This article contains spoilers for Stranger Things season 4.
Stranger Things season 4 revealed Vecna is the show’s true villain, behind everything from the Demogorgon to the Mind-Flayer – and the retcon rewrites some key scenes from previous seasons. Stranger Things season 4 was the most explosive yet, revealing the true horror responsible for all the horrors that have struck Hawkins. Vecna was more than just the latest Monster of the Season – he’s the being who lies at the center of the Mind-Flayer’s hive mind, controlling everything that’s happened.
Vecna’s origin story established him as a twisted mirror image of Eleven herself. Born Henry Creel, he developed his powers around puberty and unleashed them upon his own family. Creel was found by Dr. Brenner, becoming his “Number One,“his powers neutralized when Brenner realized he could not be weaponized. Brenner instead began to work to create others who shared Henry Creel’s powers, and he was successful. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of allowing Creel to remain at Hawkins Lab as an orderly, and Creel eventually manipulated Eleven into freeing him.He swept through Hawkins Lab like a wildfire, slaughtering everyone he met.
Henry Creel was ultimately stopped by Eleven, who banished him to the realm that would become known as the Upside Down. Trapped there, his body twisted and disfigured, Creel became an explorer and managed to use his powers to bind every creature in this dimension together into a hive mind. It turns out everything that has been happening at Hawkins has been orchestrated by Creel – or Vecna, as the kids called him. This retcon has massive implications for the entire Stranger Things saga, and rewrites several key scenes in past seasons.
The Mind-Flayer Isn’t The Leader of the Upside Down
The biggest retcon, of course, is that the Mind-Flayer has never been the main villain of Stranger Things. Rather, it was created when Vecna discovered mysterious particles in the Upside Down, the particles that have become known as the “Shadow.“These particles contain the virus that binds anything infected with them into the Mind-Flayer’s hive mind, and every creature in the Upside Down has ingested them, becoming bound to Vecna. All the creatures found in the Upside Down have been acting in accordance with Vecna’s will from the start.
The Demogorgon Was Probing Hawkins Lab For Vecna
The Vecna / Mind-Flayer retcon actually affects the very first scene in Stranger Things season 1, in which a scientist fled from the Demogorgon that had just emerged from the gate Eleven had torn open. This Demogorgon is recast as a scout, sent by Vecna to probe Hawkins Lab. He probably didn’t quite realize where the gate went at first, but would immediately recon Hawkins Lab through the hive mind. This explains why this Demogorgon scout was able to navigate the complex with such ease, slipping ahead of the running scientist and waiting in the elevator. Vecna knew anybody trying to escape would logically run to the elevator, and he presumably remembered some short-cuts.
Vecna Let The Demogorgon Into Will’s House
Vecna may have known his way around Hawkins Lab, but he naturally wanted to scout the immediate area, and so the Demogorgon left the complex – and crossed paths with Will. The teenager avoided all the traditional tropes from horror films, running to safety, locking himself in his home, and immediately trying to call for help. The retcon that Vecna was monitoring this whole thing actually deals with a subtle, previously-unnoticed detail in Stranger Things‘pilot episode; somehow the door is unbolted from the outside, a demonstration of telekinetic ability that the Demogorgon never displays again. This can now be retconned as Vecna’s power of telekinesis, his mind watching from the Upside Down. The Demogorgon could have torn the door down, but for now Vecna wanted Will’s fate to be concealed.
Will Was Bonded To Vecna, Not The Mind-Flayer
The Vecna / Mind-Flayer connection becomes much more important in Stranger Things season 2, when Will begins experiencing visions of the Mind-Flayer. Clearly, the particles he has already ingested while trapped in the Upside Down have essentially left him out of phase with reality, and he stands at the boundary between the dimensions. In Stranger Things season 2, episode 3, Will makes the mistake of confronting the Mind-Flayer rather than running from it. Will is surrounded by a flood of the particles that bind together the hive mind, which then flood into his body. From that point on, Will is bonded – not to the Mind-Flayer, but to Vecna.
