Stranger Things Season 4: The Future of El’s Power

Eleven from Stranger Things could lay the smackdown on a monster in about 5 minutes in Season 2 but suddenly seems to have lost her superpowers after the fight at the end of Season 3… Don’t you find it confusing?

What secret can Millie Bobby Brown reveal about using her superpowers? And why is there a big chance that Eleven may become... a Villain in Season 4? We’re about ready to reveal all the strange secrets about Eleven’s superpowers.

What’s going on?

To see what went wrong with El in season three, and what we should expect from her in season 4, we need to understand her storyline so here’s a short, fun recap! Let’s start with the fact that El’s unfortunate mom Terry took a cash deal where she agreed to take part in an MK-Ultraesque experimental trial involving medication that would "expand the boundaries of the mind".

But surprise-surprise! Terry was pregnant at the time of the experiment and this results in us getting a bouncing baby girl all chock-full of psychokinesis. This baby, briefly known as Jane but now known only as 11, was then kidnapped and raised in Hawkins National Laboratory. Here, her new "Papa" Dr. Brenner used El and her supernatural abilities for his governmental projects and other shady activities.

El goes on to develop into this super powerful “Carrie” kid, accidentally opens the Gate to a different spooky Upside-Down dimension, lets a monster slip through into our world and then runs away; pursued by the Department of Energy and a whole host of thoroughly “bad dudes”. Love, hate, friendship and a whole lot of drama happens, with Eleven getting stronger and stronger all the while before Season 1 culminates in her defeating the Demogorgon.

Season 2 sees the monsters somehow come back in a strange new form (but we won't waste any time on that today). Before El confronts the demodogs, defeats the Mind Flayer and closes the gate in the final fight, accompanied by her trusty, gun-wielding father substitute Hopper - El runs away on a solo journey where she meets Kali; another child with a familiar number tattoo and strange powers to boot.

With the help of her sister-in-arms, Eleven learns how to harness her anger at will and courtesy of a classic 80’s makeover montage somehow becomes cooler… as if that were even possible.

As we mentioned, El makes her return just in the nick of time, defeats the big bad at the end of season 2 and finally closes the Gate. 

Then we got Season 3, where El fights the series’ main monster once again but oops! This time, she loses in her battle with the Mind Flayer. The result? Eleven loses her powers, and maybe her new dad too...(though we do have a few exciting ideas about that!). Eleven is finally taken in by a loving family but it’s not quite the rosy picture Mike promised in Season One. Instead, El becomes part of the Byers clan along with Nancy and Will and now has to work out how to do the whole long-distance relationship thing with Mike. Though considering he spent 353 days waiting for her, hope against hope with nothing to go on, they’ll probably be able to manage… maybe. There you have it, you’re all caught up, that’s all you really need to know before we start our... investigation.

What’s is the problem?

So what do we actually know about Eleven’s superpowers? How do they work? And what goes wrong with them right at a suspiciously good moment for plot of the show? Well, El’s most frequently used power seems to be her telekinesis. We've seen her manipulating objects, people, and even matter with her mind. And when Eleven is angry, oh boy, does things get intense. 

By the way, that creepy and terrifying look was totally Millie Bobby Brown’s idea. The actress didn’t want her character to use a fluffy, abracadabra style of magic and so, while practicing for her audition with her mom, she quite naturally came up with that iconic angry-eyed look.

Another power Eleven seems to possess is levitation, possibly the result of using telekinesis on herself. Do you remember when El was closing the Gate she got so powerful that as a side effect she was practically flying in that elevator? And don’t forget the time when she saved Mike by levitating him to safety after he had to jump off that cliff because of the bullies.

It’s not really clear why the girl doesn’t use this power more often to levitate herself and others. We do know that it can happen when she’s extremely angry but what’s stopping her from channeling those emotions and taking flights? Particularly since we know that Kali taught her how…

Next up, Eleven can sometimes transmit the voices of people and other sounds to other locations over electronic speakers, like through phone and walkie-talkie. We even see her first doing so while spying on a random Russian for the Department of Energy in Season 1, this actually seems like the most useful power (as far as the US government is concerned, anyway).

And you’d think that would come in handy now, especially when you’re out of town and your cell phone doesn’t have a connection... haven't we all been there?

Actually, why didn't Dustin ask Eleven to help him connect with his sweetheart? Isn’t that the most logical move, considering how strong his desire is to talk with Suzie? Yeah, we know they’re trying to keep El’s powers a secret but couldn’t she just give his ham radio a little… boost, instead of them having to lug it all the way up that hill? Susie would be none the wiser!

Eleven is also able to view the memories of others by contacting them through the void, although to do so she has to touch the person or use photos of the person in question. And related to these last two powers, she can geolocate someone and see what’s happening to them right at that moment. Like she did with the aforementioned Russian in Season 1… or for slightly more personal reasons during her break-up with Mike in Season 3. But that transdimensional travel trickery is probably the most mysterious power she has. It’s still not clear how she found the Upside-Down in the first place... and whether there are even more dimensions she could access. 

El was also somehow transported into the Upside Down upon defeating the Demogorgon at the end of Season 1. It was kinda a side-effect but the showrunners never revealed how that happened exactly… Perhaps it was done by the Demogorgon himself, it seems like he has some abilities that are very similar to Eleven's. In any case, if she does possess the ability to physically move between our world and the Upside Down, it actually looks like El doesn’t have a clue how to do so consciously or use it properly which is a bit of a shame and an under-explored area of her powers. Who wouldn’t explore the ability to create portals and travel to different dimensions, right?

