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Nancy Wheeler, portrayed by starring cast member Natalia Dyer, is a major character in the first and second seasons of Stranger Things. At first, concerned with simple teenage high school issues, her world is turned upside down when her best friend Barbara Holland vanishes, encouraging her to seek out the truth.

Still grieving for the death of her best friend, she and Jonathan took on a journey on themselves to expose Hawkins National Laboratory as a threat. Eventually, she helps Jonathan and his mother in removing Will Byers from the Mind Flayer.

History

Background

Nancy was the first child of Karen and Ted Wheeler, and she would later be joined by younger siblings Mike and Holly. Together, the family of five lived at their home in Hawkins, Indiana. Nancy suspected her parents never truly loved one another, and that they married solely to create a "perfect nuclear family".

Photos of Barb and Nancy

Nancy's photos of her and Barb, from her memory wall

As Nancy and Mike grew up, Nancy became distant from Mike and his friends, although they were close at some point. By the time Nancy attended Hawkins High School, she had become best friends with Barbara Holland. Nancy also had friends named Cathy and Ally , although they weren’t as close as Barbara and her.

1983

In 1983, Nancy began dating Steve Harrington, a popular boy at school, making out with him "a couple of times". Nancy and Barb went clothes-shopping one weekend, with Nancy seeking to impress Steve.

On the evening of November 6, Nancy was in her room talking over the phone with Barb, discussing Steve. Dustin interrupted, asking if she wanted a slice of pizza; she answered him by slamming the door in his face.

After finding a note in her school locker the next morning, she met Steve in the bathroom where they briefly made out before going back to class. Before Nancy left, Steve asked if they could go out that night. She initially declined but eventually agreed to meet him at Dearborn and Maple “to study.”

That night at dinner, Nancy lied to her mother, saying she was going to study at Barb's house. However, her mother forbade this, fearing for her safety due to the recent disappearance of Will Byers. When Nancy blamed Will's disappearance for her not being allowed to leave, Mike revealed her relationship with Steve. Outraged, Nancy stormed away from the table, going upstairs to her room. Later, Steve climbed in through Nancy's bedroom window to help her study for a test and tried to have sex with her, but Nancy rejected his advances.[1]

The teens in the pool

The teens in the pool

Nancy was invited to a pool party at Steve's house when he was home alone and dragged Barb along. Nancy eventually decided to go up to Steve's room and told Barb to go home. Nancy, unaware of the fact that Barb had been taken by the Demogorgon while sitting alone by the pool, lost her virginity to Steve. [2]

The following day, she noticed that Barb was not at school and grew increasingly worried when neither her friends nor Barb's mother had seen her. Nancy went back to Steve's house to look for her and was startled by a creature in the forest.

Jonathan Byers was revealed to have taken pictures of Nancy in her underwear at the party the previous night, so Steve, along with his friends, destroyed the photos and broke his camera.[3]

Nancy shared her worry about Barb with Steve, but he was more concerned that a police investigation would lead his parents to find out he had a party. Police officers Callahan and Powell questioned Nancy, and she told them she thought Barb was taken by the creature she saw in the forest. They had already searched the forest and found that Barb's car was gone. They theorized that Barb might have run away because she was jealous of Nancy and Steve and revealed to Nancy's mother that Nancy had slept with Steve.

Feeling like something terrible had happened to Barb and nobody was listening to her, Nancy began taking matters into her own hands. She taped together the pieces of one of Jonathan's photographs and saw a creature behind Barb at the pool. She questioned Jonathan about the night he had taken the photographs and told him about the creature, which he recognized from his mothers' description. They went to enlarge the photo, and Nancy was certain it was the same creature she had seen earlier.[4]

At Will Byers' funeral, Nancy and Jonathan decided to return to the forest to look for the creature, and Jonathan took a gun from his father's car. As Nancy was practising swinging a baseball bat, Steve came by to apologize for his insensitivity and invited Nancy to see a movie, but she had other plans and told him she was busy with the funeral.

She later went to practice shooting with Jonathan and confided to him that she thought her parents married out of convenience, not love. In the forest, Nancy and Jonathan talked about the photo he took and Steve's reaction and ended up lashing out at each other.
Nancy enters the Upside Down

Nancy enters the Upside Down via a tear in space-time

After dark, they found a wounded deer. They agreed to kill it out of mercy, but before they could it was suddenly dragged away. Following the blood trail, Nancy entered a hole in a tree and found herself in a different dimension. She saw the Demogorgon feeding on the deer and ran away as it gave chase.[5] Following Jonathan's voice, Nancy made her way out of the dimension unscathed.

