Note: This article contains major “Stranger Things” Season 4 spoilers.
Each new season of the Duffer Brothers’ “Stranger Things” comes with a new threatening creature or major antagonist. First came the Demogorgon in Season 1, then the Demodogs in Season 2 as well as the shadowy Mind Flayer pulling the strings. The Mind Flayer created an actual body for itself in Season 3 through a gruesome process, but that body collapsed when Joyce closed the gate in the Upside Down that the Russians were keeping open.
Season 4’s villain Vecna is as creepy as they come. He preys on people with emotional hardship and baggage, forming some kind of mental connection with them before killing them in a very graphic way. The first few episodes lightly show how Vecna operates, but it’s not until the end of Volume 1 that we learn more about exactly where he came from and why he acts how he does.
Hold onto your butts brochachos, because Vecna’s story is a wild one:
How Does Vecna Stalk His Prey?
When the tentacles plug into Vecna’s back and elevate him inside the Upside Down Creel House, he goes to search through a red storm cloud of potential victims, all of whom are having interior doubts and battles in their minds. He first latches onto Patrick, one of the basketball players, and his nose begins to bleed. In the first episode, Vecna taunts cheerleader Chrissy (Grace Van Dien) using her mother’s criticisms of her weight and body image to get inside her head. He uses a memory of a car crash and a friend dying in the burning wreckage to torment Nancy’s assistant editor Fred (Logan Riley Bruner). Vecna never kills someone the first time he gets into their head, but after a couple appearances, which all start with a ticking grandfather clock and get more unsettling each time, he swoops in for the kill.
Who Are Vecna’s Victims?
Vecna kills Chrissy in the first episode, causing her to levitate and snapping her bones one by one ending with her neck and jaw, and finally pulling out her eyes. He does the same to Fred, leaving a pattern of murders in his wake that poor Eddie Munson gets blamed for. Max realizes that Chrissy was seeing the school counselor Ms. Kelly (Regina Ting Chen), so she makes a plan to snoop through Ms. Kelly’s private files, where she finds that Fred was seeing Ms. Kelly too. Max makes the discovery and connection that Vecna’s victims so far came down with the same symptoms before Vecna took them for good: headaches, bloody noses, nightmares, etc. Max realizes that she herself is having these same symptoms, and she has several encounters with the villain before he comes to claim her once and for all.
The Connection to Victor Creel
Victor Creel (played in the 1980s by Robert Englund) lived in the Creel House back in the 1950s with his wife, daughter and son. After strange things like lights flickering and strange visions (one of a baby crib on fire), Victor started to believe that a demon was haunting his house. One night, the demon struck, first manipulating the lights, then the radio, and finally killing his wife, daughter and sending his son into a coma. Victor was, for reasons largely unknown, spared, possibly thanks to the music that was playing on the radio amidst the killing of his family, and he shares his story with Nancy and Robin.
In Season 4 Episode 7, all of the pieces come together, and Vecna’s identity revealed, from the realization of his powers to how he went from the dimension of Hawkins to the Upside Down.
In Eleven’s memories of the Hawkins Lab and Peter Ballard (Jamie Campbell Bower) coming up to her and carefully instructing her how to improve her powers, she just thought he was an orderly helping out in the lab. But when he offers to help her escape, she wants to help him because he has helped her, and she knows if Papa traces her escape back to Peter, he will get hurt.
Eleven volunteers to remove Peter’s tracker from his neck so that he can come with her, but as they are about to head through the pipes, people find them. Peter guides Eleven back upstairs — and when they are met with men blocking their escape, he displays the same psionic powers Eleven has, killing them all and snapping the last man’s neck with a flick of his head. He guides Eleven into a room and tells her to wait there while he goes to find another way out, but before he leaves she asks him to explain, and he says “It’s like I said, we’re alike, you and I,” and shows her the numbers 001 tattooed on his wrist.
Eleven waits in the room for One to return, but she soon starts to hear alarms and screaming, so she goes to investigate. She comes across a horrific sight of everyone dead. She gets to the rainbow room to see One lifting Two up in a chokehold right before he kills him.
One turns to Eleven, noticeably changed by his kills — with red rimmed eyes and an even gaunter face — and says he told her to wait. As he watches her take in the scene before her, he tells her his story.
According to One, Papa lied to the children when he said 001 didn’t exist. Bower’s voiceover explains that he was always different, even as a child. His parents, Victor and Virginia Creel, brought him to Hawkins for a fresh start, and it was there that he tapped into his supernatural powers and honed them. On the night that the young Creel boy tried to kill his whole family, he couldn’t get a hold of his father, and he passed out, nearly dying.
When he woke up from his coma, he was in the hands of Dr. Martin Brenner, who had previously visited him at the behest of his mother, seeking to “fix” him. Brenner attempted to learn how to control the Creel boy, tattooing the 001 on his wrist and making him the guinea pig of his program that would later bring Eleven into existence.
The Creel boy realized that with his gifts, he could build a world better than the cage of society that he had experienced, and he asked Eleven to join him in his twisted vision for world domination after recounting his background.
Eleven says no, and faces off with One in a battle of telekinetic powers. One gets very close to killing Eleven the same way he has killed her siblings, lifting her up and squeezing blood out of her eyes. But Eleven eventually summons the strength to overpower One and send him careening into the wall where he starts peeling away into ash, and a giant red gash opens up behind him — like the original gate to the Upside Down.
We follow him into the Upside Down and as he tumbles through space, lightning strikes him, burning holes in his shirt and charring his skin into tough scar tissue. He starts to resemble… Vecna.
The episode then cuts to Vecna in 1980s Upside Down, zooming in on his arm, where a tentacle slides away to uncover 001 tattooed on his wrist.
So Vecna is 001, who is also Victor Creel’s son. Twist.