Warning: contains spoilers for Stranger Things season 4 VOL. I
In Stranger Things season three, the Mind Flayer remote-controlled Billy Hargrove to build a fearsome creature out of dead rats and kidnapped townsfolk. It melted them all down like old wax crayons and stirred them into one big, gloopy monster. Then Joyce and Hopper closed the new gate to the Upside Down and, deprived of the psychic connection to its puppet master in the other realm, the creature died.
In season four, the big bad is Vecna, a telekinetic ex-human in the Upside Down with the power to immobilise victims in our world by projecting hallucinations into their minds before killing them. Vecna clearly isn’t made of melted crayon people, but something his human counterpart says in Season 4 Chapter 7 suggests that he and season three’s gloop monster may share a defining trait, namely: absorbing their victims. Could the people Vecna has killed prove the key to bringing him down in Season 4 Vol. II?
The Henry Creel Origin Story
‘Vecna’ started life as Henry Creel, a disturbed super-powered boy in the 1950s who psychically tortured animals and tormented his family before using his abilities to kill his mother and sister – murders for which his father Victor was blamed. Dr Brenner then faked Henry’s death and secretly made him a test subject before injecting him with a neural inhibitor to repress his supernatural powers and employing him as an orderly at the Hawkins Lab. That’s where Brenner experimented on test subjects including 008 aka Kali – a girl who shares Vecna’s ability to make other people see visions of her choice – and telekinetic psychic 011, aka El.
In Season 4’s flashback to the 1979 massacre at Hawkins Lab, Henry Creel reveals to El his true identity as Brenner’s first test subject. After killing everybody but El and Brenner, Henry tries to recruit El to reshape the world with him, arguing that their powers make them superior to other people. Henry tells her how his abilities developed as a child: “With each life I took, I grew stronger, more powerful. They were becoming a part of me”. When a scared El looks around at the dead bodies in the lab’s Rainbow Room, Henry tries to reassure her: “They’re not gone, Eleven, they’re still with me.” He taps his head. “In here.”
That’s twice Henry mentions his victims becoming a part of him and living on inside him. The character could be speaking purely metaphorically but the emphasis is undeniable. Bearing in mind that Vecna forged a psychic connection with Hawkins High victims Chrissy, Fred and Patrick before killing them, could something of them be left in his mind? How about his mother Virginia and sister Alice, to whom he also gave waking nightmares before killing them?
Psychic Connections Run Both Ways
Henry boasts to El about being “an explorer” as a child who reached into his mother and father’s minds and memories to see them as they truly were. As he did with his 1986 victims, he used what he found there to torment them. The ‘exploration’ though, can run both ways. We saw Max invade Vecna’s mind and piece together the constituent parts of Creel House in Vol I. If somebody with Eleven’s psychic abilities were to forge a psychic link with Vecna, could she do more than merely explore his mind? Might Eleven be able to unite the mental vestiges of Vecna’s victims and band together with them to psychically defeat him? There would be poetic justice in Vecna being tormented by his victims using the very same connection he exploited to torture them.
On the subject of Henry’s father, recall that Victor Creel is still alive and imprisoned in the mental health facility where he’s been held since he was blamed for the murders of his wife and daughter. Victor tried to cut his wrists when he was falsely told that Henry had died, but says “he wouldn’t let me join them”. That “he” was presumably Henry and psychically stopped his father from taking his own life, preferring him to remain alive and suffer.
Vecna taunts Nancy about her having visited “old, blind, dumb Victor” in his prison cell. In a hallucination, Vecna asks her “Did he miss me? I’ve been meaning to check back in but I’ve been busy. So very busy.” If there’s a way to psychically defeat Vecna using the mental remnants of his mother, sister and other victims, Victor might prove crucial, and Henry having left him alive could prove to be the baddie’s major misstep.
Could Vecna Be Redeemed?
Unlikely considering he’s spent the last seven years as a murderous spider in the Upside Down, and the 20 before that as a science experiment in Hawkins Lab, but might there be a human being buried deep inside Vecna that Eleven and his mentally absorbed victims could reach? Recall how El snapped Billy Hargrove out of his Mind Flayer hypnosis in the Season 3 finale by reminding him of a beloved memory of a day at the beach with his mother. And remember Will in Season 2 being reached inside his coma through The Clash song that connects him to his beloved brother (an idea returned to with Max’s rescue-by-Kate-Bush in Season 4).
Vecna is the first Stranger Things monster (not counting Dr Brenner) to have a human origin story. The writers chose to start him off as a person with a family, to leave his father alive, and to repeatedly emphasise how his victims became a part of him. However Eleven and the gang knock that spider out of his web in the season four finale, none of that happened by accident.
Stranger Things Season 4 Vol. II streams on Netflix from Friday the 1st of July.