In this article:
- The final episodes of Stranger Things 4 are finally out, giving fans a lot of answers (and even more questions).
- There’s still one more season to go in this wildly popular series so some Stranger Things fan theories could still prove to be true.
- But some theories were already confirmed or dispelled with the season finale.
- This roundup of popular Stranger Things fan theories is packed with spoilers, so read at your own risk.
For weeks after the release of Stranger Things 4: Volume I, fans could only speculate about what would happen in the finale. Luckily for us, Netflix and the Duffer Brothers are not going to make us wait another three years to close this chapter of the show.
Two fresh episodes dropped on July 1, including a much-awaited two-hour season finale. So many fans were itching to find out what happened that Netflix users reported a crash on the platform. Luckily, the crash was soon resolved and we were able to binge the final episodes of Stranger Things 4.
Here are how some of the most popular Stranger Things fan theories held up to what actually happened in the latest season.
Caution: Spoilers ahead!
What We Knew Heading Into Stranger Things 4: Volume II
Jim Hopper is very much alive albeit imprisoned in the Soviet Union, where the Russians are keeping Demogorgons for their own research. That research includes making the creatures fight the prisoners in deadly, gladiator-style bouts of entertainment.
Much of this season of Stranger Things has Joyce away from her children and on a mission with Murray to rescue Hopper — which they ultimately accomplish. The question is how they’re going to escape the heavily-guarded prison.
Over on the West Coast, Will, Mike, Jonathan, and Argyle drive to rescue Eleven from the Nina Project in Nevada, an underground lab whose location is based on a real-life government research facility.
El voluntarily went to the lab with Dr. Owens to rediscover her powers. Little did she know, they’d be doing that with the help and unconventional methods of Dr. Brenner, a.k.a. Papa.
The experiment takes time but it proves to be a success. Eleven unlocks a key memory of her early days in Hawkins Lab. She discovers the identity of the series’ main villain, Vecna, to be One — the first-ever test subject of Dr. Brenner.
Because memory is a key element in Stranger Things, everything is pieced together as El recovers her own:
Papa learned of Henry Creel’s psychokinetic powers and studied him, forcing him to become One. Henry despised the order that humans put in the world and sought to be free of it. Being a subject of the lab essentially trapped him in the very confinement and control he wanted to break away from.
Papa expanded the study by creating new test subjects, including El, though it is unclear how exactly he is doing this (beyond the hints that it may involve One).
El learned the true identity of her secret helper inside the lab, an unnamed orderly who turns out to be the powerful One. She banished One into the Upside Down after he massacres all the children in the lab. There in the Upside Down, he transforms into Vecna.
Back in Hawkins, Nancy learned all of this, too, after she’s taken by Vecna, who walks her through his origin story. Meanwhile, her physical body was in a trance while Steve desperately tried to wake her up before she suffers the same brutal death that others caught in Vecna’s trap met.
Stranger Things truly knows how to set up a cliffhanger and this scene definitely kept us clamoring for more.
What Fans Thought Would Happen — And What Actually Happened
I read some of the most plausible and some of the wildest theories on the r/StrangerThings subreddit, the best place for any fan to look for validation or start an argument over their ideas.
After a three-hour date with Netflix, I can confirm which among these Stranger Things fan theories actually turned out to be true and which ones are a swing and a miss.
Will Comes Out as Gay and Professes His Love for Mike With a Painting: Unconfirmed and False
Will’s sexuality became a popular subject in the Stranger Things sub and on Twitter after the release of Volume I.
In the episode The Hellfire Club, a female classmate attempts to play footsie with Will, who freezes up in response. There are also a few lingering looks and moments where it seems like Will has something he wants to confess to Mike, but can’t find the courage to do it.
Fans also brought up another hint from season 3: Mike told Will during a fight over not having time for their D&D party that it isn’t his fault Will isn’t interested in girls.
None of these hints are blatant enough on their own to suggest that Will is not straight. Maybe he’s just not interested in that particular girl trying to play footsie with him. Maybe he just misses how close he and Mike once were.
Noah Schnapp, the actor who plays Will, has addressed the debate by saying he doesn’t want to put a label on it. “If it’s Will kind of just refusing to grow up and growing up slower than his friends, or if he is really gay.” He adds that it’s up to viewers to interpret it for now.
Stranger Things fans thought that they would get a confirmation with the release of Volume II, speculating that Will’s super-secret painting will be a declaration of the character’s love for Mike.
Fans didn’t get their answer and the painting wasn’t what they thought. It was a medieval depiction of their party, with Will describing Mike as the heart that brings the group together.
While the scene gives us subtle hints that when Will is talking about El’s love for Mike, he’s actually talking about his own feelings for his best friend, it’s once again too vague to draw any firm conclusions.
