It’s common knowledge that, during a show’s hiatus, fans go absolutely insane. Twenty-four hours after a finale, the web is already full of novella-length essays analyzing that one scene, that one line delivery, that one brief hand touch. Or, in the case of Stranger Things, intricate theories about how to un-kill beloved characters that the fandom isn’t ready to lose.
By the end of his first episode, Eddie Munson had the vast majority of viewers wrapped around his ring-clad finger. In the four weeks between Stranger Things Season 4 Volumes 1 and 2, social media was flooded with love for actor Joseph Quinn and his new, chaotic character. Fanfiction was written, prayer circles were made, everyone holding their breath to see if Eddie would survive Season 4.
Which, of course, he didn’t.
Now, heartbroken fans are doing what they do best: analyzing the new season for any sign of hope. And, believe it or not, there is hope! Between throwaway lines and the Stranger Things costumes, there’s a decent amount of evidence that Eddie Munson will return in some capacity for Stranger Things Season 5. It could mean everything, it could mean nothing—but here’s what we’ve found.
I want to start with one of the most obvious references, which somehow seems to be one of the least discussed. Eddie Munson is a metalhead, a diehard for music from bands like Metallica, Megadeath, and Judas Priest. When the characters are tearing Eddie’s bedroom apart looking for “real music,” he holds up an Iron Maiden cassette and yells, “This IS music!”
The connection goes beyond just the comedy of the scene. Iron Maiden’s “mascot” is a character named Eddie the Head, an unearthly being that appears on all of the cover of all the band’s album art and other merch. At first glance, Eddie is something like a zombie, but over the years, he’s become everything from a mummy to a cyborg depending on the themes of the album.
Now, naming Eddie Munson after Eddie the Head doesn’t have to mean anything for the plot. It’s an awesome nod to Iron Maiden lore, but not a compelling case that Eddie’s coming back as a zombie. That being said, I do want to draw attention to two specific Iron Maiden albums, which would have been released just before and just after the events of Stranger Things Season 4.
In October of 1985, Iron Maiden released a live recorded album titled Live After Death. On the cover, Eddie the Head is bursting out of his grave and breaking the shackles that bind his arms. Behind him is his tombstone, engraved with a quote adapted from H.P. Lovecraft: “That is not dead which can eternal lie; Yet with strange aeons even death may die.” We’ll come back to this quote in a little bit; for now, I just want to point out that Eddie came back from the dead.
Iron Maiden released their next album in September 1986, Somewhere in Time. This is the album where Eddie appears as a cyborg in a sci-fi setting akin to Blade Runner. The surrounding city is in shambles and, on the alley wall, bright graffiti declares, “EDDIE LIVES.” Again, that’s not an unusual theme for Iron Maiden, but it reenforces the idea that nothing can keep Eddie down—not even the end of the world.
Another integral part of Eddie Munson’s character design is his tattoos—or in Eddie’s words, his “sweet old tatties.” The most obvious were the two on his right forearm, but he actually had five different tattoos total. Makeup artist Amy L Forsythe revealed the concept designs for each of the tattoos on her Instagram in the weeks following the finale…and the fans have thoughts.
Eddie doesn’t seem like to kind of guy who only gets a tattoo “when it means something,” but his tattoos definitely tie into the plot of Stranger Things Season 4. For instance, fans were quick to point out that the bats tattooed on Eddie’s forearm were a gruesome foreshadowing of his fate fighting the Demobats. On the inside of his forearm, he has a demon being controlled like a marionette—both a reference to his guitar solo to “Master of Puppets” by Metallica and the cover of another Iron Maiden album, Number of the Beast. In the cover art, Eddie the Head is controlling the Devil like a puppet…also something else to consider.
Another significant tattoo is the black widow along Eddie’s collarbone. Spiders were a huge part of Vecna’s backstory in Stranger Things, appearing in the visions of all of Vecna’s visions and inspiring Henry Creel to take his “true form” as the Mind Flayer. Even Steve is able to identify the black widow spider that crawls up his arm at the Creel House. Could Eddie’s black widow tattoo mean he’s tied to the Creel House too?
