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Stranger Things Wiki

Sometimes, I even impress myself.

–Dr. Sam Owens, 1984

Dr. Sam Owens is a recurring character in the second season and a minor character in the third season of Stranger Things. He is portrayed by Paul Reiser.

He was a high-ranking member within the US Department of Energy. Owens was tasked with containing the strange events that took place in Hawkins, Indiana in 1983, replacing Dr. Brenner as Director of Operations at Hawkins Lab.[1] He helped Jim Hopper in arranging the official adoption of Eleven as his daughter.

In 1985, Owens received a distress call from Hopper and Joyce that the Russians have infiltrated Hawkins and are trying to reopen the Gate beneath Starcourt Mall. Following his arrival with the military, they discover the Russians had already escaped and the Gate sealed off. Realizing the Russians were aware of the Upside Down, Owens withheld the information and covered up the secret Russian conspiracy.



When Dr. Martin Brenner's fate was left unknown after the events of 1983, Dr. Sam Owens was appointed the Director of Operations at Hawkins Lab where he mostly spent his time investigating and preventing the Gate to the Upside Down from spreading.


One day, Joyce Byers was alarmed when she was informed by the school of a weird drawing made by Will. She brought him to the Hawkins National Laboratory for a checkup with Owens. After taking some tests, Owens assured Joyce that his readings were normal. He then asked Will several questions about his zombie drawing, making light of Will's imagination. Owens stated that Will's fascination with zombies was normal. Owens saw them out before returning to the lab.[2]

The day before Halloween, Will had an appointment with Dr. Owens to check his health due to him having more episodes. After a small chat to make him comfortable, Owens asked Will about the episode at the arcade, who was unaware that their conversation was being recorded and monitored by lab personnel. As Will tried to explain to Owens about feeling an evil force, Will's brainwaves started to increase activity. When Owens asked him about the evil's desire to kill, Will revealed that it intended to kill not him, but everyone else.

However, when the session ended, Owens told Joyce and Hopper that Will was experiencing extreme PTSD which was getting worse due to the "Anniversary Effect" but stated that Will will get over it eventually. He also assured them that he was on their side and advised to trust him.

Later, Owens met with Will's older brother, Jonathan and his friend Nancy Wheeler after they were brought to the lab when they arranged a meeting with Marsha Holland to tell her of her daughter's death. Being cordial with the older teens, Owens admitted how nefarious his predecessors' deeds were, but he wanted them to be kept a secret from the public. As Owens showed Jonathan and Nancy the Gate, Owens admitted he cannot fix his predecessors' mistakes, but he can stop them from spreading, giving off the example of what would happen if the Soviet Union learned about the Upside Down and tried to open a portal to the dimension. As they watched a lab worker named Teddy burn some vines seeping from the Gate, Owens remained optimistic that he gave the two older teens a valid point in why the Upside Down must be kept a secret before releasing them, unaware that they secretly recorded his confession so they could expose the lab to the public.

Will was hospitalized at the lab after his severe convulsion and was brought to Dr. Owens. When Will woke up, he seemed to have no memory of Bob. Owens tested Will's memories and found that he couldn't recognize him, Hopper, Bob or the events regarding him saving Hopper, but could only recognize his best friend, Mike and his mother, Joyce. He also remembered that the soldiers hurt him when they burnt the tendrils. Owens prompted to test a theory by burning a tentacle to observe Will's reaction. But Will responded in pain. Owens then concluded that there was a hive mind virus that connected all the hosts and that, Will was somehow connected to it.

Owens then took Hopper to show the extent of the Gate which has grown into a network of tunnels and revealed to him that there was a complication for which the burning was stopped.

At a meeting between Owens and several other scientists, they discussed the reason behind Will's brain being altered by the shadow monster. The doctors all argued that it was impossible for them to save Will and suggested to start the burning to control the spread. Owens refused and let Will use the photos of his map to locate a place that the shadow monster was trying to hide from him.