The character clearly has something he wants to get off his chest, but we will just have to wait for Stranger Things Season 5 to find out what it is.
Robin Saves Nancy Because They’re Such Good Friends Now: False
The seventh episode of the season ends with Nancy in a trance. We know after the climax scene of the beautifully-written episode Dear Billy that music is the lifeline that Vecna’s to-be victims need to be saved.
People guessed that this will be the case for Nancy, too, and that Robin would know what her favorite song is.
Although this season of Stranger Things started with the two characters not jiving so well, the pair bonded over the piece of the puzzle that is Victor Creel. And as friends, Robin would know just what kind of music Nancy liked.
One keen observer on Reddit, u/oswaldor0830, pointed to a scene in which Robin goes through Nancy’s tapes.
While it seemed like that was going to be the case, Vecna did not want to kill off Nancy, so music wasn’t needed to get her out of the trance. Instead, Vecna releases Nancy so that she can deliver a message to Eleven: He plans to open a massive gate and come to Hawkins with an army of Demogorgons, Demobats, and the Mind Flayer.
Eddie’s Guitar Comes to the Rescue: True
Music is one of Eddie’s main interests and he plays a sweet Warlock NJ Series electric guitar. Naturally, this made some Strangers Things fans think that Eddie would be the one to serenade Nancy out of her trance given that they were in his trailer when it happened.
Although Eddie’s playing wasn’t needed to pull Nancy from her trance, we did get to hear him shred in the finale.
The gang of unlikely heroes planned on killing Vecna as he hunted for a new victim. Phase 2 of their plan was to distract the Demobats away from the Creels’ residence so Nancy, Steve, and Robin could enter and kill Vecna’s physical body.
Eddie’s task was to lure the Demobats away with a guitar solo of Metallica’s Master of Puppets on top of his trailer. This and the ominous lightning strikes amidst a red sky created one of the most glorious scenes in Stranger Things.
Eddie Is Ten: False
This is probably one of the more ludicrous but amusing Stranger Things fan theories thrown out in the sub. u/no_one_here_123 wondered if Eddie could be Ten, as in the tenth test subject of Papa in the lab.
There aren’t really a lot of details in the show that stood out enough to suggest this, but the theory still picked up some traction and actually became quite popular on TikTok.
Eddie mentioned he had a buzz cut as a young boy much like all the kids in Hawkins Lab. He also has plenty of tattoos but he always has a watch on his wrist, where a 010 tattoo could be placed. Ten also died in the massacre, but some fans seem to think that because his face wasn’t shown, it wasn’t a definitive fact that he died.
As far as evidence goes, these details are pretty thin. It was never confirmed by his uncle that he took part in any experiments. It’s unlikely that the Duffer Brothers will bring up Eddie’s past at all in the next season of Stranger Things.
A Major Character Dies, Most Likely Steve: Half-True
The first half of Stranger Things Season 1 led us to believe that Steve was a stereotypical jock asshole. The show flipped this narrative midway and audiences soon fell in love with his character.
In Volume I, Steve’s heroic nature shines through once more, which had many fans, including myself, worry that they’re building up his character as the next to die.
The main reason behind this theory is Steve’s ongoing and unsuccessful search for romance. His feelings for Nancy, who is in a rocky relationship with Jonathan, seem to have resurfaced. And Steve being Steve, fans think he will definitely sacrifice himself for Nancy if needed.
To everyone’s relief, Steve doesn’t bite the dust…but another beloved character does. Eddie’s battle with the Demobats didn’t end on top of his trailer. In order to buy the gang some more time, he continues to lure them away by making himself the target.
Ultimately, there were far too many of the creatures for Eddie to fend off with an improvised shield and spear. Dustin arrives just in time to say goodbye and Eddie dies with a smile, proud that he didn’t run away from a challenge for the first time.
The School Counselor Is Vecna’s Spy: Unconfirmed
Vecna’s victims strangely all come from the same school even though there are thousands of other people in Hawkins, if he wants to stick to his home town. Aside from having trauma, a vulnerability Vecna exploits, here’s another thing they all had in common: Chrissy, Fred, Patrick, and Max were all seeing the school counselor, Miss Kelly.
Many Stranger Things fans agreed that it isn’t just a coincidence that they were all tied to the same person, especially when the pool of victims in the town is not exactly small.
The running theory is that Miss Kelly is one of the flayed, and Vecna is using her to spy on the people of Hawkins. She has easy access to people who are psychologically troubled given her job and Vecna knows it.
More observant Stranger Things fans also noticed some details in scenes with Miss Kelly.
She wears a necklace with a clock pendant and time is one of Vecna’s obsessions. Her necklace also looked like a key and the grandfather clock in the Creels’ home has a slot where you can potentially put the key in. However, there aren’t any theories as to what might be inside the clock.
