That’s “just the facts.”
There are plenty of badass women in the Stranger Things universe. Season 1 featured Joyce (Winona Ryder), Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), and Nancy (Natalia Dyer). Joining them in Season 2 were Max (Sadie Sink) and Erica (Priah Ferguson), and Season 3 added Robin (Maya Hawke) and Suzie (Gabriella Pizzolo) to the mix. Though the series has given each of the characters a time to shine, Erica Sinclair has to be the most underrated by far. Introduced in Season 2 as Lucas's annoying little sister, she has quickly become a character who has a massive impact on the characters around her and the fate of Hawkins, although she is often overlooked.
The audience first meets Erica on Halloween in 1984 in Season 2, Episode 2's "Trick or Treat, Freak." This is a pretty dark and depressing time for everybody. Eleven is going stir-crazy, Will (Noah Schnapp) is having visions, Billy (Dacre Montgomery) is his most sadistic brotherly self, Nancy and Steve (Joe Keery) are fighting, and pumpkins are rotting all over the place. The only joyful part of this episode revolves around the four boys Will, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Mike (Finn Wolfhard) dressing up as the characters from Ghostbusters. In a hilarious montage scene, the boys are posing in their costumes for their doting, adoring parents. Enter nine-year-old Erica, whose scathing burn, "God. You are such a nerd. No wonder you only hang out with boys," is delivered beautifully, and, as anyone who's ever had a sibling will know, is dead on.
We don't see Erica again until Episode 5 when she is over-syruping her breakfast while Lucas is asking his Dad for advice on girls. The entire scene is magic and if you listen closely, you can hear the fart noises that Erica's making with the syrup bottle throughout. In the same episode, Dustin has finally realized just how far in over his head he is with D'Artagnan, the baby Demodog. When he calls Lucas for help he gets Erica instead. At this point in time, Erica is in the 'has no idea something's going on in Hawkins' camp. Luckily the Duffer Brothers never make their characters unwittingly ruin things. One of the most painful tropes to watch is when a character doesn't have the information regarding whatever supernatural entity is wreaking havoc in their town. Then they are put in situations where they behave logically but are made to look like the bad guy because they unknowingly screw up some very important plan to save the world that the characters in the know are in the middle of. It is a seemingly unimportant moment, just a little sister being a brat. However, without Erica's interference, Dustin would never have had to turn to Steve for help. Which turned out to be a turning point in the show, creating a pairing that changed Steve especially, and the show overall for the better.
Season 3 started out much the same for Erica as Season 2 ended, with her bratty behavior now aimed at Robin and Steve at Scoops Ahoy. It's not until Episode 4 that we finally get to see Erica do more than abuse the free samples policy. The episode is a dark one with Will feeling the Mind Flayer's return, Jim Hopper (David Harbour) beating up politicians, and Billy sacrificing people left and right. So the Starcourt Mall storyline with Robin, Steve, Dustin, and Erica serves as a welcome relief to the episode's overall tone. Erica is a big part of why this works so well. The trio of Robin, Dustin, and Steve were fun together in the previous episodes, but their entertainment value ratchets up a notch with the addition of Erica. Her know-it-all personality adds another dimension to the comedic dynamic.
In Season 4, we get to see more and more that Erica is not your average ten-year-old. She has an incredibly commanding presence, standing up to and even dominating two 18-year-olds. She is also very knowledgeable for someone her age, lecturing Robin and Dustin on Capitalism and The Free Market. On top of all that, she's also a master negotiator (she brings up child endangerment as a strategy) and she knows her own worth, a tricky task for anyone, no matter their age. The genius of Erica is that she is a contradiction. All the knowledge that she has lives side-by-side with her more childish ideas, like being paid for her services with a lifetime supply of ice cream. Or not being afraid of Russian spies, but of her mom finding out what she has been doing.
