late for work. They quickly got ready and rushed over to their job at The Hawkins Post.

The next day, Jonathan accompanied Nancy to Doris Driscoll's residence to investigate her claim about diseased rats. While there, she explained how the rats had eaten several bags of fertilizer and subsequently showed them a rat that she had captured in a cage, which Jonathan attempted to photograph. When Nancy found a lead regarding the "rabid" rats, she and Jonathan departed from the residence. Immediately after they had left, the rat exploded into a pile of flesh and escaped its cage.

After Jonathan developed his photos of the rat, Nancy tried to convince their boss, Tom Holloway, and the other journalists at the Post to print the story to no avail. Following a prank involving a plastic rat set up by Bruce, Nancy and Jonathan decided to return to Doris's residence to retrieve the rat in order to prove Nancy's story. When they arrived at her house that evening, they found Doris devouring fertilizer. They promptly called the police and Doris was loaded into an ambulance and taken to Hawkins Memorial Hospital.

The following day, both Jonathan and Nancy were called into Tom's office. He furiously berated their actions before firing them both. On their way home, the couple argued in the car, concluding that they no longer understood each other.

Personality

Jonathan is smart, introverted, asocial, kind, independent, and brave. He has a fondness for photography and music. Despite being a small-town boy, according to Joyce, he wants to go to college at New York University. He has a strong bond with his family and is implied to have a soft spot for animals, as he cried for a week after his tenth birthday when his father forced him to kill a rabbit on a hunting trip.

In 1984, Jonathan's personality managed to change a little bit. He became protective of Will, but not as much as his mother. He even encouraged Will to not let his differences bother him and that it's okay to be different not matter what. Jonathan tries to be by his brother's side despite it being difficult as Jonathan noted that Will has changed a lot since his time in the Upside Down. Jonathan was also not too happy with his mother's relationship with Bob Newby as both he and Joyce suffered from constant verbal abuse from his father than Will ever did. Jonathan also became friends with Steve Harrington and was on good terms with him. Jonathan also developed feelings for Nancy Wheeler who shared his trauma, but struggled to accept them until he was encouraged by Murray Bauman. And by a month later, Jonathan was happy to start a relationship with Nancy.

Relationships

Familial

Jonathan had a complicated relationship with his father, Lonnie. When Johnathan was young, Lonnie made him kill a rabbit which left Jonathan crying for a week. When Lonnie divorced his mother, Jonathan grew to despise his father and was forced to become a father figure towards his younger brother, Will. Lonnie, on the other hand, did not seem to care about Jonathan's feelings despite having average conversations with him, such as brushing off Jonathan's concerns about Will's disappearance, ordering him to take down one of his bedroom posters, and ignoring the fact that Jonathan wanted to go to New York University since he was six years old. When Jonathan met with Murray Bauman with Nancy Wheeler to expose Hawkins National Laboratory, Jonathan confirmed that Lonnie was an asshole, showing his ill will towards his father.

Though Joyce deeply cared for her eldest son just as she did for Will, she felt guilty that she had been unable to support him more, due to her time-consuming job. Joyce admitted to Jonathan that "I hardly know what's going on with you". After Will vanished, Joyce's sanity was tested, and in turn so was the relationship between her and her remaining son. However, Jonathan does care for his mother greatly, going to the extent as fighting Steve for insulting her and Will. When Jonathan realized that his mother was telling the truth about Will being alive, he apologized and the two reconciled, where they managed to reunite with Will after his rescue from the Upside Down. 

Will saw Jonathan as a role model, who in some ways was like a substitute father figure to him. They would often listen to music together, and Jonathan even made him two mixtapes. Jonathan also helped him build Castle Byers, in the pouring rain and all night. Jonathan would also defend Will from Lonnie, who didn't approve of his interests.

