“Stranger Things and Vecna’s Perfect Timing”
This article contains spoilers for Stranger Things
The big bad of season four was Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower), the undead king who hails over the Upside Down. The powerful villain can enter his victims’ minds and put them under an almost unshakeable trance. This allows him to move through their thoughts and control what they see.
Audiences saw Vecna’s powers throughout the first episode of the season as he tortures cheerleader Chrissy Cunningham (Grace Van Dien) with living nightmares, eventually taking her life and kicking off the season. Vecna’s terrifying abilities are matched by his horrifying appearance. As a creature of the Upside Down, he fits perfectly with the monsters we have seen in previous seasons. But when the season first dropped the most asked question was, where has Vecna been the past three seasons?
Vecna’s Trail of Breadcrumbs
When Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) disappeared in the pilot episode of Stranger Things, it sent fans down a rabbit hole of theories on who kidnapped young Will and where he was. What we failed to realize at the time was that the Duffer Brothers were already laying down the groundwork for Vecna’s entrance in season four — when Will crashes his bike in the very first episode, two chimes are heard with an extremely similar tone and sound design that the Creel house grandfather clock makes when Vecna appears. The chimes coincide with the shadowy appearance of the first antagonist of the series, the Demogorgon, and the first season introduces us to the Upside Down.
In season two, fans were introduced to the Mind Flayer and learned that they acted as a hive mind for the other creatures we had seen. Will, being the only one who survived the Upside Down, was able to draw a picture of this creature, due to his connection to it, before it appeared in Hawkins. But the shadow monster was nothing compared to the Mind Flayer of season three.
Season three’s Mind Flayer took physical form to terrorize Hawkins by absorbing its victims. As in season two with Will, the Mind Flayer was able to use a human host, which ended up being the main antagonist of season three, Billy (Dacre Montgomery). Again, the same sound design of the grandfather clock that announces Vecna is heard here, in the second episode of season three, as three chimes are heard when Billy sees his doppelgänger in the Upside Down. Season three went even further than these hints, thought, and started to show the creatures’ evolution. Vecna, still unknown to our gang, was growing stronger and smarter. He had realized who to target in order to gain more strength in preparation for his master plan.
Vecna’s Origin in Stranger Things
Stranger Things left fans with many questions throughout the third season, from who controlled the Upside Down and the Mind Flayer to who is One. If El was the eleventh child Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) had experimented on, there must have been a first. Fans questioned where One was, and what had happened to them; when Eight was introduced in season two, it only reignited the questioning.
With season four, the question of One was thrown into fans’ faces. This season utilized multiple flashbacks to Eleven’s time in Brenner’s facility and even had a friendly orderly, played by Bower, compare Eleven to One. No one could escape the question, and it was only a matter of time before audiences started to realize One’s connection to Vecna.
Robert Englund’s (Nightmare on Elm Street) cameo as Victor Creel revealed Vecna’s backstory as the son of Victor and Brenner’s first experiment. The Duffer Brothers would later show the fate of One and what happened on the day El opened the first gate.
The Genius of the Duffer Brothers
What the Duffer Brothers did with Stranger Things was a perfect example of the idiom, “show don’t tell.” The carefully constructed plot ensured every piece of information was perfectly placed. They gave fans every piece of the puzzle needed to put together who the puppet master pulling the strings was while being able to capture an audience with a thrilling plot that kept us guessing throughout every episode.
We knew something bigger had to be releasing these monsters and that they had to be connected by more than just the Upside Down. In season three, Stranger Things sent fans down a rabbit hole with a Russian red herring, deterring audiences from the real answer. But in season four, it felt like all these puzzle pieces finally fit together.
If the Duffer Brothers had chosen to reveal Vecna earlier in the series, it wouldn’t have had the same payoff as it did. It would have felt rushed and underdeveloped, also forcing the writers to spend more time developing Vecna, taking away from the time we received with our main cast. If Vecna was revealed in season two or three, Stranger Things would have lost its element of surprise and instead would not have been able to keep audiences enthralled the way it did. Although the Duffer Brothers have yet to start writing the end of the series, they will begin writing season five next month, and you can guarantee they already know how it will end. With writers this meticulous, audiences can rest assured that every one of their burning questions will be answered when Stranger Things returns with season five in 2024.
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