This article contains spoilers for Stranger Things season 4.
While it’s often a good strategy for both storytelling and corporate earnings purposes, splitting a season of television comes with some downsides. Chief among them is that a split season is fundamentally not a complete season.
Stranger Things season 4 volume 1 certainly came close to being a complete season of TV. The seven episodes presented were all quite lengthy, filled with compelling dispatches from both Hawkins, Indiana and The Upside Down. And yet, season 4 won’t be properly finished until we get those final two (and enormously long) episodes in our brains once they premiere July 1 on Netflix.
Until then, we’re left with all sorts of unanswered questions from Stranger Things season 4 volume 1. Some are weightier than others but questions they remain all the same. As we try to pass the time before volume 2, we hope you’ll join us in examining some of volume 1’s most pressing unanswered questions. Questions like…
Is Ms. Kelly Working With Vecna?
Here’s an interesting one. It’s easy to forget about Hawkins High School counselor Ms. Kelly (Regina Ting Chen) because she basically disappears for the back half of volume 1. In the first few episodes of the season, however, she plays a modestly-sized role and some fans think she’s set to play an even bigger one in the episodes to come.
Recall that no fewer than two of Vecna’s victims met with Ms. Kelly about their unresolved traumas, leading Max (Sadie Sink) and company to break into her office to gain access to her session notes and learn who Vecna might be after. Now, correlation doesn’t always mean causation. Perhaps Vecna’s victims just so happen to be associated with Ms. Kelly because Ms. Kelly is more likely to be associated with children experiencing emotional trauma due to her job.
That’s all well and good but uh…what about Ms. Kelly’s conspicuous grandfather clock and key necklace?
That circumstantial evidence wouldn’t be enough to convict her in an Upside Down court of law, but it certainly has us thinking about where her loyalties lie.
What Does Vecna Even Want?
Vecna’s motivation is a curious topic to consider. Because on the one hand, back when Vecna was in his human form as Henry Creel, he seemed to understand his modus operandi quite succinctly. The following is what he tells Eleven after he reveals himself to be Number One:
“(Black widows) are gods of our world. The most important of all predators. They immobilize and feed on the weak, bringing balance to an unstable ecosystem. But the human world was disrupting this harmony. You see, humans are a unique type of pest. Multiplying and poisoning our world all while enforcing a structure of their own. A deeply unnatural structure. Where others saw order, I saw a straightjacket. A cruel, oppressive world, dictated by made up rules. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, Each life, a faded lesser copy of the one before. Wake up, eat, work, sleep, reproduce, and die. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for it all to be over. All while performing in a silly, terrible play day after day. I could not do that. I could not close off my mind and join in the madness. I could not pretend. And I realized I didn’t have to. I could make my own rules. I could restore balance to a broken world. A predator but for good.”
So he wants the standard villain thing of “balance.” Thanos would be proud. On the other hand, however, the Vecna-ized version of Number One (Jamie Campbell Bower) does not appear to be operating under that mindset. All Vecna does is kill vulnerable people…and at a frustratingly slow pace. As far as we can tell, in the years since Number One entered the Upside Down, he has killed only three people and tried to kill one more (Max). At that rate, he’s not going to achieve universal balance anytime soon.
Is it possible that Vecna’s motivations have changed since entering The Upside Down? We think so. Particularly if Dustin is right and he’s operating as The Mind Flayer’s five-star general. About that though…
Is Vecna Really The Mind Flayer’s General?
Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) is a smart kid and usually right about all Upside Down matters. Something about his theory that the Demogorgon is The Mind Flayer’s foot soldier and Vecna is his five-star general seems slightly off though. The Mind Flayer is indeed immensely powerful and would have no issue bending lesser Upside Down creations like the Demogorgon to its will. Vecna, however, is not a lesser creation. He’s a human being, gosh darn it! And that has to count for something.
The fact that Vecna has human origins is not information that Dustin currently has access to. If he did, we’re wondering if it would change his thinking at all. Fans have noticed that the telltale grandfather clock noise that accompanies Vecna’s arrival has been featured in previous seasons of the show. Does that mean he’s really Stranger Things’ big bad and has been pulling the strings this whole time. Or better yet…
Did Vecna Create The Upside Down?
This is a fun one to consider. Upon first watch of season 4, the nature of what happens to Number One/Vecna seems relatively clear. Number One confronts Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) and in the ensuing psychic battle, she opens a portal to the Upside Down and banishes Number One to it, where he is transformed into the inhuman Vecna. When thinking about the moment further, however, some interesting questions pop up.