After Will vanished, Jonathan, like his mother, became desperate to find him. Upon waking in the hospital, one of the first things Will did was to ask Jonathan about his injured hand; they clearly greatly cared about each other's well-being. It could also be said that Jonathan is protective over Will. He fought Steve for mocking Will when his younger brother was thought to be dead, and he became heartbroken and gotten sick upon seeing his brother's "body." However, when Jonathan realized that Will was alive, he did everything he could to find to him and eventually apologized to their mother for not believing her. When Jonathan reunited with Will at the hospital, Jonathan was happy and a little surprised that Will was concerned for his injured hand.

In 1984, Jonathan became overprotective of Will, but not as much as their mother. He tries to be their for Will, despite his behavior changes. When Will revealed he was tired of everyone being so careful with him and is upset over being different, Jonathan cheers him up by telling him to accept his differences no matter what people say. When Jonathan returned to Hawkins with Nancy and learned of Will's possession, he stayed by his younger brother's side and apologized over and over, saying he should have been there with him. He helped burn the Mind Flayer out of Will although he was genuinely concerned until the Mind Flayer managed to leave Will's body. Once Will was free, Jonathan embraced Will, along with their mother.

Non-Familial

Nancy and Jonathan's bond goes through a dramatic change over the course of the series. When the series starts, Nancy's affiliation with Steve causes Jonathan to be initially skeptical. They form a bond over their mutual goal of finding their brother and friend respectively and become close. While Nancy ultimately reconciles with Steve in Season One, in Season Two, she and Jonathan give into the sexual tension after being pressured by Murray and ultimately kiss (and are hinted at doing more). They work together to expose Hawkins Lab and later burn the Mind Flayer out of Will. And at the end, while at the Snow Ball, Nancy and Jonathan have started a relationship.

During most of the first season, Jonathan had an antagonistic relationship with Steve, who viewed him as an outcast. When Steve found out Jonathan had taken photographs of the pool party, including a candid photo of Nancy, he labeled Jonathan a pervert and broke his camera in retaliation. Following a misunderstanding, he believed Nancy was cheating on him with Jonathan, causing Steve to lash out at him. This resulted in a fist fight between the two, which ended with Jonathan getting arrested and Steve with a wounded face. After realizing he was in the wrong, Steve decided to go to the Byers’ house in order to apologize to Jonathan, resulting in him inadvertently helping with fighting the Demogorgon. In the epilogue of the season finale, taking place a month later, Steve and Jonathan were shown to be on good terms.

A year later, in 1984, Steve and Jonathan were shown to still get along. After Steve had his feelings hurt by a drunk Nancy during a Halloween party, Steve asked Jonathan to take Nancy home, which Jonathan agreed to after seeing how upset Steve was. When Steve found out that Nancy had feelings for Jonathan, he accepted them and supported the two in getting together.

In 1985, Jonathan was still on friendly terms with Steve as Steve finally got over Nancy. The two worked as a team to protect the Party from the Mind Flayer.

Tommy and Carol were bullies of Jonathan. They picked on Jonathan since Will's disappearance and helped Steve destroy Jonathan's camera after they realized Jonathan took pictures of them during the party at Steve's house. When Steve assumed Nancy cheated on him after seeing her with Jonathan, Tommy and Carol wasted no time in making abusive graffiti of Jonathan and Nancy. After Jonathan and Steve's fight, resulting in Jonathan's arrest, Tommy and Carol continued to bully and laugh at Jonathan at how angry he was during his fight with Steve and how he's in jail. Unfortunately, this caused Steve to disown Tommy and Carol as his friends and to make amends with Jonathan and Nancy for their cruelty.

A year later, neither Tommy and Carol don't interact with Jonathan now, but Tommy still makes fun of Jonathan as he taunted Steve on how Jonathan and Nancy have been skipping class together lately.

