Spoilers ahead for Stranger Things 4. Among the human antagonists in Stranger Things, Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) was probably the most memorable. The step-brother of Max (Sadie Sink), Billy was a cruel bully who tormented the young Hawkins gang and later became the vessel for the monster the Mind Flayer, luring countless people to their deaths. He was a truly formidable enemy, but in the final moments of Season 3, he broke free from the Mind Flayer’s control to protect Eleven and Max from the very monster he helped create.
In 2019, Montgomery told Vulture that he fought to show more of Billy’s backstory, which included exploring the abuse Billy experienced from his dad. In a key Season 3 scene, Eleven dives into Billy’s memories, and reminding him of how happy he was with his mother, who later left him, is enough to shake the real Billy awake. He’s able to briefly stop the Mind Flayer’s attacks, but he dies as a result. “I really tried to humanize him as much as I could,” Montgomery said, adding that he hopes that fans remember Billy by “what he did in the end,” rather than all his villainy.
When the Season 4 trailer dropped, there was speculation about whether Billy would return. Since the show faked out Hopper’s death, the fourth episode’s title “Dear Billy” led fans to wonder if perhaps Billy was alive, too. But Billy is not alive in Stranger Things 4 — at least, not literally. Dacre Montgomery does make an appearance, though. Here’s everything to know.
Billy really did die at the end of Season 3, but the memory of his death still haunts Max going into Season 4. Despite them never getting along when he was alive, Max still misses him, and she somehow feels that his death was her fault. This guilt makes her a target for Vecna, the Season 4 monster who’s essentially an evil wizard from the Upside Down. When she starts to see Vecna’s hallucinations, she writes out a letter for Billy and tearfully reads it to his grave stone.
“Dear Billy, I don’t know if you can even hear this ... So much has happened since you left,” she begins. She says that following Billy’s death, their parents started to fight; Billy’s dad left and left them with nothing, so Max’s mom picked up a second job, moved them to a trailer park, and started drinking. “Ever since you left, everything’s been a total disaster. And the worst part is, I can’t tell anyone why you’re gone. I can’t tell them that you saved El’s life. That you saved my life,” she says.
She adds that she often replays the moment he died in her head, imagining saving him before the Mind Flayer stabbed him. “I imagine that if I had, that you would still be here. And everything would be right again. I imagine that we could’ve become friends. Good friends, like a real brother and sister.” She admits that she knows that’s “stupid” because they hated each other. “But I thought maybe we could try again. But that’s not what happened ... I think a part of me died that day, too.”
It’s a touching scene, but it’s immediately interrupted by another Vecna hallucination. While Max’s body remains in front of Billy’s tombstone, her mind is transported to the Upside Down. Suddenly she hears Billy’s voice, and sees his bloody body walking towards her. “Max, I’ve been waiting to hear those words,” Vecna Billy says. “But it wasn’t the full truth, was it? I think there’s a part of you, buried somewhere deep, that wanted me to die that day. That was maybe even relieved.” She denies this, but he claims that she stood there on purpose, and that’s why she “feels such guilt” and began withdrawing from Lucas, her mom, and the rest of her friends. Vecna claims that she wants to die too, and he’s finally here to “end [her] suffering, once and for all.”
Vecna drops the Billy facade and very nearly kills Max, but advice from Robin and Nancy — that music creates a mental pathway out of Vecna’s realm — allows Steve, Dustin, and Lucas to save her just in time. They play her favorite song, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill,” and she’s able to run back to reality. By the end of the first half of the season, Max has yet to find closure about Billy’s death, and she’s still not safe from the monster. But we can at least confirm Billy really is gone, even if Season 4 does feature a brief cameo.
Montgomery, for his part, said in 2019 that he’s fine with that, telling Vulture at the time that he’s perfectly “happy not to return” to the series. “I’ve put Billy to bed in my head,” he said, adding that while it was an “amazing journey for the character,” he trusts that the creators know “that the end is the end.”