The last two tattoos are a little harder to spot during the run of the show, hidden under Eddie’s trusty Hellfire Club T-shirt. On his right bicep, he has a tattoo of a wyvern—a creature akin to a dragon that is a staple of Dungeons and Dragons. Now, I’ll be honest, I don’t have a conspiracy theory about the wyvern. (Not for lack of trying. The twenty minute video essay I watched on wyvern behavior and battle was extremely interesting, but yielded no results.)
However, the most interesting tattoo might be the one on Eddie’s chest, one Forsythe simply titled “The Demon.” Incidentally, the demon is just a skeletal head with crazy hair, blood seeping out of its mouth—the same way the original Eddie the Head started out as a prop in Iron Maiden’s show setup. So, yes, this is another pretty direct Iron Maiden reference, but fans also have another theory about how Eddie’s fate might be connected to an undead being with blood in their mouth. Leading us to…
KAS THE BETRAYER
It’s no secret that Stranger Things draws a ton of its inspiration from Dungeons and Dragons, giving the TTRPG a new life and introducing it to a new generation of fans. The Demogorgon is a villain adapted straight from the Monster Handbook. They’re concepts that Mike and the party are familiar with, which they use to make sense of the horror happening around them.
The same goes for Vecna, who appears as the main antagonist of Eddie’s Hellfire campaign, “The Cult of Vecna.” When Eddie reveals that Vecna is alive, it causes an uproar amongst the players, who insist that Vecna is supposed to be dead. Specifically, Mike says, “He was killed by Kas!”
Kas the Betrayer is another character from Dungeons and Dragon lore—known as one of Vecna’s most trusted generals. The story goes that Kas’s bloodthirst caught the attention of Nerull, the God of Death, who encouraged him to overthrow Vecna and stop his army’s mass genocide. Kas fought Vecna, weakening him, but failing to defeat him; as something of a consolation prize, Nerull granted Kas enhanced strength and speed, contingent upon his consumption of blood—which is how Kas also became “The First Vampire.”
This is something we’ve actually seen once or twice in Stranger Things Season 2 and Season 3. Both Will and Billy have been tools for the Mind Flayer, ultimately working against him to foil his plans. Since it appears Eddie’s body was left in the Upside Down, some fans are theorizing that he may be used by Vecna in a similar way. And seeing as he died with blood in his mouth, bitten by Demobats…
I’ll be honest: I love this theory, all the hard work that fans have put into researching it, and the way that it seems to fit so neatly within the plot, but the thought of the Duffer Brothers taking time out of Stranger Things Season 5 to establish what in-universe vampirism is seems far-fetched to me. I’d love to see Eddie fulfill some semblance of the Kas storyline, but I doubt we’ll see him with fangs. In the meantime, I am thoroughly enjoying the Twilight memes on Twitter.
We’ve talked about the makeup department, but now I want to highlight an interesting detail from the Netflix costume department. In the final episode of Stranger Things Season 4, “The Piggyback,” we see Eddie’s uncle, Wayne Munson, putting up missing posters at the high school, unaware that his nephew’s body is in the Upside Down. If that scene looked a little familiar to you, it’s for good reason. The jacket that Wayne is wearing is almost identical to the one Jonathan wears in Stranger Things Season 1—incidentally, when he’s also hanging up missing posters at the high school, unaware that his brother is trapped in the Upside Down.
Now, even if this detail is intentional, it could go one of a few different ways. The first is that the costume department intends us to see Wayne as a foil to Jonathan—an opposite: one is looking for a missing person who will ultimately be found, the other looking for someone who is truly gone forever. That’s too sad to talk about, so let’s get back to conspiracy theories.
The opposite of that could also be true. In Season 1, Will Byers is even confirmed dead—we see his body—before turning up alive. The parallel scenes could mean that Wayne is in the same position now. Dustin breaks the news of Eddie’s death, lauds him as a hero, and a few episodes later, we find out that Eddie is merely trapped in the Upside Down, in desperate need of saving.