Traumatized by the experience, she had Jonathan sleepover. The following day, she theorized about the Demogorgon's nature based on her knowledge about animals, and they bought weapons to face it again. While downtown, she found Steve and his friends tagging slurs about her. She realized that Steve had seen Jonathan in her room last night and tried to explain that he misunderstood. Jonathan and Steve ended up in a fistfight, which had led to Jonathan's arrest.[6]

After Chief Hopper and Jonathan's mother Joyce met Nancy and Jon at the police station, they shared everything they knew about the Demogorgon. After finding Nancy's brother Mike and his friends Lucas, Dustin and Eleven, the group decided to build a makeshift sensory deprivation tank, which Eleven could use to look for Barb and Will in the Upside Down. They broke into Hawkins Middle, using the resources there and creating the bathtub in the gymnasium. Eleven floated in the bathtub, entering her deepened psychic state in which she looked for Will and Barb. Although she found Will (barely) alive, she also discovered that Barb had been killed by the Monster.

Nancy, angry at the loss of her friend, became more determined than ever to kill the Monster. She and Jonathan lured the Demogorgon to the Byers household with blood; with the aid of Steve, they managed to injure the Demogorgon, which would later be killed by Eleven.

Nancy reconciled with Steve, who celebrated Christmas at her house. She gifted Jonathan a camera as a replacement for the one Steve broke out of anger because Jonathan took the pictures.[7]

1984

On the evening of October 29, 1984, Nancy entered her room to discover Mike stealing money from her piggy bank. She tried to stop him, but he managed to outrun her.

While in the school parking lot the following morning, Nancy was looking over Steve's college essay when they witnessed Billy Hargrove and Max Mayfield arrive. Later that day, after receiving a flyer for Tina's Halloween party, she tried to convince Jonathan to attend. However, he refused.

That night, Nancy and Steve had dinner with Mrs. and Mr. Holland. When Nancy inquired about the 'For Sale' sign in their yard, they revealed they had hired Murray Bauman, a private investigator, to investigate Barb's "disappearance". Overcome with grief, Nancy excused herself to the bathroom, where she began crying over the loss of her friend.

The next day, as Nancy and Steve were studying in the school library, she noticed a person who resembled Barb, reigniting her grief. She then told Steve that they should tell Barb’s parent’s the truth about her death. After reminding her that it would be too dangerous to do so, Steve managed to convince Nancy not to say anything and to go to that night’s Halloween party so that they could have a normal night.

That night at the party, Nancy became intoxicated. Steve tried to get her to stop drinking, accidently spilling Nancy’s drink on her costume. While attempting to clean herself, Nancy revealed to Steve that she did not really have feelings for him. Upset, Steve left the party. Nancy was later taken home by Jonathan.

At school the next day, Nancy tried talking to Steve, wanting to know why she had not seen him that morning. Steve recounted the events of the party to her. Nancy tried to assure Steve that what she said wasn’t true, but when she didn’t tell him that she loved upon his request, he left.

During lunch, Nancy spoke with Jonathan for confirmation of the party’s events. She then confided in Jonathan, telling him how she’s had to pretend everything was ok and tired of how the people at the lab have gotten away with what they have done. Nancy then got an idea on a way to possibly expose the lab. They both skipped fourth period, going to RadioShack to buy a Walkman. After school, Nancy called Mrs. Holland, telling her that she hasn’t been honest about Barb and to meet her at Forrest Hills Park the next morning.

As Nancy and Jonathan waited in the park, they had a suspicion of being watched, prompting them to leave. After getting inside the car, they were then approached by agents who has been disguised as regular people. After being taken to the lab, Nancy and Jonathan were locked in an interrogation room. Eventually, Owens appeared and began giving them a tour of the lab, all the while explaining how the lab is trying to fix their “mistakes”, admitting culpability to Barb’s death in the process. After being warned not to say anything, they were allowed to leave. Once in the car, Nancy revealed the Walkman, having recorded everything that Owens had said.

Nancy and Jonathan then traveled in the direction of Bauman's location, spending the night in a motel. While there, they showed each other their matching scars, reminiscing about their previous adventure. Nancy asked what happened between them, saying that she waited for Jonathan before ultimately ending up with Steve again. Jonathan retorted by saying she only waited a month and he was busy looking after Will. No more was said and the two went to sleep.

When they arrived at Bauman’s residence, they presented the recording of Owens. Bauman claimed it wouldn’t be enough evidence to shutdown the lab, as it could easily be destroyed and the details of the story would be too extraordinary for the public to accept. He then proposed to Nancy and Jonathan that they “water down” their story in order to make it more appealing to the public. After altering their story to say that Barb died from a chemical leak originating from the lab, they placed the evidence in several envelopes to be sent to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Murray offered Jonathan and Nancy his guest room, presuming the two were a couple. When they denied this, he easily deduced that there was sexual tension between them. Murray bid them goodnight and left them restless over his statements of their issues withholding them from getting together. Eventually, Nancy and Jonathan gave in and kissed one another before sleeping together in the guest room.

