Hawkins National Laboratory
A laboratory ostensibly under the auspices of the United States Department of Energy, Hawkins Lab has long been conducting experiments on creating a Human Weapon with supernatural abilities.
- Anti-Hero: What they become in Season 2. Yes, they may still be pretty ruthless, but they're actually trying to clean up their previous messes and are legitimately on the side of the protagonists this time around (more or less).
- The Cavalry: Surprisingly, yes, in "Dig Dug". A bunch of Faceless Goons with flamethrowers follow Joyce and Bob into the tunnels below the pumpkin patch as they rush to rescue Hopper. Their presence is revealed in a Jump Scare, but they immediately urge the civilians to safety and attack the Mind Flayer's tentacles.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: They were able to incite Psychic Powers in subjects through various forms of psychological and physical torture, helped along by a wide variety of drug and hallucinogenics.
- Curb-Stomp Battle: They are on the receiving end of this a lot, as seen below.
- Dug Too Deep: Their experiments led to Eleven's accidental encounter with the first Demogorgon in the Void.
- Expy: They're pretty clearly based after "The Shop" from Stephen King's Firestarter.
- Government Conspiracy: Hawkins Lab is officially run by the US Department of Energy, but the conspiracy is in full effect: Brenner is able to steal children for use in his experiments, has one woman's mind destroyed when she tries to expose him, and the only way Hopper, Joyce, and the kids are allowed to live after the events of Season 1 is by making a deal to keep quiet. A major subplot of Season 2 is Nancy and Jonathan's decision to expose them.
- HeelFace Turn: Of a sort in Season 2. Brenner's death/disappearance eliminated much of the nastier aspects of the lab, however they're still perfectly content to threaten those in the know to keep them quiet. That said, they are attempting to fix the mess they caused in the first season, Owens is much more of a Reasonable Authority Figure and willing to work with the others once he realizes Hopper's assertions about the lab are right, and they genuinely attempt to help Will after his possession by the Mind Flayer.
- Light Is Not Good: They're often associated with clean and sterile white surfaces (as those seen in their laboratories), and even after their HeelFace Turn in Season 2 they're pretty far from heroes. Their vans are even marked "Hawkins Power And Light," evoking this trope; painted white, having "Light" in the name, but also "Power," and power corrupts...
- The Men in Black: They have a host of them on their payroll, such as Connie Frazier, and are secretly monitoring the surrounding town of Hawkins via agents in their ubiquitous white Hawkins Electric vans, and even tapping the telephone network in blatant violation of the Constitution.
- Mooks: Their scientists, agents, and soldiers seem to be at great occupational risk of dying a lot, either at the hands of Eleven or the Demogorgon, and their boss Brenner does not care one bit.
- Psychic Powers: The main goal of their organization is learning how to incite these in their test subjects.
- Redshirt Army: They unfortunately become this in Season 2 with the more reasonable Owens in charge, and everyone (save for him) are all killed by the Demogorgons when they are unleashed upon the lab by the Mind Flayer, after most of their soldiers were lured into a trap by Will.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Hawkins Lab is essentially responsible for the entire story. Brenner's attempts to have Eleven contact it directly not only led to the opening of the portal between our world and the Upside-Down, but also to alerting the Demogorgon of the existence of the other world. Worse yet: Season 2 indicates that the Demogorgon is an extension of the Mind Flayer's Hive Mind. Revealing the existence of the other world to the Demogorgon also means the Mind Flayer now knows about it as well.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Their operations and goals are heavily inspired by Project MKUltra, an experimental US governmental project created with the goal of developing "psychic soldiers" for the United States during the Cold War. Justified since In-Universe they're pretty much an actual continuation of MKUltra (which is because in the Stranger Things universe, MKUltra actually provided successful results).
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Their horrific experiments were started with the goal of creating Super Soldiers to aid the United States in the Cold War and prevent the spread of Communism.
Dr. Martin Brenner
The mysterious lead researcher and owner of the Hawkins' "Department of Energy" research facility.
- Abusive Dad: To Eleven; he's probably not her real father, just a father figure, but abusive all the same. He submits her to Training from Hell, torture, confinement and traumatic punishments.
- Admiring the Abomination:
- He reacts in awe the first time Eleven discovers the Monster. He reacts similarly when he sees it firsthand, seconds before it lunges at him.
- He has a similar response when Eleven kills two orderlies with her powers.
- Bad Boss: Dr. Brenner couldn't care less about the safety of his underlings. He routinely puts them at risk from both Eleven and the Demogorgon and is willing to sacrifice as many of them as it takes to achieve his goal.
- Big-Bad Ensemble: With the Demogorgon in season 1. Dr. Brenner is the researcher responsible for cultivating and manipulating Eleven and her powers, with his facility hunting her being a major part of the season. Brenner's reckless experiments also caused the Demogorgon to find our dimension, making him indirectly responsible for the monster's attacks.