This retcon works surprisingly well, because the subtle traps planted in the tunnels beneath Hawkins – which Will unwittingly guides soldiers into while under Vecna’s influence – are too well-constructed for any mere creature. What’s more, it’s interesting to note Will consistently refers to the being he is bonded to as “it is,“which viewers assumed was a reference to the Mind-Flayer but is now retconned as Vecna. In the end, Will is freed from the virus by increasing his body temperature to a level where it rejected it, the particles blasted out of him into the night air around Hawkins.This may well give the Hawkins kids a way to fight Vecna and his hive mind in Stranger Things season 5.
Billy Was Possessed By Vecna In Stranger Things Season 3
The retcons continue into Stranger Things season 3, with Max’s brother Billy possessed – not by the Mind-Flayer, but rather by the particles that bind together the hive mind. He is captured by a tentacled creature in Stranger Things season 3, episode 1, and particles are forced down his throat and into his body. The process no doubt continued until Vecna was confident Billy had become his pawn, and Vecna then used Billy to find others who could be put through the same process.
Billy Became Vecna’s Puppet When He Attacked Eleven
By Stranger Things season 3, the Hawkins kids are more confident when dealing with matters of the Upside Down. They swiftly come to suspect Billy is infected with the Mind-Flayer’s particles, and in Stranger Things season 3, episode 4 they subject him to the sauna test – that is, to elevated temperatures they hope will force the particles out of him. It doesn’t work as they hoped, because Billy becomes a puppet, his strength boosted because he draws energy from the Mind-Flayer’s hive mind. Vecna’s plans are clearly being exposed, and so he chooses to begin to intervene directly; on close examination, the scene shows Billy rise to his feet as though he’s just a puppet, his feet initially dragging across the floor. Clearly he’s being lifted to his feet by telekinesis. But Vecna chooses not to demonstrate his powers in any way Eleven can observe, trying to get a sense of Eleven’s strengths, weaknesses, and knowledge. Eleven’s telekinetic attack on Billy can actually now be seen as foreshadowing her duel with Vecna in Stranger Things season 4.
How Bruce Knows Where Nancy Has Gone In Stranger Things Season 3
Stranger Things season 3, episode 5 sees Vecna begin to try to kill Eleven’s friends, launching a focused attack on Jonathan and Nancy. With the benefit of hindsight, Vecna’s puppets – Bruce and Tom – are rather too good at tracking their victims. The best explanation is that Vecna was monitoring them telepathically, knowing where they were at all times. This raises disturbing questions about whether the Hawkins kids can remain safe in Stranger Things season 5.
Vecna Entered Eleven’s Mind Through His Connection To Billy
The Vecna / Mind-Flayer retcon has a particularly significant impact on Stranger Things season 3, episode 6, in which Eleven enters Billy’s mind in an attempt to figure out the Mind-Flayer’s plan. This backfires in a terrifying fashion, with Eleven winding up confronting what she believes to be the Mind-Flayer – but what has now been retconned as Vecna. This can now be seen as the first rematch between Vecna and Eleven, with Number One concealing his identity and abilities so he can retain an edge against her.
Vecna Knew How To Counteract Eleven’s Powers (at the end of season 3)
The Vecna / Mind-Flayer retcon rewrites the history of Stranger Thingstelling a story in which a master strategist has been probing Hawkins and its defenders for weaknesses since 1983. It adds another layer to the end of Stranger Things season 3, in which Eleven lost access to her powers. Dr. Brenner would later suggest the trauma she had experienced was similar to a stroke, and she needed to revisit her past to relearn how to use her abilities. But the Vecna / Mind-Flayer retcon raises the disturbing possibility this was not accidental, but rather was a deliberate strategy on Vecna’s part. The idea can’t be ruled out, because Vecna knew it was possible to strip people of their powers – his own abilities having been inhibited for years at Hawkins Lab. It’s telling that he only began his main attack on Hawkins when Eleven had lost her powers, suggesting the villain of Stranger Things didn’t want to take the risk of being defeated by her.
More: Everything We Know About Stranger Things Season 5: Cast, Setting & Story
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