As Dr. Owens sent some soldiers to investigate the location Will revealed, he and Hopper surveyed from the control room. However, in the Upside Down-infected tunnels, the soldiers were horrifically massacred by a group of Demodogs. They also witnessed the Demodogs uniting and heading towards the lab. Before they could do anything, the Demodogs reached the lab and attempted to break through the glass. Dr. Owens sounded the alarm, warning everyone at the lab, and took Hopper with him through the stairs to escape. As the Demodogs began to close in, Hopper took Joyce, Mike, Will, Bob and Owens to a security room, where they were trapped due to a power outage. After Bob successfully restored the system, Dr. Owens decided to stay behind, and guided Hopper, Joyce, Mike and Bob out of the lab.

Hopper finds Dr. Owens badly injured

Later, Hopper returned with Eleven back to the lab in order to close the Gate and found Dr. Owens badly wounded by the Demodogs. He was patched up by Hopper who revealed that he had been protecting Eleven for a year and convinced Dr. Owens to help her lead a better, happier life.

A month later, after the Gate had been closed, Hopper met Dr. Owens at a bar. Owens provided him a forged birth certificate for Eleven, which stated that she's now officially Hopper's daughter, named as "Jane Hopper", though he reminded Hopper to wait another year to be safe. However, Hopper ultimately managed to convince him to give Eleven a night out to go to the Snow Ball with her friends.


In response to a distress call made by Jim Hopper and Joyce Byers about the Soviets' endeavor in reopening the Gate at Starcourt Mall, Dr. Owens brought the U.S. military at the mall, much later than intended. By the time they arrived, however, the Red Army soldiers of the Soviets had already escaped. After taking over the Russian base beneath the mall, Owens took a look at the Gate, which is seemingly closed.

With the help of his colleagues in the Department of Energy and the military, the incidents involving the Spider Monster and the Russians at Starcourt were covered up, falsifying a claim that the mall had simply burnt down with Hopper being a victim of the fire. Forged images depicting a minor police and fire department presence in response to the alleged fire were released, as opposed to the full scale response of the U.S. military that actually occurred.


Owens shares his predecessor's stubbornness and commitment to science, as evidenced by his refusal to believe the poisoned pumpkins were connected to the Upside Down and his choice to get Jonathan and Nancy to corporate into silence regarding Barb's death. However, he makes a legitimate point about the need for secrecy: that the deadly nature of the Upside Down portal, if replicated in the hands of an authoritarian government would create even greater disaster, which is why it must be kept secret.

Owens is much more amiable and open-minded than Dr. Brenner, showing a good bedside manner to Will during their exams and refusing to immediately put the Upside Down tunnels through a full burn if it meant killing Will in the process. He is never shown treating anyone with deliberate cruelty (although he waited a bit too long when testing Will's connection to the Shadow Monster by burning a tendril).

He puts himself at risk of death in staying in the Labs during the lock-down to keep an eye out on the security cameras for Joyce, Hopper, and Bob and guide them out of the lab, ultimately becoming injured in the process. Following the closure of the Hawkins Laboratory, he cheerfully greets Hopper as "Chief-O," and helped arrange his adoption of Eleven by providing him a birth certificate of her, suggesting that despite their previous adversity, they have become friends.



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

Memorable Quotes

  • "Chief-O."
  • "For better or worse, I am the schmuck they brought in to make things better."
  • "Take the stairs."
  • "That works."
  • "There is one of things on on the left stairwell."
  • "Will do you remember me?"
  • "I think will has a virus, like in his brain."
  • "When he has one of these episodes contact me."

Behind the scenes

The Duffer Brothers said in an interview that one of the new adult characters in Season Two is involved in Joyce's life, whereas the other is involved in the labs.[3] The identity of the character involved with the labs and the casting of Paul Reiser was announced on November 7, 2016.[4] Reiser previously played the villainous character Burke in Aliens, a 1986 James Cameron film that the Duffer Brothers named as an influence for Season 2.[5]


  • While Owens has met most of the main characters, it is unknown whether he ever met Dr. Brenner, with a possibility that they met off-screen.
  • Owens does not speak in Season 3.


View Gallery.png For this subject's gallery, see Sam Owens/Gallery.