A Ranking of the Mostly Terrible Dads of ‘Stranger Things’

From negligence to manipulation, these dads commit all the deadly sins of parenting.

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This Friday, Stranger Things is returning for a second season, promising a healthy dose of nostalgia, Eggo Waffles, and, of course, godawful fathers.

Don’t remember the dads of Hawkins, Indiana being all that bad? Well, that’s because most of them didn’t even bother to show their faces despite a literal monster from an alternate dimension hunting down kids left and right. And those who did show up managed to do little-to-nothing to help their kids save the day in any way, shape, or form. Here are the official Stranger Things dad rankings, from the worst to the best.

Dr. Martin Brenner: Master Manipulator

Brenner isn’t technically Eleven’s dad but the show goes to great lengths to make it clear that he has become a surrogate father for the telekinetic heroine, even carrying her to bed after one of the more draining trips to the Upside Down. And he uses his “daughter” like nothing more than a guinea pig. Brenner is only interested in Eleven for her powers and he will happily put her in harm’s way if it could benefit him in any way. In a show filled with terrible patriarchs, this manipulative, abusive scientist stands alone as the worst of all.

Lonnie Byers: Proud Deadbeat

Oh, Lonnie. From the first moment you slunk onto our screens, there was no doubt that you were going to be nothing more than a slimeball deadbeat who could care less about the fact that his son is missing. Paranoid, grief-stricken Joyce lacked the ability to see through her ex’s charade and agreed to let him stay on her couch after it was believed that their son’s body had been found. Once it is revealed, however, that he had only returned to try and make money off the death of his son, Joyce kicks his ass to the curb. Let’s all hope he stays off our screens for Season 2.

Lucas, Dustin, and Barb’s Dads: Neither Seen Nor Heard

Seriously, guys, where the hell were you? Ted Wheeler may be a spineless buffoon but at least he exists. Like any true Milford Men, we never even see or hear from these dads despite the fact that their kids are right in the center of the action. Barb’s dad gets a bit of a pass because he couldn’t have known his daughter was going to get taken by the Demogorgon, but why isn’t he right alongside Joyce leading the charge to figure out what the fuck happened to his daughter?

As for Dustin and Lucas’ dads, sure the eighties was the height of the latchkey-kid, but when children are suddenly disappearing without explanation you gotta set a curfew at least. Instead of rightfully forcing their kids to stay inside, both dads seem cool to let their kids play amateur sleuths and actively search out the danger. Great for plot, but not for parenting.

Ted Wheeler: Silent But Useless

While Karen is the loving but overbearing mother of Will, Nancy, and Holly, their father, Ted, doesn’t appear to have the ability to feel anything at all. Throughout the entire series, he does not seem remotely interested in the events happening around him, even when those events include the disappearance of two of his kids’ best friends. All he seems to want is to be left alone so he can enjoy his dinner and the evening papers in peace. When he does speak, it is mainly to be the useless, uninformed skeptic. Mr. Wheeler, why do you suck so much?

Jim Hopper: The Lone Hero

The dads in this show are at best laughably mediocre and at worst a legitimate danger to their children. But Hopper is the hero father all of these kids so desperately need. When we first meet Sheriff Hopper, he seems like nothing more than a bitter small-town cop who would rather indulge in his vices than do anything resembling police work. However, over the course of the season, our first impression is quickly subverted. Hopper’s actions aren’t defined by apathy, they’re defined by his daughter’s tragic death, which ultimately led to the end of his marriage. He’s a man steeped in grief and blame.

But as Hopper is thrown into the case of the Upside Down, he begins to act more like his old self. And it turns out his old-self was pretty much the model of the perfect father: brave, charming, compassionate, and, above all else, protective. While the rest of the adults sit around as their kids try to save the day, Hopper helps Mike, Nancy, and the others figure out how to rescue Will. And he doesn’t just team up with them, he also does everything in his power to keep them safe. Whether keeping Jonathan from getting arrested for his trunk full of weapons or fearlessly heading into the Upside Down to rescue Will, Hopper is the father figure that Hawkins, Indiana desperately needs.

The one criticism? Hopper does end up giving up the location of Eleven to Dr. Brenner, the man who made Eleven feel more like a science experiment than a human being. There is no excuse for this but at the same time, Hopper knew that the only way to keep Dustin, Lucas, and Mike safe, as well as finally gain access to the Upside Down. And while we might not like it, sometimes heroes have to roll up their sleeves and get a little dirty. Plus, in the end, Hopper, box of waffles in hand, is still doing everything he can to return Eleven back to our dimension. Even when he thinks he’s failed, he continues to try.

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