Following the first season of Netflix breakout Stranger Things, few phrases born from the series were more prominent than “Justice for Barb,” the three-word movement inspired by the tragic death of Barbara “Barb” Holland (Shannon Purser). While most of the story’s attention was devoted to the disappearance of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) and the impact it left on his loved ones, viewers weren’t so quick to forget about Nancy Wheeler’s (Natalia Dyer) best friend Barb, dragged into the Upside Down and subsequently killed by the Demogorgon.
“It was important to deal with it in a real way,” says Ross Duffer, who co-created Stranger Things alongside his twin brother Matt. “We didn’t want to use flashbacks. We didn’t want to use Shannon. The idea is that she’s gone, and we didn’t want the audience to get the relief of seeing her again.”
With that said, the Duffer Brothers as well as executive producer Shawn Levy insist that finding justice for Barb was always part of the game plan, even before it became a meme.
“I can tell you we were definitely aware of fan desires and theories,” Levy tells The Hollywood Reporter, “but Nancy looking to do right by Barb’s death was always baked into season two. It was always going to be a primary engine for Nancy in season two.”
Adds Ross Duffer: “It’s something we wanted to do, even before the big Barb groundswell. We started writing this season before season one was released. But the storyline ended up taking longer than we expected, and it did evolve as we went forward.”
At the start of season two, Nancy is in a relationship with Steve Harrington (Joe Keery), but it quickly becomes clear that all isn’t as happy as it seems. She’s still reeling from Barb’s death and the fact that her parents have no true answers about what happened to their daughter.
“Something we always wanted to do was deal with the trauma of season one in a real way, moving into season two,” says Ross Duffer. “Everyone can pretend to be happy-go-lucky, but what they went through was incredibly horrific. Obviously, Will is dealing with it and Joyce (Winona Ryder) is dealing with it — and Nancy, in her own way, is having guilt over feeling like she was partially to blame for the death of her best friend. That’s not something that goes away in a year. We wanted to spend time with Nancy and let her deal with this in the best way she can.”