- Faux Affably Evil: He has a rather gentle, fatherly tone of voice that's entirely at odds with the rest of his personality.
- Foil: To the Raiding Party and their science teacher. All the fascination of those into opening curiosity boxes; none of the reading of warning labels and reminding himself to rein in to do that. He's too used to being in a position of some official (if under-the-table) power to think correctly about appropriate safety.
- For Science!: The use of Eleven's powers that he likely sold to the government was taking advantage of her telepathy to eavesdrop on the thoughts and communications of Russian forces and perhaps finding a way to weaponise her telekinesis. Having her "make contact" with an extra-dimensional being with the aforementioned telepathy? Much less practical and infinitely more ill-advised.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Basically, in a show populated with Eldritch Abominations, this man manages to be one of the cruelest humans who ever appeared in the series.
- Karmic Death: He's seemingly killed by the Demogorgon; it was through his actions that the Demogorgon came into the world in the first place, due to how he exploited Eleven.
- Manipulative Bastard: Especially toward poor Eleven.
- Never Found the Body: We only briefly see the Demogorgon jumping on him, but there is no confirmation that he died. He has been replaced by Owens in the second season, but the lab employee Eleven and Kali attack claims that he is still alive.
- Nightmare Fetishist: He's delighted when Eleven kills two orderlies with her powers. And, the expression on his face is a complicated mix of frustration and pride after she flips the van in front of him. Worse: the way he acts like a fascinated (if detached) school boy over anything to do with the Demogorgon.
- Non-Action Big Bad: Much of Brenner's role in the plot consists of his background of abusing Eleven and his careless experiments releasing the Demogorgon upon the world. Even when he directly confronts people, he always stays unarmed and lets his Mooks handle the weapons.
- Oh, Crap!: His face just before the Demogorgon jumps on him.
- Sanity Has Advantages: Or, at least "being a socially functional human being rather than a detached berk" does. What about the whole set-up he's helped develop screams "Good Idea"? Or "sane", for that matter? It certainly does him no favours when trying to interact with others as to find Eleven and the boys. Let alone correctly get into the head of the Demogorgon. For all he thinks he knows a bit of what's going on, he's not very good at judging what others will do.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: He orders the facility to be unmanned when Joyce and Hopper venture into the Upside Down, trying to avoid the risk and thinking that the Demogorgon will take care of them. It serves him little purpose in the end, as the Demogorgon is lured to the school where the agents and him converge to retrieve Eleven.
- The Sociopath: A downplayed example. While he is capable of showing concern for others (see Pet the Dog), he doesn't actually empathize with anyone or see them as anything beyond what they mean to him and his own agenda.
- The Stoic: He shows little to no emotion except briefly, near the end, when he finally has Eleven back in his arms.
- The Voiceless: Downplayed, but over his initial appearances he speaks very infrequently; for context, he has maybe three lines of dialogue in the first three episodes, and most of those are monosyllabic in nature.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: He's seemingly killed by the Demogorgon. However, in season 2, there is a disturbing implication that he might still be alive.
- White Hair, Black Heart: Eleven's father figure who abused her more or less constantly for her whole life, with distinctive white hair.
- Would Hurt a Child: He is more than willing to use little girls for his ruthless experiments.
Agent Connie Frazier
A mysterious woman and a crony of Dr. Brenner. Assumes various false identities on the show.
- Asshole Victim: After seeing what she's willing to do in the name of government secrecy, her death at El's powers is very satisfying.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: First appears in the guise of being a kind social worker, and looks the part. Seconds later, she shoots an innocent man in the head.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: El kills Connie, along with a dozen other government agents, by telekinetically scrambling their brains inside their skulls, causing blood to leak from their eyes. One might presume that if Connie hadn't murdered Benny in cold blood right in front of El, her fate would have been more humane.
- Dark Action Girl: Seemingly the only female member of the government agency, who carries out the murder of Benny in Episode 1.
- The Dragon: To Brenner, who tasks her with most of the dirty work in their operation.
- Faux Action Girl: Ultimately, murdering an innocent man is the only thing she ever accomplishes.
- Hate Sink: She isn't a Big Bad like Brenner, yet somehow is more detestable than him. Not only murdered an innocent man in cold blood (a very unnecessary murder), she was more than willing to kill the Party. And for bonus, she is also a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing. Yep, nothing about Connie's True Colors are remotely sympathetic or cool.
- Impersonating an Officer: She seems to specialize in this. She first impersonates a social services worker to gain access into Benny's Diner and kill him whilst searching for El, then a member of the County Education Board to get Mr. Clarke to give her the names of the boys under the guise of starting a county-wide AV club. She also flashes NSA credentials to the Wheelers before a small army of agents descend on their house to search it, but given the nature of the operations the government is running, it wouldn't be hard to believe she actually does work for the NSA.
