By now, you’ve probably finished the second season of Stranger Things and you probably have some opinions on the ‘shippable couples on the show. Eleven and Mike? Sure, why not? Hopper and Joyce? I guess that could work, but I think they’re better off as friends. But one real couple on the show is toxic as all get-out, and you shouldn't be rooting for them at all. Nancy and Steve are the worst couple on Stranger Things. This is not a pairing you should be ‘shipping. If you need to talk about Steve, write Netflix about how a Steve-and-Dustin buddy comedy spinoff would be gold.
Nancy is pretty and kind of cool and Steve is the big man in Hawkins, Indiana, going into Season 2, but let’s not forget how they started “going together,” as my grandmother would say. In Season 1 of Stranger Things, Nancy and her bestie, Barb, weren’t popular, but they weren’t entirely uncool either. They sort of floated in the middle of the pack, status-wise. That changed when Nancy started locking lips with Steve, who had always been the stud of Hawkins High School, up to that point.
Barb thought that Steve was just stringing Nancy along, but because she was a good friend, Barb went along with Nancy to a pool party at Steve’s house. It was going to be a great time, Nancy said. It would be fun, she said! This was not true, considering the fact that Nancy decided she that wanted to lose her virginity to Steve that night and sent Barb home. But she never made it home — the monster from the Upside Down got her instead. Poor friendship form, Nancy. You never leave a man behind.
In Season 2, Nancy and Steve are the reigning couple on campus, and everything looks great from the outside — they’re thinking about colleges and tooling around in Steve’s cool car. But the cracks show. Nancy is overcome with guilt about Barb’s disappearance and death, and she feels like she has to do something or feel something to help. Steve, though, just wants to be his normal shallow self, because he doesn't know what else to do. He wants to party and enjoy his time in high school, probably because there’s no other time in his life that he’ll be on top again. Barb’s death and Steve’s indifference towards it is really what pulls Nancy and Steve apart here, but it’s not just about Barb — it’s indicative of how they look at life.
Look, Nancy and Steve are just fine people on their own. I'm sure I'd want to be friends with them separately. But when they’re together, things become toxic. From the moment they met, Steve has tried to control Nancy in order to make her lighter, more freewheeling. This never ends well. He wanted her to come to the pool party, and she came to the pool party, and then Barb died. He wanted her to have fun at the Halloween party in Season 2 (they went as Tom Cruise and Rebecca De Mornay’s characters in Risky Business), and she did. But Nancy can only be pushed to a point — she lashes out if provoked. For example, at that fun Halloween party, she decided to start chugging jungle juice to the point of extreme drunkenness, and then she was so wasted that she told Steve that she didn’t love him and couldn’t leave Barb behind and, basically, that she wanted to be with Jonathan instead. They didn't say the words "let's break up," but these are not the signs of a healthy relationship.
Steve is not a bad person by any means, but he’s real “hakuna matata” about life and the way he lives it. He cares for Nancy, but she cannot be what he wants her to be. And vice versa. Nancy can be fun-loving, but at her core, she’s more serious, and she’s better suited to someone like Jonathan. Perhaps if Hawkins wasn’t atop a hell mouth these two could work, but at the moment, there is too much water under the bridge for Nancy and Steve to outgrow their toxicity. Their relationship is reactionary, and they’d be better suited to people who temper them — not bring out their worst.