|“||Maybe I am a mess, maybe I’m crazy, maybe I’m out of my mind! But, God help me, I will keep these lights up until the day I die, if I think there’s a chance that Will's still out there!||„|
|~ Joyce in season one.|
Joyce Byers is a main character from Stranger Things.
She is a divorced single mother, raising her two sons Jonathan and Will in Hawkins, Indiana, before her youngest mysteriously disappears. Despite everyone believing that she was suffering from a mental breakdown, Joyce was determined that she was communicating to her son, and succeeded in rescuing him with the help of Eleven. In season two, Joyce once again is determined to help her son break free from the Mind Flayer's influence, and began a relationship with Bob Newby before his death.
She is portrayed by Winona Ryder, who also played Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice, Veronica Sawyer in Heathers, Kim Boggs in Edward Scissorhands, Elsa Van Helsing in Frankenweenie, both films directed by Tim Burton and Veronica Sawyer in Heathers.
Joyce was born in the 1940s, and presumably attended Hawkins High School in the 1950s to the 1960s. She was classmates with Jim Hopper and Bob Newby, and would marry Lonnie Byers around the 60s or 70s. Despite their love for each other, their marriage crumbled before the birth of their first son, Jonathan, and later Will. According to Jonathan, Joyce and Lonnie loved each other, but he wasn't around for that part.
During their marriage, Lonnie became antagonist towards his youngest son, believing him to be weak, and called him profane names. Joyce slowly began to resent Lonnie, as she hated his unloving and uncaring nature towards their sons. Eventually, Joyce and Lonnie divorced on bad terms, and she never acquired his help with her financial problems. Around 1973, she began working at the Melvald's General Store, working as a retail clerk on holidays to make ends meet. Around 1983, Jonathan began working, and would help his mother with getting more money. It's also noted that Joyce previously suffered from anxiety attacks in the past, and focused so much on her job that she didn't spend enough time with her children.
|“||I know it sounds crazy... I sound crazy... You think I don't know that? It is crazy! But I heard him, Jonathan... he talked to me! Will is calling to me, and he's out there, and he's alone, and he's scared, and... I don't care if anyone believes me. I am not gonna stop looking for him until I find him and bring him home! I am going to bring him home!||„|
|~ Joyce to Jonathan.|
Before leaving for work one morning in November, Joyce discovered that she couldn't find Will anywhere. She first looked into Castle Byers, but didn't found him there, and called Karen to see if he was there. Karen informed Joyce that Will left her home around 8 pm, leading Joyce to file a missing person report to the police.
With Chief Hopper brushing off her report, Joyce and Jonathan placed missing posters, but Jonathan continued to do so across the town. At home, Joyce picked up the phone when it rang, but only heard static and growling. Then, she believed that she started hearing Will breathing, but the phone short circuited, and she was knocked back. She informed Hopper of the call, but he was skeptical, leading her to go the General Store to use the phone. After negotiating with her boss, she used the phone before it short circuited as well, and she returned home.
Joyce noticed the lights blinking an odd pattern, and followed them into Will's room until loud music started playing. Joyce became terrified when something strange was trying to come through the wall, and ran to her car. Convinced that Will was talking to her, she stayed in his room with the lights, only causing Hopper and Jonathan to believe that she was delusional. She bought more Christmas lights, and made contact with Will, who revealed that he was alive, but not safe from the monsters. When she started to paint a letter on the wall, Will told her to run before the monster could come through the wall, and ran outside, nearly being run over by Jonathan.
She was informed by Hopper that they found Will's body at a local quarry, but she responded that she was talking to Will in the lights. Hopper consoled Joyce by telling her that he had visions of his late daughter, Sara, but she begged him to believe her. Afterward, she grabbed an axe from her shed, and slept with it for protection. The next morning, Joyce and Jonathan went to the coroner, but she refused to sign the paper, or believe that it was her son. Jonathan lashed out at her in front of everyone, stating that she was losing her mind, and that they had to prepare the funeral.
