Warning: spoilers ahead for the Stranger Things season 3 finale.
With the way that Stranger Things season 3 ends, it not hard to see why everyone’s obsessing over Chief Hopper’s (David Harbour) fate. That post-credits scene all but proves that he’s still alive after his heroic “sacrifice,” and the groundwork has clearly been laid for his sure-to-be epic return in season 4. But in looking at season 3 as a whole there’s another character who is the real MVP, and her name is Erica Sinclair (Priah Ferguson).
The younger sister to Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) really came into her own this season. She was first introduced back in season 2 as an ancillary character meant to flush out Lucas’ family life and backstory but in season 3, she truly shines. Every moment she’s onscreen is another chance for her to throw out a snarky, savage takedown of any character she’s talking to (but mostly Steve [Joe Keery] and Dustin [Gaten Matarazzo] — nerds). She is the voice of extreme reason, pointing out how everything the Hawkins crew seems to do is reckless child endangerment (seriously, why are these kids always the ones risking life and limb to save the world?).
Erica’s sassy attitude and empowering confidence throughout all eight episodes of season 3 made her an instant fan-favorite — an impressive feat considering how beloved all the original Stranger Things characters have been for years. But move over Hopper and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), because the internet has declared Erica as the real winner of this installment.
Not only did Erica have some of the best lines of the season but she also is integral to shutting down the Russian base of operations underneath Hawkins and saving the world. Face it: as heroic as Steve, Dustin and Robin (Maya Hawke) are in their efforts of exposing the Russians, they wouldn’t have even succeeded in step one of the plan, getting into the storage room in Starcourt Mall, without Erica. The Mind Flayer could actually have succeeded in coming into the real world and killing everyone if not for the pint-sized, nerd-hating (but secret nerd herself) Erica helping the Scoops Crew infiltrate the bunker, leading to the destruction of the gate to the Upside Down.
And while precocious children characters can sometimes err on the side of grating if used too much, Ferguson injects enough authentic childlike temper and moodiness to make her believably hilarious instead of terribly annoying — a good thing considering how she’s a lynchpin for the plot and thus sees an exponential uptick in screen time this season. She may seem more intelligent than her years, but all it takes is one tantrum to remind you that she’s just a smarter-than-average little kid who doesn’t know everything and does need an adult sometimes — a real rarity in pop culture. Her elevated role works because of how nuanced she is. Plus, Erica’s business acumen, acute understanding of capitalism and sharp tongue just can’t be beat.
The way that season 3 ends means there is so much more to Erica than we’ve even seen so far, as Dustin gifts Will’s (Noah Schnapp) old Dungeons and Dragons books to her. Her love of My Little Pony tipped Dustin off to her secret nerdiness, and the potential is there for her to join the Hawkins gang full-time in their pretend D&D campaigns as well as any future fights against the Mind Flayer and the Upside Down. And if Ferguson gets another promotion from recurring to series regular next season, the internet is going to be extremely happy.
Just look at all the love Erica’s been getting on social media in the days since Stranger Things season 3 hit Netflix:
Stranger Things season 3 is now streaming in full on Netflix.
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