Last season, we met a new character on Stranger Things named Murray Bauman. He’s the irascible, conspiracy-minded acquaintance of Hopper, who helped Nancy and Jonathan in a pinch. Murray returns this season to help Hopper and Joyce, and he seals his role as the perfect comedy crank. He is constantly annoyed at everyone else, he has had it up to here with everyone’s bullsh-t, and he gets almost all of the good comedy bits. Also, he is the unexpected matchmaker for the monster squad. Yes, that’s right, this is the guy responsible for multiple Stranger Things love connections:
Think about it—last year, he pushed Jonathan and Nancy together. This year, he isn’t taking any of Hopper’s sh-t and points out the obvious sexual tension between him and Joyce. Murray is the only person in the vicinity of Hawkins capable of moving dorks in love closer together. He does not relish his role as matchmaker, but that only makes him more effective. He doesn’t actually care what happens, so it’s not like he’s pressing these buttons for any purpose other than relieving the tension that is slowly driving everyone else crazy. Murray is a long-suffering truth-teller, the only person willing to wade into stuff that is none of his business and MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.
Murray is played by Bret Gelman, whom you might also recognize as Fleabag’s awful brother-in-law. Or you might recognize Gelman from Another Period or Camping or Love or maybe you, like me, first spotted him in the cancelled-too-soon Matthew Perry sitcom Go On. Gelman is a regular scene-stealer in pretty much every comedy series of the decade, but he also pops up on dramas like Mad Men and Stranger Things. He is reliable comic relief, which is what Stranger Things taps into with Murray. That character is built to carry a lot of exposition, but Gelman is so funny he turns exposition into some of the sharpest bits on the show.
He’s especially funny this season, which leans into comedy in a way the previous two did not. It gives him plenty of room to work his hyper-annoyed routine for maximum crankishness, and even in a season with plenty of solid jokes, Murray (and Gelman) still manages to be a scene-stealer. And the monster squad needs a crank, they need someone who buys into the supernatural goings-on, but is still skeptical of the squad itself. They need that outsider opinion to keep them honest, which is why Murray is also their matchmaker, because he calls people out on their sh-t. Let’s hear it for Murray Bauman, the comedy crank Stranger Things needs, and we deserve.