The morning after, Murray cooked them breakfast, satisfied that his deductions were true. As they were saying goodbye to Murray, he told them to never return or contact him again.

Upon arriving back in Hawkins, they realized something was wrong upon seeing the Byers' household strewn with Will's drawings of the underground tunnel system. They traveled to Hawkins Lab where they were soon met by Steve, Dustin, Lucas, and Max emerging from the woods after hearing noises from the lab. Nancy also found that the power was turned off because there were no lights turned on and the gate to the lab was not opening.

When the power was restored and the gate unlocked, Nancy and the rest of the group went to the lab’s front entrance were they met up with Hopper, Joyce, Mike, and Will. The group then traveled back to the Byers’ house.

Once it was determined that they’d have to interrogate Will in order to discover the Mind Flayer’s weakness, Nancy assisted in turning the Byers’ backyard shed unrecognizable. During Will’s interrogation, he signaled in Morse code the way to stop the Mind Flayer: closing the Gate. Soon after, the phone in the Byers’ kitchen rang, allowing the Mind Flayer to know their location and send a pack of Demodogs their way. However, Eleven arrived and eradicated them. Together, the group came up with a plan: Joyce, Jonathan, and Nancy would exorcise the Mind Flayer from Will's body while Eleven and Hopper would go to the lab and close the gate. After taking Will to Hopper's cabin, Joyce, Nancy, and Jonathan restrained him, surrounding him with numerous heaters. This eventually caused the piece of the Mind Flayer possessing Will to be expelled from his body.

On December 15, Nancy volunteered at the Snow Ball, serving drinks. She and Jonathan were still together, sharing a smile as Jonathan was taking photographs. When Nancy noticed Dustin sitting on the bleachers alone after being rejected by numerous girls, she offered to dance with him. As they danced, she told him that girls that age are “dumb”, and assured him that in a couple of years he’d “drive them nuts.”

Personality

Nancy is hyper-intelligent and studious, having a high GPA and studying vigorously for tests. However, after entering a relationship with Steve she became more rebellious, lying and participating in activities she most likely wouldn't have done otherwise. While her actions were being influenced by her new “friends”, she still remained kind, sympathetic, and studious. Her genius-level of intellect has led to finding the truth behind Barb’s disappearance even though she still felt guilty.

She was also shown to have a tremendous amount of bravery, resolve, and conviction going to great lengths for those she cared for. When she was looking for the missing Barb, she boldly entered a portal to another dimension in an attempt to save her friend. Later, determined to kill the Monster, she willingly used her and Jonathan's blood to lure it out.

Relationships

Appearances

Season One appearances
The Vanishing of Will Byers The Weirdo on Maple Street Holly, Jolly The Body
The Flea and the Acrobat The Monster The Bathtub The Upside Down
Season Two appearances
MADMAX Trick or Treat Freak The Pollywog
Will the Wise Dig Dug The Spy
The Lost Sister The Mind Flayer The Gate

Family tree

 
 
 
Ted Wheeler Family Tree icon
Ted Wheeler
 
Karen Wheeler Family Tree icon 001
Karen Wheeler
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nancy Wheeler Family Tree icon 002
Nancy Wheeler
 
Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 6.33.40 AM
Mike Wheeler
 
Holly-wheeler
Holly Wheeler
 

Memorable Quotes

  • "It's not like that..."/"It wasn't like that..."
  • "My mom was young. My dad was older, but he had a cushy job, money, came from a good family. So they bought a nice house at the end of the cul-de-sac and started their nuclear family." — On her parents' marriage.[5]
  • "I wanna finish what we started. I want to kill it."
  • "Girls this age are dumb."

Trivia

  • Nancy's old dress was worn by Eleven in the first season.
  • Nancy used to dress up for Mike's old D&D campaigns.
  • Her character might be inspired by Nancy Thompson from "A Nightmare on Elm Street". For example, both girls become determined to destroy a supernatural being that has killed their best friend.

Gallery

References

  1. "Chapter One: The Vanishing of Will Byers"
  2. "Chapter Two: The Weirdo on Maple Street"
  3. "Chapter Three: Holly, Jolly"
  4. "Chapter Four: The Body"
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Chapter Five: The Flea and the Acrobat"
  6. "Chapter Six: The Monster"
  7. "Chapter Eight: The Upside Down"


The Upside Down
Locations The Upside DownThe GateHawkins National LaboratoryPublic LibraryPortalsHawkins tunnel system
Entities D'ArtagnanThe DemogorgonDemogorgon (species)Library TendrilThe Mind FlayerHawkins tunnel system
Visitors Joyce ByersWill ByersElevenBarbara HollandJim HopperShepardNancy Wheeler
Miscellaneous Upside Down eggThe Upside Down (episode)Dungeons & DragonsThe Void
Articles may contain spoilers.