At home, Will spoke to Joyce that he was somewhere like home, but cold, and Joyce pulled back the wallpaper to find a flesh-like substance. Joyce told him to run when the monster came for Will, and proceeded to grab the axe, and chop a hole, but it only lead to the outside. At the funeral, Lonnie appeared only to get the money from Will's death, causing Joyce to send him away. She also attempted to tell Lonnie that Will was alive, but he was dismissive of these claims. Eventually, Hopper revealed to Joyce that she was right all along, and decided to help find his whereabouts.
Joyce and Hopper tracked down Terry Ives, who sued Dr. Martin Brenner and Hawkins National Laboratory for kidnapping her daughter twelve years prior. They found Terry in a cationic state, but Terry's sister informed them of Terry's accusations. Returning to Hawkins, they found Jonathan and Nancy Wheeler at the police station, and asked for their help to find Will. At the Hawkins Middle School, they build a makeshift tank so Eleven could communicate with Will.
Going to Hawkins National Laboratory, Joyce and Hopper were captured, and were asked for help by Brenner. Hopper negotiated a deal, and the two were able to go to the Upside Down to save Will, who was at near death. After administrating CPR, they escaped the Upside Down, and Will was taken to the hospital for him to recover. In December, Joyce and the family had been reunited, and Jonathan took pictures of Joyce.
When Will told Joyce that he was suffering visions of the Upside Down, she didn't hesitate to take him to the laboratory. Dr. Owens believed that Will was suffering from PTSD due to them being psychosomatic episodes, and he returned home. At this point, Joyce reunited with Bob Newby, and the two began dating, with Jonathan not liking their relationship.
During another checkup with Dr. Owens at the lab, he believed that Will was suffering from an "Anniversary Effect", and advised her and Hopper to treat Will normally. Joyce's relationship with Bob grew, as he asked her to move to Maine with him, but she hesitated the idea. Around this time, Joyce became suspicious of Will's drawing of a spider-like creature, and eventually realized that something was wrong when watching a tape of the Halloween party.
Going to the middle school, she alongside Will's friend and Max Mayfield witness him have another episode. Joyce begged for Will to wake up, and he eventually snapped out of it, and revealed that he was being overwhelmed by the shadow monster. Joyce and Hopper spoke to Will, who revealed that he has "now memories", and drew a bunch of drawings that appeared as a maze pattern. When Hopper was in trouble, Joyce asked for Bob's help, who saw the drawings, and learned that they were a map of Hawkins.
Joyce, Bob, Mike, and Will went to Hopper's location, with the adults going in to get Hopper from the tunnels. After rescuing him, soldiers came in and told them, and returned to find Will convulsing. The group went to the Hawkins lab, where they tested Will, and learned that he had some kind of virus that was connected to the hive mind. Will told the soldiers and scientist where to go, but revealed that he had deceived them, and Demodogs attacked the lab. To prevent the shadow monster to get their location, Mike told them to sedate Will, and Bob sacrificed himself to help them escape. Joyce, Mike, Hopper, and Will reunited with Jonathan, Nancy, Steve Harrington, Dustin, Lucas, and Max, and escaped the lab together.
At home, Joyce grieved over Bob's death while the others speculated on how to defeat the shadow monster. When they realized that the monster was similar to the Mind Flayer, who could control monsters, they decided to defeat him by taking Will to a place he doesn't recognize. Joyce agreed, and they made the shed unrecognizable as they interrogated Will, who was giving them Morse Code to defeat it. When the phone rang, the creature learned of their location, and the group prepared to fight.
Eleven came to their rescue, and Joyce, Nancy, and Jonathan decided to go to Hopper's cabin to exorcise Will while Eleven and Hopper defeat the Mind Flayer. The group succeeded in exorcising Will, and Eleven defeated the monster for good. In December, Joyce taught Will how to dance for the Snow Ball, and was comforted by Hopper over Bob's death.
