Ted Wheeler is a recurring character in the first, second, and third seasons of Stranger Things. He is portrayed by Joe Chrest.
Ted is married to Karen and the father to Mike, Nancy, and Holly. Nancy believed he wasn’t truly in love with Karen, and that they married merely to satisfy the idea of the “perfect nuclear family”.
Although It is unknown what he does for a living it is likely that he has a high paid yet long hour job and Karen stays at home (since that is usually where she is based) thus explaining why he has a distant relationship with his children, it is suggested that he doesn’t choose to be involved but rather that he doesn’t have time to be because of his job.
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Ted Wheeler Story
On November 6, 1983, when his wife, Karen tells their son Mike to end a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with his friends, Ted tells Mike to listen to her as he’s fixing the television.
The next day, Ted and his family are having dinner, when Karen mentions that she isn’t going to let Mike and Nancy out of the house until Will is found. Mike argues with her and she looks at Ted so he can back her up, but he barely acknowledges her.
Nancy starts to argue with Karen after she doesn’t let her out of the house so she can study with Barb. Nancy gets mad at the fact that she’s under ‘house arrest just because Mike‘s stupid friend got lost on the way home’, which angers mike.
Mike then tells their parents about Steve, which causes Nancy to call Mike a douchebag and leave the table. During this argument between Nancy and Mike, Nancy swears twice, to which Ted says, ‘Language!’
Karen calls for Nancy to come back to the table, but she does not respond. Karen then starts to comfort Holly, and Ted blames the argument on Mike. Mike has an outburst and leaves the table.
Because of this, Karen turns to Ted and tells him that she hopes he’s enjoying his chicken. Ted asks her, ‘What did I do?’ as she leaves the table with Holly. This could suggest that Karen and Ted’s marriage is going downhill.
Ted remained largely oblivious to the strange events which took place in the fall of 1983. Like Karen, he had no idea that an escaped test subject from the nearby laboratory was living in his house for a number of days.
As such, when agents arrived at their house to search for evidence relating to the girl, he trusted them, telling Karen that they were “on their side” – however, Karen appeared more conflicted about their presence in their home.
Ted and Karen then go to the hospital as Will had been rescued from the Upside Down where Ted is seen sleeping in the waiting room before Mike and his friends go to greet Will.
One month later, Ted is seen sleeping in his chair as his family, along with Steve Harrington celebrate Christmas together.
On October 29, 1984, Ted was seen in the kitchen with his wife and Holly, watching Nancy chase Mike for taking change from her piggy bank where Ted orders his children to stop running.
On the next day, while eating at the dinner table, Ted and Karen tell Mike to put some of his toys in two boxes as punishment for taking some of Nancy’s change, remarking Mike’s toys as “chunks of plastic.”
Four days later, while eating breakfast with his family, Ted hears Nancy said she’s planning to go have a sleepover at a friend’s house for the weekend and asks if it’s okay which Karen says yes (unaware that Nancy plans to expose the Hawkins Lab with Jonathan‘s help, in order to avenge Barbara’s death).
Ted & Dustin
On the next day, while Karen was on the phone, Ted answers the door, after hearing the doorbell rang, and meets Dustin who asks for Mike. Ted says Mike is over at Will’s, but Dustin says he can’t reach anybody at Will‘s so he asks for Nancy.
However, after asking his wife, Ted says that Nancy is supposedly at Ally’s and comments that these children don’t live at home anymore. Annoyed, Dustin calls Ted a son of a bitch for being such a big help, causing Ted to reprimand Dustin for using foul language as he watches him leave.
Later, while Karen takes a bath, she hears the doorbell ring and asks Ted to answer the doorbell, but Ted is fast asleep in his chair. Annoyed, Karen gets out of the bath, answers the door, and meets Billy Hargrove.
A month later, Ted attended the funeral of Barbara Holland with his wife and daughter Nancy.
During the third Season, Ted is absent more so than the previous two seasons, seen only really spending time with Karen whilst their children are out on their own. However, Ted’s consistent laid-back attitude finally causes Karen to almost have an affair with Billy Hargrove at a motel.
She only stopped herself after seeing Ted asleep in his chair with Holly on his lap, reminding her that despite his laid-back personality, he still cares deeply for their family and abandons the idea.
Ted in Fun Fair
Ted is later seen attending the Fun Fair with Karen and Holly and watches the 4th of July fireworks from atop the Ferris Wheel; Karen tells him she slipped the operator five dollars as a bribe in order to secure the best seats to see them.
During the fair, we see that Ted is visibly shaken by even the mildest of rides and seems very uncomfortable in The Rotor.
After the ride, Ted watched Jim Hopper and Joyce Byers run off together in such a hurry, unaware they’re being pursued by Russian hitman Grigori.
When Karen noted they make an odd couple, Ted remarked that there’s always one for everyone, putting his hand on his wife’s shoulder, which causes her to roll her eyes in annoyance.
Ted Wheeler is extremely laid-back which affects the relationships he has with his wife and children, he was often at work which meant he had little time to spend with his family whilst his wife did.
Unlike Lonnie Byers, Ted is often oblivious towards any situation his older children are going through, despite trying to be there for them no matter such as being the first one to suggest speaking to Mike after Will’s “death”.
He does act like a normal, typical father by criticizing not only his children but their friends for the use of bad language.
Ted also holds some trust and respect for his country’s government when the Hawkins Laboratory agents came over to their house; assuring his wife that they were “on their side.”
Although subtle, Ted could be “nerd” himself due to his obliviousness to situations and the fact that he has trouble knowing when he is did something wrong (e.g when the family were arguing at the dinner table discussing Will’s disappearance) combined with having a job that affords for his wife to stay at home and live in a 2-3 floor house.