The other possibility is that Eddie is dead…but only for the moment. In Stranger Things Season 2, we see that Will has a reputation in Hawkins as “the boy who came back to life” or, as his bullies call him, “Zombie Boy.” Will even gets notes in his locker where people have doodled over his picture in the paper. When Wayne Munson is swapping Eddie’s missing posters in Season 4, we see similar graffiti over Eddie, depicting him as a devil with horns and a tail.
It’s interesting to note all the parallels between Eddie and Will—both considered freaks, both bullied by the majority of Hawkins, both missing and presumed dead. If Eddie also comes “back to life,” the phrase Zombie Boy could come into play a bit more literally.
TIME IN THE UPSIDE DOWN
Trying to explain how time works in the Upside Down is honestly enough for its own article. On the surface, it appears that time unfolds in the same way. In the scene where the two halves of Team Hawkins communicate via LiteBrite, we see their conversation unfold in real time; after that, it takes them all the same amount of time to bike from the Wheeler house to Eddie’s trailer. The entire battle plan of the final episode hinges on the fact that each group can coordinate their timing with the others.
The first scene in Nancy’s bedroom complicates this. When Nancy searches her belongings for weapons, she finds only old shoes and past chemistry notes. After seeing that her last diary entry is from November 6, 1983, she declares, “We’re in the past.” There’s at least two different ways to interpret that, and each has its own interesting implications.
The first explanation is that Nancy isn’t speaking literally. The teens aren’t “in the past” so much as their surroundings reflect the past. When Eleven opened the Gate for the first time in Season 1, the Upside Down took shape as a reflection of Hawkins, a snapshot in time. The only reason it’s “in the past” is because the Upside Down doesn’t have people the way Hawkins does. There’s no Nancy to continue writing in her diary, no Cousin Joanna to donate stuffed animals to, no one to move objects from Point A to Point B.
The alternative is that Nancy is speaking literally, and that the Upside Down is somehow suspended in 1983. We’ve already established that one second in the Upside Down is the same as one second in the regular Hawkins, but if it’s always November 6, 1983, it’s possible that things in the Upside Down exist on a loop. Like Groundhog’s Day, the minute the day is over, everything resets and respawns to where it was at the moment the gate opened. If that were the case, what could possibly happen to a dead body that wasn’t dead back then?
Now, time to jump back to that H.P. Lovecraft quote: “That is not dead which can eternal lie; Yet with strange aeons even death may die.”
If the Upside Down is suspended in time, repeating the same day on repeat for all eternity, then can anything there really be dead? Or are they also suspended somewhere in time, just waiting for the dimension to be reshaped once more?
EVERYTHING AND NOTHING
There’s no one better at rationalizing than a dedicated fangirl; they’re like lawyers that way. Give them enough time, and they’ll scour the details of every piece of media until they can justify their theories and bend reality to their will. In the case of Eddie Munson, they’re working overtime.
The fact is that even if some of these details were intentional, it doesn’t mean anything for the plot. Eddie’s black widow tattoo could be a reference to Vecna, but maybe the makeup artists decided to do that on their own. Maybe the costume department was saying something profound by dressing Wayne Munson in Jonathan Byers’ jacket from Season 1, but the Duffer Brothers didn’t tell them to do it. (Personally, I’m still waiting for more details on the Baffling Black Bandana and whether or not that was on purpose.) Film and television sets are full of brilliant, creative people who love slipping jokes and references into their work—but don’t always collaborate on every detail.
Some of these theories might seem farfetched, but the Duffer Brothers have proudly proclaimed that everything in Stranger Things Season 4 means something. Eddie’s tattoos might really tell his story; maybe the name drop of Kas was intentional; maybe the writers’ room did extensive research on the lore of Iron Maiden and thought about how to incorporate it into the plot; maybe we have everything sitting in front of us, telling us that Eddie lives while the media leads us astray.
Or maybe the Duffer Brothers just talk a big game for showrunners who forgot Will Byers’ birthday. So, you know, take everything with a grain of salt.