With the demogorgon and Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) semi-out of the picture, there was obviously room for a new villain in Stranger Things. The Upside-Down villain was the Mind Flayer, a cloudy spider-ghost that aims to control minds. But the show still needed a human villain. Without the menacing doctors at the Hawkins lab, there wasn't anything immediate for the kids in Hawkins to handle.
Enter: Billy Mayfield (Dacre Montgomery), a muscled California boy who drives a Camaro. He's the second season's obvious human antagonist. He's cruel to Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), and he's dead-set on making Max's (Sadie Sink) life miserable. He arrives in the finale right as things seem to be settling down in the sci-fi narrative; like the scientists from the first season, he's there to cause a human-created ruckus.
Behind Billy, though, is a different villain. In episode eight, we meet Neil Mayfield, Billy's dad. Played by Will Chase (who also played a buffoon on The Deuce this year, so), Neil is a bigger menace than Billy. He refers to women as "whores." He demeans his son with the f-word. And, he's violent with Billy, slamming the teenager against a bookshelf.
Neil was the villain we didn't expect. He's the villain behind Billy, who's really just a facade of a villain. The real antagonists in this series, as in a lot of cinema about children, are the parents. (Excepting, of course, Joyce Byers a.k.a. Winona Ryder.) Billy's dad Neil antagonizes the kids of the show because he bullies Billy. Once we see how Neil treats Billy, we understand that he's not entirely at fault for his actions. He bullies Max because he himself is bullied; it's a fun vicious cycle.
Violence, like the shadow monster, works like a virus, infecting those around them. Neil abuses Billy, who then abuses Max. Then, in the season finale, Max abuses Billy. She injects him with a sedative, then slams a baseball bat near (not on) his crotch. She hollers at him to leave her and her friends alone. Ostensibly, he will. But still, she emasculated him much like his dad emasculated him in episode eight. How will this will stop the cycle of violence?
Interestingly, the scene with Billy's dad wasn't in the original script. Dacre Montgomery told Vanity Fair that the scene was his idea.
“I can’t just play bad, because nobody’s just bad,” Montgomery explained. “It’s funny, because today I’ve gotten a number of messages about that scene in particular with the dad — people all around the world saying, ‘I responded to this scene.’”
The scene resonated because it felt real. The real villain — the one we can all recognize — was the abusive mustachioed man. He's not a demogorgon. He's way scarier.
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