Once again happy in her home, one day Joyce sends off her son Jonathan Byers to his job at The Hawkins Post, wiping off the lipstick from his cheek. However, she notices that the magnets have mysteriously failed on her refrigerator, but she heads to her job at Melvald's General Store anyway where Jim Hopper arrives, complaining to her about problems with El and Mike. Joyce suggests Hopper have a "heart-to-heart" with the pair, tutoring Hopper through the process of writing a speech for it. When Hopper departs, Joyce notices that yet more magnets have mysteriously stopped working. Returning home to an empty house, Joyce proceeds to watch old shows that she and Bob Newby used to watch together, remembering her time with him mournfully, before the magnets once again lose their magnetism and fail.
The next day at Melvald’s, Hopper returns, jubilant that her "tutoring" resolved the issue. Hopper manages to convince Joyce to go to dinner with him, until he is called away to deal with a protest against Mayor Kline, knocking off more failing magnets as he goes, much to Joyce’s rising confusion when the magnets no longer adhere to metal surfaces. Perplexed, Joyce acquires several textbooks and heads to Scott Clarke’s house for help to figure out what is happening, skipping her dinner with Hopper. They build an unstable electromagnetic field to replicate the failing magnets, and Joyce queries Clarke on how this could be happening at her house and at Melvald’s. Although Clarke says "apophenia", coincidence, is the most likely explanation, he allows that theoretically, a machine with billions of volts of electricity (costing millions of dollars to construct) could potentially emit such an unstable electromagnetic field large enough to demagnetize objects all across town.
Driven, Joyce goes to Hopper’s cabin to share what she had learned, hypothesizing that something at the old Hawkins National Laboratory could be causing this problem and/or putting the town in danger. However, Hopper is unconvinced, angry that she stood him up the night previous, so Joyce heads to the Lab anyway, forcing Hopper to follow. At the Lab, Joyce has flashbacks to Bob Newby’s heroic death, but she presses on with Hopper to investigate the abandoned building. Later, Joyce has more flashbacks of past horrors, and Hopper reveals that he knows of her plans to leave Hawkins and move elsewhere, which makes her uncomfortable. They are interrupted however by a strange noise made by Grigori, who ambushes Hopper and flees on a motorcycle, with Joyce only partially successful at getting his license plate number.
Joyce takes a grievously wounded Hopper back to his cabin, tending to him until he violently throws up and rises without any clothes on, embarrassing Joyce. She relays what few license plate numbers she managed to get, which lead no where, until she mentions that Grigori was driving a motorcycle, which causes Hopper to recognize him. Joyce and Hopper head to town hall where Hopper violently confronts and kidnaps Mayor Kline over information, Joyce preventing people from calling the authorities. They head to Kline’s mansion, discovering that Kline facilitated shady real estate deals for the Russians, and Joyce realizes that the theoretical machine Clarke mentioned wasn’t at the Lab because it is probably in one of these suspect properties. They stop Kline from escaping before moving on to search.
After a long search, Joyce and Hopper find a house with a secret entrance into a subterranean Russian base. Although forced to flee by Grigori, they successfully kidnap Alexei and escape. After breaking down in the woods, Joyce tries to communicate with Alexei until their car explodes, forcing them to trek to a 7-Eleven to commandeer a car and head to Murray Bauman’s warehouse, since Murray speaks Russian and can translate for Alexei, who does not speak English. They arrive, and Murray annoys Joyce until she goes on an angry tirade, prompting Murray to stop "scanning" Alexei in order to actually get started.
Interrogating Alexei via Murray, Alexei stalls for a "cherry" Slurpee until Hopper throws him outside with the keys to their car, in order to make a point that Alexei won’t run because he needs them. Joyce objects that he is escaping, until Alexei bashfully returns of his own volition, in a more cooperative mood. He explains the purpose of the Key, to create a Gate to the Upside Down, and that the Russians needed to move the Key to Hawkins because the "door" was still "healing" there, having been open not long ago. Joyce asks if the "door" is open, to which Alexei responds that it is "opening". Realizing the severity of the situation, Hopper calls the United States government for help, and Joyce angrily yells over the phone after Hopper is done, believing the issue to not have been given high enough priority. She then insists on returning to Hawkins immediately in order to safeguard her children, who she believes to be in danger.
