This article contains major spoilers for Stranger Things season 4.
The identity of Vecna is one of the most closely guarded secrets of Stranger Things season 4, but the big reveal in the midseason finale is less about the name behind the creature and more about the origin story of Eleven and the opening of the Upside Down, a central mystery of the show. Although many gaps will have to be filled in with speculation, let’s take a closer look at exactly what we know and don’t know about this season’s “big bad.”
The young investigators in Stranger Things season 4 had the same question many viewers probably had about Vecna’s disfiguring murders: why would the demon frame Victor Creel for the death of his family in the ‘50s only to disappear until Chrissy’s murder in 1986? The answer lies with Dr. Martin Brenner and his secret government project to breed psychic spies and assassins in the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
In “The Massacre at Hawkins Lab,” we learn that the young worker that speaks to Eleven in her medically-induced flashbacks is not only subject number One in Brenner’s MKUltra experiments; he’s also Victor Creel’s son, Henry, who was presumed dead along with the rest of his family but who’s actually the true culprit behind both the deaths of his mother and sister and the imprisonment of his father. He’s also Vecna, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Victor Creel apparently moved his family to Hawkins, Indiana not only because of a fortunate inheritance but also in order to give his troubled son a change of scenery. Victor tells Nancy and Robin his son was “sensitive,” which could simply have been Victor’s way of explaining away his son’s abnormal behavior, but One tells El that his father believed the hauntings and dead animals resulted from “a demon cursing them for their sins. But my mother somehow knew.” Virginia Creel wanted to have her son committed, and Henry realized he would have to take drastic measures.
It’s unclear where the young Creel boy’s telekinetic and telepathic powers come from, but it’s likely that after he slipped into a coma after killing his mother and sister, Dr. Brenner honed in on the news of the murders and made certain that the hospital recorded the child’s “death” so that he could study him and create others with similar powers. But while One may have led directly to the powers of Eleven, it’s El herself who contributed to the creation of Vecna.
After being deceived into thinking Henry Creel/One’s power suppression chip was a location tracker, Eleven bore witness to the vengeful Creel’s murderous rampage, killing everyone except her and Brenner. She then cranked her powers up to… well, eleven, and opened a dimensional rift to banish her psychopathic predecessor into the Upside Down. Was this then the first step towards Eleven making contact with the Demogorgon in the first season on Stranger Things?
Incidentally, the recurring spider imagery in Stranger Things season 4 is an intriguing side note. On a symbolic level, Vecna is trapping his victims in a sort of manipulative mind web, and Nancy sees the macabre display of those he’s captured. However, the Dungeons & Dragons version of Vecna also happens to carry the epithet “Master of the Spider Throne,” and much of his power is in his spidery hand. In fact, the Hand of Vecna was a magical item in the game before the monster himself was even fully developed.
In any case, it’s interesting that the Mind Flayer or whoever is in charge of the Upside Down would choose to make Vecna one of his “generals,” as Dustin put it. Perhaps some evil force could sense that One’s psychic powers could be useful in opening small rifts over time. Robin was warned not to step on the vines because they would alert the hive mind, and the tentacles that attach to Vecna while he’s manipulating wounded souls certainly imply a connection between the former human and the natives of this hell dimension.
But while the neck implant explains One’s impotency between the ‘50s murders and his 1979 banishment, what explains the dormancy in the intervening 7 years? Perhaps Vecna took awhile to heal from Eleven’s attack and take shape in his new form, feeding on fish while the original gate was still open while slowly creating his own small “water gate” from those tiny, fishy brains.
It’s uncertain when Vecna had gathered enough power to reach into the minds of Hawkins citizens, but maybe the incursion of Will Byers and Barb Holland in 1983 gave him the inspiration to begin doing so. Who knows? The fact remains that even though Steve and the others made their assault on the water gate to take on Vecna, they quickly made their exit as soon as they were able, leaving the cursed wizard at large for the final two episodes of Stranger Things season 4, coming July 1.
The battle is still at hand…