Kind of a real plot hole, especially with that “route” to Kamchatka and Hopper’s death… or disappearance. But we’ll talk more about that later! Oh well, perhaps Eleven got over-excited over having a boyfriend so everything else wasn't of much importance to her except locking lips. Teenagers, huh… And we also shouldn’t forget that after El uses those superpowers, she always gets really exhausted... and a nosebleed, too. 

Getty Images

Getty Images

Millie Bobby Brown revealed the secret behind her "bloody" side-effect, by the way! During an interview with James Corden, Brown revealed the process and, well, it involves corn syrup! She describes the fake blood as a dyed corn syrup mixture that she has to squeeze into her nose before the cameras start rolling. But, of course, sometimes Millie gets the timing wrong and the "blood" just won’t come out at the right time…and other times she just can’t help but have a taste of that sweet mixture, which allegedly irks the director of the day!

So will we ever see that corn syrup again? And what went wrong with Eleven’s superpowers at the...eleventh hour of Season 3? Now's the right time to find out!

But… why?!

A Mini Mind Flayer suddenly attacks Nancy? In mere moments, El flings it out the window. A possessed Billy is seconds away from hurting Mike? El’s there to save his life. Are sinister Soviets ready to pull the trigger and blast the gang to pieces? El will drop a car on those rotten Russkis. Then a piece of Mind Flayer... blob burrows into Eleven's leg, and she’s suddenly helpless! She manages to get it out but... her powers go with it. Why, why, WHY?! Well, maybe we can explain it to you.

Most of the time when Eleven's powers are depleted, it’s more like she’s "low on batteries", and she recharges with time. But three months pass after she gets the Mind Flayer out of her leg and nothing seems to have changed… Is it forever this time? Here are Millie Bobby Brown's comments on the situation.

"I think Eleven is powerful with and without powers, so I think that’s always an exciting journey to explore further."

It seems that there’ll be an especially interesting challenge ahead for El in Season 4 - life as an average American teenager. So will she be able to adapt? "They'll come back, I know they will," Will says to Eleven during the final scene. And why shouldn’t we believe him? But before those powers do come back, El could face a much more difficult challenge than the life of a teenager! And here’s the whole theory behind that. 

Shouldn’t there be some… consequences to the Mind Flayer’s disgusting bite? We know that the monster has the ability to absorb and even take complete control of host bodies. We’ve seen that happen before with Billie... and even with Will. It's possible that this time it’ll happen with Eleven! It’s very possible that when El got "bitten" by the Mind Flayer, she became infected by its evil influence. Even though Mind Flyer hasn’t taken control of her body yet, the infection might allow it in later. And, if so, it’ll gain access to all of her formidable superpowers from the Upside Down! But! Joyce closed the portal in such an explosive fashion that the Mind Flyer clearly lost its connection to the Upside Down.

The most exciting theories

So, if the portal were to somehow... open again, say... somewhere in Russia? Why, then Eleven could either get her powers back or, or, or! That monster from the Upside Down could start giving it’s nefarious orders to El. If Eleven really were infected, the Mind Flayer could definitely turn Eleven into a real villain! But that’s just ONE theory. We have another for you… the one which will open a whole new point of view on Hopper’s death!

Imagine yourself as the director of Stranger Things for a moment… Why would you make Eleven lose her powers? The obvious answer is that you don’t want her to use them for some reason... Why would that be? What could Eleven reveal with the help of her powers that the Duffer Brothers would want to keep a secret? Maaaaayyyybe it's to keep Hopper's death a mystery! If Eleven still had her powers, she’d have used them to search for Hopper after his supposed demise. With Eleven not able to use her powers, we can't confirm his death which keeps it a total mystery until the next season!

Perhaps Hopper is trapped in the Upside Down? He could have been transported there when the portal machine exploded! And there are obviously some hints about that in the final episode of the season. The machine exploded with Hopper right next to it but, when Joyce approaches the scene afterward, there’s no body. That’s weird… unless he was completely atomized, an explosion like that should result in a few spots of blood at the very least…

"Keep the door open 3 inches"... There’s a reason those are the cryptic final words from Jim Hopper in Season 3. Wouldn’t that be just enough space for him to escape through the gate before it closes? And then, at the very end, we hear of an American prisoner in a Russian holding cell in... Kamchatka.

Maybe Hopper is alive and… er, not-so-well in Russia? Or maybe the Duffer Brothers are even more creative than we thought the cell contains none other than… Papa - Dr. Brenner! We mean, that would explain how the Russians knew about the Gate in Hawkins and had the technology to exploit it for their own ends. 

The Duffer Brothers left us another clue for the upcoming season, too. When talking about Hopper’s death, they revealed that “We always talk about Empire Strikes Back – we always wanted to give him a darker ending, we always wanted to give him a Han Solo sacrifice moment.” But of course and fan would surely recall that Han Solo did NOT, in fact, die in The Empire Strikes Back, which allowed him to reappear in Return of the Jedi. 

So what do you think? Is the absence of Eleven's superpowers connected to Hopper’s return in any way? And what can we expect to see for the both of them in Season 4?

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