"We're not kids anymore," Nancy Wheeler's little brother Mike says in a Stranger Things 3 teaser. And it's true — the middle schoolers have grown up before viewers' eyes — both due to the passage of time and the traumatic events they've experienced. And if Eleven and her friends are maturing, it must be doubly true for the older batch of teenagers, who are now bona fide adults. Sure, Steve (Joe Keery), Nancy (Natalia Dyer), and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) were embroiled in a childish love triangle for the first two seasons, but now that Nancy and Jonathan are officially dating in Stranger Things 3, it's clear how much the two have changed since the start of the series.
As a quick refresher, Nancy dated Steve Harrington all through Season 1 and for half of Season 2. While audiences initially disliked the cocky jock, he evolved into a kinder, more empathetic person as the series progressed, eventually becoming a mother hen to the younger kids. After Nancy drunkenly broke up with Steve at a party, it seemed like Jonathan would finally get his chance to be with her. But both of them were in denial about their feelings until private investigator Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) quite literally forced their hands in Season 2, which took place in late 1984.
A lot has happened since the two did the damn thing in that cabin in Season 2. It's now the summer of 1985 — several months later — and Nancy and Jonathan are officially dating. "An interesting thing about this show and the time cuts between seasons [is] there's a lot of things you don't see," Dyer tells Bustle. "So there's time in between, and you think, 'OK, well, what has their relationship been like, and where are they in that relationship?' So we find them in a particular place where there's a safety and a comfort in that relationship, and they're like each other's best friend."
In other words, Jonathan and Nancy — Jancy, if you will — are still going strong and hoping to put the trauma of the Mind Flayer, Will's disappearance, and Hawkins Lab behind them. But while they may be anxious to escape their past, one thing is certain: Their relationship is nothing like Nancy's previous one. "Jonathan, Steve, [they're] apples and oranges, but I think they've all grown so much," Dyer says, pointing out that their characters have jobs now — Jonathan and Nancy are interns at the Hawkins Post while her ex is scooping ice cream at Scoops Ahoy.
It's obvious that Nancy and Steve's relationship had run its course, as high school relationships so often do. "People grow, and they grow in different ways," Dyer continues. "I think everyone is at that stage of thinking forward, [about] jobs, college, life."
Speaking of jobs, it's interesting to see Jonathan and Nancy try their hand at local journalism. After all, they functioned as rogue PIs last season when they shut down Hawkins Lab. "The interest in journalism was just kind of a progression that happened naturally from Nancy's experiences," Dyer explains, referring to her character's detective work last season. "I think she really enjoys hunting things down and figuring things out.... I think it's a very natural thing for her to want to explore that world and spread the word and find the truth."
As for the fact that Jonathan and Nancy are interning together, we'll see whether that turns out to be a good idea or not. But when Stranger Things 3 kicks off, the two lovebirds are in a great place.
"I think there is a deep connection and a deep care and love [between Jonathan and Nancy], and you see that throughout all the seasons so far with what they will do for each other," Heaton tells Bustle. "Multiple times throughout these seasons, they've risked their lives for each other's life." Indeed, being in a life-threatening situation certainly puts things in perspective.
Above all, the experiences Nancy and Jonathan have had in Hawkins have forced them to mature — perhaps too early for their own good. Thankfully, at least at the beginning of Stranger Things 3, they have each other. "They've all grown up a lot, and they've helped each other grow," Dyer adds.
So whatever happens in Stranger Things 3 with the Mind Flayer, Will, the new mayor, and Starcourt Mall, Nancy and Jonathan are ready to face it, side by side.
Additional reporting by Mallory Carra.