Erica is still growing into who she is in Season 3, and this means she still uses "nerd" as an insult almost constantly. Dustin as a big-brother figure decides to confront her about it (aka the My Little Pony Hypothesis). He points out to her that she is a math whizz, a political junkie, and she loves My Little Pony which he claims has standard nerd tropes, ergo she's a nerd. When she asks him how he knows so much about My Little Pony, he responds with the obvious, "Because I'm a nerd!" This is a crucial interaction for Erica, not only does Dustin point out some contradictions about herself that she may not have realized, but he also shows her that identifying as a nerd is okay. The fact that she takes this all on board and is able to mature and grow is impressive and paves the way for her to embrace all parts of herself and become the amazing person (and nerd) that she was always meant to be.
Now that Erica is aware that Hawkins is not a normal place, we get to see how she reacts to the craziness, which never ceases to be entertaining. Erica fits in seamlessly with the group, who have all had their experience battling the supernatural. She shares a lot of concerned looks with those nearby but never freaks out. She stays remarkably calm throughout their time in a secret Russian base and only has an outburst when they get above ground again, when she disagrees with the plan that the adults are concocting. She goes toe-to-toe with Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman) — who Erica calls Mr. Bunman — and she holds her own while also managing to shock the hell out of her older brother.
Season 4 gets off to a grim start, with dead children, cruel bullies, and PTSD. Once again Erica provides some welcome relief from the overall hopeless feeling of Episode 1. She finally gets the super badass entrance she has always deserved. With a slow-motion walk through the school hallways in a flag cape, set to a Jimi Hendrix-inspired American national anthem guitar solo. When Eddie (Joseph Quinn) is unenthused about an 11-year-old joining his Dungeons and Dragons game, Erica lets him have it. This is what she is best at, and it gives the audience something to cheer for. She is well-matched with Eddie, and they sling insults back and forth before she delivers one of the best monologues of Season 4.
"My name is Lady Applejack. And I'm a chaotic good half-elf rogue, Level 14. And I will sneak behind any monster you throw my way and stab them in the back with my poison-soaked kukri. And I'll smile as I watch them die a slow, agonizing death. So, we gonna do this, or we gonna keep chitchatting like this is your mommy's book club?" At the end of Season 3, Lucas and Dustin gifted Erica Will's old Dungeons and Dragons set, and she has obviously been busy using it. It is so satisfying to see Erica embrace her nerdiness and kick some ass in the process.
In Season 4, Episode 6, Erica stands up to Jason at the Town Hall meeting when he's trying to target the Hellfire Club, saying, "That's bullshit! The Hellfire isn't a cult. It's a club for nerds. Just the facts." No one else was brave enough to speak up. Often times when Erica says something that is true, but not particularly diplomatic, it garners a reprimand from someone (usually her parents or her brother). This is when she will reply with her catchphrase, "Just the facts." This is one of the great things about Erica, as she is always brave and will stand up to absolutely anyone in the name of the truth.
Whether it's adults or an angry mob, she never lets anyone silence her. In Episode 7, Erica finally gets filled in on the goings-on of this season, and her input immediately makes a difference. It's Erica's questions that make Dustin realize that Vecna is killing people in order to open the gates. She is also the one who notices the SOS coming through the lights from the Upside Down. She doesn't just help with figuring things out either, she is also a woman of action. She slashes the cop car's tires to aid in their escape, and in Episode 9 she kicks a meathead in his unmentionables and then brains him with a flashlight, so she can race headfirst into danger to try and help Lucas and Max.
The iconic Dungeons and Dragons campaign in Episode 1 turned out to be full of prophetic Easter Eggs for the season to come. Eddie foreshadows his own death when he tells the party that, "There is no shame in running. Don't try to be heroes," and the big bad of the campaign is the very same Vecna that they will face in real life. So perhaps the audience should wonder if it is also prophetic that Erica is the one who lands the killing blow on their adversary. Whether or not she is the one to destroy Vecna in Stranger Things Season 5, one thing is certain: the other characters need Erica if they all hope to survive the coming war. It is not only the characters who need Erica. The audience needs her too, to bring levity to the darkest of moments and to prove to them that no matter your age or your size, you can be brave enough to speak truth to power and stand up for what is right.
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