In 1984, Jonathan met Murray Bauman when arriving at his warehouse with Nancy to confess that Hawkins Lab was responsible for the death of Nancy's best friend, Barbara Holland. After working together to make Dr. Owens's recorded confession sound like a chemical spill killed Barbara, Murray noticed Jonathan's feelings for Nancy and encouraged him to embrace them, which he did. The next day, Murray asked Jonathan how was the "pull-out," causing Jonathan to choke up on his drink, confirming Murray's suspicions that Jonathan and Nancy slept together.

In 1985, Murray still was on good terms with Jonathan as he gave him and Nancy the keys to his house so they and the kids can be safe from the Mind Flayer.

Jonathan was hired by Tom Holloway to be a photographer for the Hawkins Post. Jonathan was not treated with disdain by Tom or any of his other co-workers as they focused their bullying on Nancy for being the only female journalist at the Post. Jonathan hated the way Tom and his co-workers were treating his girlfriend, but he didn't do anything about it as he feared it get him fired as Jonathan wanted to help support his family. However, Jonathan helped Nancy investigate Mrs. Driscoll's story about "diseased rats." When Tom did not approve the story and Nancy decided to get more evidence, Jonathan reluctantly went along with her to help. However, when Tom found out that Jonathan helped Nancy look for proof for Mrs. Driscoll's rat story, he fired Jonathan as a result. This left Jonathan upset on losing his job and his means to support his family, nearly damaging his relationship with Nancy. When Jonathan and Nancy learned about the Flayed, along with the kids, and tried to visit Mrs. Driscoll at the hospital, Tom, possessed by the Mind Flayer, tried to kill Jonathan and Nancy, with the help of Bruce Lowe. Tom fought Jonathan and nearly killed him with scissors until he felt Bruce's pain of getting hit by a fire hydrant by Nancy. This allowed Jonathan to kill Tom by stabbing him in the neck with the scissors. After Tom's and Bruce's bodies melted away to form a monster, it was stopped by Eleven from killing Jonathan's girlfriend, Nancy, where it left to become part of the Mind Flayer's avatar.

Appearances

Season One appearances
The Vanishing of Will Byers The Weirdo on Maple Street Holly, Jolly The Body
The Flea and the Acrobat The Monster The Bathtub The Upside Down
Season Two appearances
MADMAX Trick or Treat, Freak The Pollywog
Will the Wise Dig Dug The Spy
The Lost Sister The Mind Flayer The Gate
Season Three appearances
Suzie, Do You Copy? The Mall Rats The Case of the Missing Lifeguard The Sauna Test
The Flayed E Pluribus Unum The Bite The Battle of Starcourt

Comics

Volume 1 appearances
Issue 1 Issue 2 Issue 3 Issue 4

Family tree

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Joyce Byers Family Tree icon 001
Joyce Byers
 
Lonnie Byers Family Tree icon 001
Lonnie Byers
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jonathan Byers FamilyTree icon 001
Jonathan Byers
 
Will Byerd Family Tree icon 001
Will Byers
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Memorable Quotes

Jonathan:

  • "Sometimes, people don't really say what they're really thinking. When you capture the right moment, it says more."
  • "I saw this girl, you know, trying to be someone else. But for that moment it was like you were alone."

Jonathan to Will:

  • "Do you remember the day dad left? We stayed all night building Castle Byers, just the way you drew it."
  • "You shouldn't like things because people tell you you're supposed to."

Trivia

  • Jonathan has two posters in his bedroom - one is for the 1981 film "The Evil Dead", while the other is a mashup featuring both David Bowie's persona "Ziggy Stardust" and late 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud.
  • It is unclear where Jonathan worked in Season One as he had a co-worker named Eric before he started working at the Hawkins Post in Season Three.
  • Jonathan is a fan of Thumper from Disney's Bambi.
  • Jonathan's family had a dog.
  • The college Jonathan wants to attend to, New York University, or NYU is a private nonprofit research university.

Gallery

View Gallery For this subject's gallery, see Jonathan Byers/Gallery.


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