What if Eleven didn’t open a portal to the Upside Down but rather created the sideways universe altogether? Or what if Number One did so himself? Remember that chronologically speaking, this is the very first moment on the Stranger Things timeline that we and the show’s characters are seeing the Upside Down. Prior to the discovery of the shadow realm, Dr. Brenner’s (Matthew Modine) experiments focused entirely on children with supernatural abilities. It’s not until Eleven and One’s battle that the Hawkins lab is even aware of its existence.
That begs the question: was the Upside Down discovered at the Hawkins lab? Or was it created?
Why Was Brenner Using One As An Orderly?
Before Jamie Campbell Bower’s character is revealed to be Number One (and later Vecna) he is known in closed captioning only as the “orderly.” The presence of orderlies in the Hawkins lab is understandable. Raising 11 psychic children is a big scientific and medical endeavor and you’d need some able-bodied orderlies to help out. But uh…did one of the orderlies need to be one of those psychic children whose powers are so dangerous they need to be (poorly) suppressed?
Dr. Brenner knows that Number One is dangerous. So much so that he elects to implant a chip in his neck to suppress his powers. Once that chip is implanted though, Number One seems to enjoy a shocking level of autonomy and freedom within the Hawkins laboratory. By not dealing with this dangerous child (presumably via killing him), Brenner was really playing with fire. That fire finally erupts when One convinces Eleven to unchain him and sets into motion the events that will play out over Stranger Things’ entire run.
Is Brenner really that trusting? Or did he anticipate a situation in which One and Eleven would open a portal (or create) the Upside Down? We would like to know.
Does Music Really Stop Vecna?
The rules of how to stop Vecna are refreshingly simple. Once the monster has you in its grasp, all you need to do to escape is hear your favorite song. That’s the theory that Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Robin (Maya Hawke) operate under after visiting Victor Creel at the asylum. And the first experiment involving that theory works out tremendously well! Max is able to extricate herself from Vecna’s revolting tentacles by following the sweet sounds of Kate Bush.
Here’s the thing though: Nancy’s Victor Creel theory is based on incomplete information. Though Victor mentions that he was able to escape his Upside Down hell by following the sounds of his favorite song (“Dream a Little Dream of Me”), Henry Creel’s own recollections of the events at Creel House somewhat dispute that. Henry says he couldn’t kill Victor because he didn’t know the full extent of his powers and passed out before he could finish his familiacidal intentions.
Does this mean “Dream a Little Dream of Me” had no effect on Victor Creel making it out? And if so, does it mean that Kate Bush isn’t as powerful as we thought?!??!? Our current theory is that Max was able to survive her Vecna ordeal because by writing letters to all her friends she was able to overcome the guilt necessary for Vecna to kill her. And when she heard her friends yelling for her, she was reminded of this fact.
How Will Joyce, Hopper, and Murray Get Out of Russia?
In the final episode of Stranger Things season 4 volume 1, Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murray (Brett Gelman) rescue Hopper (David Harbour) from the Demogorgon. Hooray! So now how do they get back to the U.S.A.? Beats us!
As a busy show with lots to get through, Stranger Things reserves the right to yada yada yada their way through how three of its main characters make it back home. Something tells us, however, that they’re going to take a different route. Check out this clip from Netflix teasing out the final two episodes of season 4.
It sure looks like Hopper, Joyce, and Murray are still in Russia, does it not? Not only that but Hopper also seems to have uncovered both a floating Demogorgon in some sort of tank and a ghostly shadow whipping around. Season 4 volume 1 already provided a lot of new information about the Upside Down via Eleven’s Nina excursions. We would bet that volume 2 provides even more Upside Down intel through Hopper and co.’s adventures through a Soviet facility.
Who’s Gonna Die?
So like…someone has to die, right? Stranger Things never goes through a whole season without at least one prominent character death. When it comes to season 4, however, we’re still waiting for the Grim Reaper’s other shoe to drop. And miss us with any of your “Chrissy!” chants, we said prominent characters.
Of all the new characters introduced, Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn) sure seems ripe for the taking. Season 4 episode 7 made a note of having Eddie speak to Steve (Joe Keery) and bemoan his own lack of courage. What better way to prove one’s mettle than to tear off a few sick guitar riffs in the Upside Down to distract some monsters and let your friends escape?
Speaking of Steve though…we sure he’s alright? Robin was rightfully concerned that Steve might have contracted rabies when bitten by a “demobat.” It’s doubtful Steve has rabies as that death would take too long (and would honestly be way too graphic and upsetting for even this show. Seriously, read up on rabies if you never want to sleep again). But who knows what kind of exotic germs Upside Down monsters are infested with.
There are plenty of good death candidates for Stranger Things season 4 volume 2 but something in our Upside Down gut says that Steve’s time is running out.
Stranger Things season 4 volume 2 premieres Friday, July 1 on Netflix.