En route, Hopper and Joyce argue over the severity of the danger to their children, but Murray angrily cuts them off, saying that their arguing is a "mind-numbing and frankly boorish mating ritual", demanding that they either stop bickering or "pull over, tear off those clothes, and get it over with already", shocking them into silence as Murray and Alexei begin to laugh at them. Arriving at the Fun Fair, Joyce and Hopper leave with Hopper angrily commanding Murray to "stay put", Hopper telling Joyce not to let Murray "get under [your] skin", which Joyce quickly brushes off. They enter a ride with Karen Wheeler so that they can ask where the kids are, but after leaving Murray brings them to Alexei, who had been shot by Grigori and died while Murray sought them out, much to Joyce’s distress. As Russian hitmen close in, Hopper has Joyce run ahead while he leads them astray, Joyce picking Hopper up in a car after he shakes them.
Having overheard Russian communications via radio, talking about "kids", Joyce is certain that it is her kids who are in danger, and races to the Starcourt Mall food court. Arriving just as El launches a parasite from her leg (which Hopper crushes), the group share the latest happenings with Joyce and company. Together with Dustin and Murray, they come up with a plan to destroy the Key (thus closing the nascent Gate and cutting off the Mind Flayer, killing his minions). Murray, Joyce, and Hopper descend into the underground base, kill the guards, and steal their clothes before proceeding, Murray doing the talking. Murray continues on to damage the Key’s power supply while Joyce and Hopper wait, with Joyce arranging another dinner date with Hopper after all these events are over. Murray succeeds, raising an alarm and allowing Joyce and Hopper to steal the physical shut-off keys to the Key (albeit with password help from Dustin and Suzie). They then raid the command room, forcing the scientists to leave via gunfire, but just as they are about to turn the keys to disable the Key, Grigori attacks Hopper, and the two battle outside in the main chamber while Joyce reinserts the keys, intending to turn them alone using a bungee cord. Hopper eventually defeats Grigori, throwing him into the Key and causing a wall of electricity to strike out, cutting off Hopper’s escape just as Joyce gets a solid grip on both keys. With Dustin screaming over the radio to close the Gate now, and Hopper trapped, Joyce and Hopper share a final glance at each other, Hopper nodding his acceptance and smiling at her. Joyce closes her eyes, crying, and she pulls the keys.
The Key explodes, vaporizing everyone in the room but Joyce, being behind the protective glass of the command room. The Gate closes, cutting off the Mind Flayer from reality and causing the Mind Flayer’s body on earth to die. Although Joyce searches the walkway where Hopper was, Hopper is no where to be seen, having been right next to the Key as it exploded. Joyce begins to break down as Murray arrives asking where Jim is, and Joyce only cries in response. Russian agents begin to enter the room, so Murray escorts her out of the Russian base even as American soldiers also arrive, Murray screaming "don’t shoot!" and that they are Americans, despite the Russian uniforms they’re both wearing. Joyce is taken above ground where emergency services have arrived, and she reunites with her son Will, them both hugging. From over Will’s shoulder however, Joyce sees El, and El realizes from Joyce’s expression that Hopper is dead.
Joyce and her family moving out of their home in Hawkins. Several months later and preparing to leave Hawkins for good, Joyce goes through Hopper’s old belongings, finding the "heart-to-heart" speech she and him wrote together. El comes in, and Joyce realizes that Hopper never actually spoke it to El or Mike, and so she gives the written speech to El to read. Joyce asks if El is okay, and after finishing packing things up, has one last look at her old house before hugging her friends goodbye and then leaving Hawkins with Will, Jonathan, and El.
- The character was originally written to be a "tough Long Island mom", and be aggressive and swore a lot.
- Joyce has had three love interests on the show.