Stranger Things season 4 volume 1 ending explained: What happened to Eleven?
Who is Vecna, and what does any of it have to do with Eleven’s mysterious past? **Contains spoilers**
Viewers are still reeling from the events of Stranger Things 4: Volume 1, which reintroduced our beloved group of D&D players turned action heroes for another round of scary encounters.
Having previously fought against such monstrosities as the Demogorgon, this time they found themselves up against the telepathic beast known as Vecna.
In a further boost to the show's 1980s nostalgia street cred, the Duffer Brothers enlisted none other than Robert Englund (best known for playing Freddy Kreuger in the Nightmare on Elm Street films) to voice the villainous creature.
If you need some clarification on the biggest moments and revelations from episode seven, we have you covered with this complete guide which should leave you counting the days until the lengthy final two episodes of Stranger Things drop.
**Spoiler warning for Stranger Things 4 part 1**
Stranger Things 4 episode 7 ending explained
First, we should quickly set the scene. Eleven’s been in a secret bunker in Nevada, reliving her repressed memories to try and regain her abilities to take on Vecna and Upside Down threats more generally. In the course of this, she apparently discovers that she killed a load of other psychic kids, though we find out things aren’t quite that simple.
Elsewhere, several of the kids have been investigating mysterious murders going on in Hawkins, which we know are the work of tentacle-y dream-walker Vecna. In doing so Nancy, Steve, Robin and Eddie got stuck in the Upside Down, but manage to find a new gate that can get them back to the real world…at least, until something happens to Nancy.
Other characters are also doing things like hacking computers and fighting demogorgons in Russia, but that’s not strictly relevant to these final scenes so we’ll sideline those for now (also, some of the military are tracking down Eleven because they think she’s the one doing the telekinetic murders). OK, now we’re ready.
What does Eleven remember in Stranger Things season 4 episode 7?
After a couple of episodes reliving her memories at Hawkins lab, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) finally remembers the details of the ‘massacre’ she thought she had repressed causing. Spoiler alert – it wasn’t her that killed all the other telekinetic kids (even though they were little brats to her all the time for no reason).
Meanwhile, as Steve, Robin and Eddie escape the Upside-Down with help from Erica, Dustin and Max Nancy is suddenly pulled into Vecna’s mindscape, where he decides to go down the classic villain route and start monologuing.
In other words, we get two parallel origin stories for Vecna unfolding in two different flashbacks – one as Nancy sees what really happened in the Creel house in the 50s, and one as Eleven recalls what happened to her at Hawkins lab.
What happened with Vecna and Eleven?
Let’s start with the lab. It turns out that Peter (Jamie Campbell Bower) the helpful Hawkins lab orderly wasn’t quite so helpful after all. After whispering in Eleven’s ear for a while and helping her to gain control of her powers, Peter manipulates her into removing a small chip from his neck.
Once it’s gone, the truth is revealed – he’s no ordinary orderly. In fact, he’s One – or 001 – the original subject of Dr Brenner’s (Matthew Modine) telekinetic/psychic experiments, but whose psychosis was so severe that the doctors repressed his powers with the chip while trying to recreate them in other children.
As he tells Nancy in his creepy Upside Down house, as a young boy he killed his whole family (the mutilated Creels) using his telekinesis and psychic abilities, implanting horrible visions in their heads before cracking bones and popping eyes just like he’s doing in present-day (well, the 1980s) Hawkins.
Why did he do this? Well, he felt like he was a natural predator, whose responsibility was to hold up a mirror to his family’s hypocrisies – and when his mother suspected what he was doing and called a doctor to lock him up, he decided he had no choice but to Do Some Murders.
The effort (and his father’s escape) almost burned him out, and he ended up in Hawkins lab being tested for his abilities anyway. From there he grew up to become the soft-spoken orderly who has (apparently) had Eleven’s back for a while. Now he wants revenge for his imprisonment (and presumably all the electrical punishment we saw him receiving a few episodes back) - though he also hints that killing others enhances his power and that all his victims are "still with him".
He proceeds to go on a murderous spree, killing all the guards, orderlies and fellow-subjects before Eleven catches up and confronts him. After a bitter psychic battle Eleven eventually manages to overpower him, inadvertently casting him into the Upside Down (apparently summoning a gate from within his torso) shortly before Dr Brenner comes into the room to find her as the sole survivor – essentially, picking up from the first scene of the season from episode one, but with the true meaning revealed.
Peter Ballard is revealed as Vecna
By now, if you hadn’t worked it out already you might see where this is going. Peter is flung through dimensions, getting burned and struck by lightning which warps and mutilates his body. We begin to see the beginning of his transformation into Vecna, which presumably continued in his years stuck in the Upside Down.
And just in case there was any confusion, this part of Stranger Things 4 ends with a close up on Vecna’s arm, where his ‘001’ tattoo is still (somehow) just about visible. It’s the ultimate showdown between Young Grindelwald and Enola Holmes, guys!
Altogether, this sets up an almighty conflict for the final two episodes (or maybe that should be “final two movies” given the runtimes) of Stranger Things 4. Vecna used to be a guy with all Eleven’s abilities and more, and now his years in the Upside Down have clearly given him some new tricks as well. Now, we can assume he wants some revenge.
Exactly why Vecna’s been waiting so long for his comeback or what his plan for the world remains to be seen, but we’re sure fans will be eagerly awaiting his endgame when Stranger Things 4 returns in a few weeks.
Now, give us a moment while we take the batteries out of every ticking clock in the vicinity. We'll never hear that ticking in the same way again...
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Stranger Things 4 is now streaming on Netflix, with part 2 coming on July 1st. For more, check out our dedicated Sci-Fi page or our full TV Guide. Check out our guides to the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix.
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