- Kick the Dog: She murders Benny, a kind and benevolent restaurant owner, in her first scene on the show.
- Sanity Has Advantages: Whatever her issues, it's pretty darn clear she's let the power trip of being part of a government secret agency go to her head. When you shoot first and don't even bother asking questions about the appropriateness of the level of violence given the situation, you are a liability who should be fired.
- Stupid Evil: Had she not blown Benny's brains out while trying to recover Eleven, Connie could have easily recaptured Eleven in the very first episode, and saved her group a lot of time and effort with no real downside.
- Tranquil Fury: She looks completely incensed when Karen starts asking too many questions about what the "government agents" want with her son. Luckily for the target of her anger, Dr. Brenner steps in.
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The downfall of the research team can be traced to Frazier's execution of Benny Hammond; in retribution for the death of a man that was nothing but kind to her in her time of need, Eleven kills Connie in anger alongside the government agents tracking her, leaving a bloodbath behind that lures the Demogorgon to the school, who then decimates the rest of the pursuing agents plus Dr. Brenner. Nice job, Connie. Kudos.
- Villain Ball: There was absolutely no good reason for her to kill Benny Hammond, who bought her cover and was being 100% cooperative, other than to (possibly) intimidate Eleven. Ultimately, as mentioned above, this act becomes her undoing. Not the only rash act of hers onscreen. But, definitely the biggest.
- Would Hurt a Child: It is implied that she wanted to kill the Party.
Dr. Sam Owens
The new head of Hawkins's "Department of Energy" research facility.
- Ambiguously Evil: At first, it's hard to tell how noble Owens is when he forces Hopper, Jonathan, and Nancy to keep the truth while acting affable to Will. It's averted when we see he's quite noble, being the only person in the facility that cares about Will's well-being, and he even stays back to guide Bob, Hopper, Joyce, Will, and Mike to safety.
- Character Tic: When thinking, he squeezes a blue stress ball.
- Contrasting Sequel Main Character: He is far more friendly and personable than Dr. Brenner and as a result his staff is more relaxed, almost to the point of neglectfulness, but are also more helpful and less antagonistic.
- Demoted to Extra: In Season 3, he only gets a single scene and no lines as part of The Cavalry Arrives Late at the Russian base.
- Establishing Character Moment: Owens's first few lines have him cheerfully break the ice with Will by striking up a conversation about candy, establishing him as a much, much different sort of person than Brenner was.
- Good Counterpart: To Dr. Brenner. While Owens is still responsible for keeping The Masquerade by concealing the paranormal events in Hawkins, he isn't a ruthless Mad Scientist engaged in new, cruel human experimentation, doesn't use lethal force to silence witnesses, and is more than willing to try and save Will's life however possible, and grant Eleven her freedom as soon as the whole portal crisis is taken care of. He may not be actively tracking down all of Brenner's still-burning fires (it's unclear if he knows about all of them, for starters), but he certainly tries to put them out in a reasonable and humane way when they come across his desk.
- Heroic Sacrifice: After Bob gets the doors open, he stays behind to guide Bob to safety. He surprisingly survives.
- Nice Guy: He's very friendly and affable to Will when he introduces himself, trying to calm him down with a chat about Halloween candy. Surprisingly, it turns out this isn't an act; he's genuinely concerned about Will's safety, and is reluctant to carry out a plan that could risk getting the boy killed.
- "No. Just... No" Reaction:
- He gets visibly offended at one of his staff members, who suggests that they should just off Will.
- This is implied to be his reaction upon seeing that the Russians nearly opened the Gate, nearly causing the Upside-Down to enter our world again.
- Oh, Crap!: Sports this expression, staring at the still-glowing seem on the wall in the Russian test chamber.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Shockingly he turns out to be this. At first he's hesitant to test the soil but once he realizes something is going on, he is focused on solving the problem. He refuses to burn the tunnels under Hawkins, as it would kill Will and only temporarily slow down the growth of the tunnels. He later stays behind to guide Bob to safety, and even creates fake documents so Eleven can live her life in peace after Hopper saved his life.
- Redeeming Replacement: As he points out to Jonathan and Nancy, most of his current job is taken up with trying to control or fix Brenner's past mistakes and the mess he left behind, even if this still means keeping it all secret for reasons of national security.
- Thousand-Yard Stare: His appearance in the Season 3 finale. He does this expression upon seeing that the Gate's been locked once more after the Russians attempted to open it.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: He genuinely believes its for the best to keep the truth about the portal to the Upside-Down and the related deaths in secret. And, he does have valid points. How successful he will turn out to be... well, that has yet to be determined. He's got uphill work.
- Played By: Christopher Cody Robinson
A scientist who made an ill-fated journey into the Upside Down.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: When the Demogorgon finishes with him, all thats left is a bloody scrap of clothing.
- Played By: Pruitt Taylor Vince
A retired orderly who was in charge of treating the test subjects.