Dr. Samuel Owens is a recurring character in the second season and a minor character in the third season of Stranger Things.
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.
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 threaten Jonathan and Nancy 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. However, Owens is much more amiable and open-minded than Dr. Brenner, showing good manners 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 cruelty unlike his predecessor.
He puts himself at grave risk of death in staying in the Labs during the lock-down to keep an eye out on the security cameras for Joyce, Mike, Will, Hopper, and Bob and guide them out of the lab, ultimately becoming injured in the process, as he mourns for Bob passing in the lab due to the Demodogs attacking him. 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 due to Owens's position as the director, they have become friends.
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. His other objective was also to cover up the events to prevent a mass panic.
Owens admitted Joyce and Will Byers after Joyce informed him about Will's visions of the Mind Flayer. After taking some tests, Owens assured her the results were normal. He then asked Will several questions about his zombie drawing, not believing the visions. Owens stated that Will's fascination with zombies was normal.
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 force's desire to kill, Will revealed that it intended to kill not him, but everyone else. Owens reported to Joyce and Hopper that the visions were the result of the Anniversary Effect, and assured them he's on their side.
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 tested a theory by burning a tentacle to observe Will's reaction, to which Will reacts 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.
At a meeting between Owens and several other scientists, they discussed the reason behind Will's brain being altered by the monster from the vision. 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 monster was trying to hide from him.
Unbeknownst of Owens, the place Will marked was a trap. The soldiers were horrifically massacred by a group of Demodogs, commanded by the Mind Flayer who decided to invade Hawkins with earnest. They also witnessed the Demodogs uniting and heading towards the lab. 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.
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 life.
A month 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 "Jane Hopper" from Eleven's original first name, 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.
During Independence Day 1985, 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, arriving quite late. By the time they arrived, however, the Soviet Army in charge of the portal have already escaped. After taking over the Russian base beneath the mall, Owens checked the Gate, which was closed earlier by Joyce and Hopper.
After his appointment with Will, Owens tells Joyce and Hopper about how Will's mental state will get worse.
Owens describing the effects of post traumatic stress disorder to Joyce and Hopper.
Seeing how uneasy Joyce and Hopper, Owens tries to reassure them he's on their side and that they can trust him.
Owens walking with Nancy and Jonathan through the lab.
Owens talking about the death of Barbara Holland and the disappearance of Will to the two teens.
Owens showing Nancy and Jonathan the portal to the Upside Down.
Owens confessing his predecessors' crimes to Nancy and Jonathan where they secretly record his confession.
Owens explaining why he wants the Upside Down to be kept a secret.
"So we understand each other now, don't we?"
Owens's actor, Paul Reiser, has also played Carter Burke, the secondary antagonist of Aliens, from which Season 2 is inspired from. The choice was said to be deliberate in order to throw Owens's true purpose for the Hawkins Lab into doubt.