Television has a long history of great detectives, from Sherlock Holmes to Jessica Fletcher and beyond, and 2017 has witnessed the coronation of its new top investigator: Joyce Byers.
Joyce, played by Winona Ryder on Stranger Things, wowed audiences in the first season by going against the stereotypes we usually prescribe to the victim's mother. She was proactive and open-minded, buying more than anybody else into the idea of the Upside Down and the hints that her son Will was still alive. Who can forget the image of her screaming into a set of Christmas lights like it was the last phone call she can ever make and the show treating it like it was super serious? Some of her actions could be read as symptoms of a psychological break, but as the audience, we're only seeing a mother who will do everything to get her son back, and she gets results.
Now we're into Stranger Things 2, and despite the passage of nearly a year, she's still on the case. She's the first to jump into action when stuff begins to go down, and thanks to what she learned last season, she's even more prepared.
She's not a master of deduction like Holmes, nor does she have the resources Olivia Benson has, but she has a swath of other skills and motivations that make her the perfect person to take on the mysteries of the Upside Down and the Department of Energy. This is all to say that Joyce Byers -- single mother from small-town Indiana -- is TV's greatest detective, and here's why.
She looks at all the details, no matter how crazy
Sherlock is probably the most famous detective in media, thanks to his attention to detail. He'll spot a piece of garbage on the ground and deduce who it came from and why it was there, and it'll be the piece of evidence that breaks the case. Sherlock, however, will also go to extreme lengths to disprove the possibility of something supernatural, which wouldn't help in the Stranger Things universe.
Joyce, however, doesn't rule out anything. After speaking to her son through Christmas lights, anything is possible. She'll look at a video filmed by Will on Halloween and spot the outline of a Shadow Monster in the trees because she saw a similar image in one of Will's drawings. She'll notice a tweak in Will's behavior and pay attention. She'll look at everything Will touches and store it for later, and luckily for her, it's all meaningful.
She's not afraid to ask for help
Marvel's Jessica Jones takes her job as a private investigator seriously, but often at a detriment to herself. Due to past trauma, she often turns down offers of help, working best alone. Granted, Jessica has the powers needed to protect herself and the street smarts to track down who she needs, but her lone-wolf status gets her into situations, specifically in Marvel's The Defenders, that make things worse.
Despite past experiences, Joyce doesn't care. Instead of being worried about upsetting those in the know or getting other people wrapped up in Will's circumstances, she opens up. She does this with hesitation on occasion, but people like Bob Newby (Sean Astin), who had no connection with the past season's events, are eventually brought into the fray due to their unique knowledge. Like Jessica, she doesn't mind upsetting people in power, which means she will go so far as to ask the Department of Energy for assistance, even if they caused all the problems in Hawkins in the first place.
She knows which questions to ask
Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote solved hundreds of murders because of her relationships with people. She had an impeccable attention to detail, like any good detective, but she also knew when to interfere in other people's lives. In normal situations that's a negative trait, but in a crime show it's useful.
Joyce never hesitates when she has a question, calling people up at inopportune times to get what she needs. She made her boyfriend Bob leave work to help her with Will's drawings (this season's Christmas lights). She's always involving Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour), even when he wants to get home or go about his life. She's the pestering mother to the doctors who are working on Will's case too, but that's what gets answers.
Arts and crafts
Joyce isn't solving day-to-day crimes like Jake Peralta on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so she isn't used to improvising on the spot. Jake has to get himself and his colleagues out of many situations with his quick thinking, whether he's going undercover or chasing down a perp.
Joyce is more low-key, but she is still a master of improvisation. Luckily, she somehow has everything she could ever need around the house. She's the master of arts and crafts, and all the supplies -- from scissors to crayons to paper -- have become useful. It's especially important this season, with Will using all the paper in the house to make a map. She jumped into action as soon as Will said he couldn't explain what he was seeing, but could maybe draw it. We're always going to have paper and crayons around the house now.