As of the season finale, it’s unclear whether Miss Kelly is related to Vecna in any way.
She’s definitely not his sister as some suggested because Alice Creel was killed by Vecna himself. Miss Kelly could just be a red herring but we have to wait until the next season to find out.
Eleven Is One’s Daughter: Unconfirmed
In many ways, the Stranger Things fandom has come to accept Hopper as Eleven’s father. He takes care of her and loves her unconditionally. Even so, fans can’t help but wonder who El’s biological dad is.
Hawkins Lab and many details of Dr. Brenner’s study are still very much a mystery. All we know is that there are psychedelic drugs involved in producing kids with psychokinetic abilities.
But as One said, Papa doesn’t always tell the truth, so the kids could be a product of genetic experiments. And whose genes have the ideal superpowers? One. The scientists could have used his genes — or, if you think about it, other biological samples — to produce superhero babies as some people theorized.
This would, in essence, make him the father of those children, including Eleven. It’s not exactly a shot in the dark given that all four seasons of Stranger Things have shown us that the lab doesn’t have the least bit of concern for ethics.
We can’t confirm yet if this theory holds any weight. Honestly, I’d prefer if Stranger Things never discloses Eleven’s true parentage.
The Mind Flayer Is Vecna’s Five Star General, Not the Other Way Around: True
The Mind Flayer was the main villain in the second and third season of Stranger Things. So, it’s easy to believe that it’s the big bad of the entire series.
When Vecna was banished into the Upside Down, we saw that there were already troglodyte-type creatures in that world. Vecna didn’t create the Demogorgons. Fans assumed the Mind Flayer was also already in existence in the Upside Down, and Vecna only decided to serve its goals.
However, The Piggyback episode of Stranger Things demystifies the Mind Flayer’s and Vecna’s origin stories a little more. In their mind fight, Vecna made a tied up Eleven watch as he explored the Upside Down. He described it as a “realm unspoiled by mankind.”
Eventually he found a floating mass of particles similar to what the Soviet Union prison had in containment. Vecna used his ability to transform the particles into the Mind Flayer, which resembled the Black Widows he obsessed over as a child.
Although it is still unclear how connected they are, I can see a kind of Voldemort and Nagini-esque relationship between Vecna and the Mind Flayer. Perhaps a little of Vecna is stored within the Mind Flayer and every time you hurt it, a little part of Vecna dies as well.
When he was still too weak to fight in Seasons 2 and 3 himself, he sent the Mind Flayer to do his bidding. With Vecna’s physical form currently hurt (and his location unknown), we can expect the Mind Flayer to make a reappearance in the fifth and final season of Stranger Things.
Vecna Took Will in Season 1: Unconfirmed
Finally, there’s a theory going around that it was actually Vecna in a weaker form that took Will in Season 1, not a Demogorgon.
Stranger Things fans who rewatched the series noticed that the silhouette resembled Vecna more closely than it does a Demogorgon. El accidentally opened a gate, which finally enabled Vecna to appear in Hawkins, but he was still too weak himself to wreak the havoc that he wanted to.
A small but key detail that u/brentus86 pointed out on Reddit — and one that is honestly pretty convincing — is how the door unlocked from the inside.
As far as we know, Demogorgons don’t possess telekinetic abilities, so they wouldn’t be able to open a locked door unless they ripped it from the hinges. However, Vecna could. Additionally, Will was taken when the light in the shed started dimming, which could have signaled Vecna’s arrival.
The reason u/brentus86 suggested Vecna chose Will is also interesting and builds up a bigger role for the character in season 5.
Will and Vecna have a lot of similarities in terms of personality: They are both sensitive and feel like outcasts. Henry had powers that alienated him from everyone else, and Will clearly has his own personal struggles that he hasn’t shared with anyone yet.
After the second season of Stranger Things, it’s also clear that Will is still somehow connected to Vecna. He can always sense when he’s around, as the season finale reminded us.
In an ominous admission to Mike, Will says that he feels Vecna is hurt but still definitely alive. He also states that he remembers what he thinks and how he thinks. Clearly, Vecna still has plans for Will and it’s exciting to see how the Stranger Things writers will explore their connection.
Stranger Things Season 5: What We Know So Far
Unfortunately, not much. Not the release date, the cast, or the plot. The best estimate we have so far is a 2024 release and a confirmation from the Duffer Brothers that season 5 will be a direct continuation from where this season ended.
Other than that, we only know for sure who won’t be there — as Stranger Things has a habit of killing off some of its memorable and well-liked characters. If Eddie, Bob, or even Papa show up in season 5, it will only be in brief flashbacks.
But if there’s anything the Duffer Brothers know how to do, it’s surprising the fans of their beloved show.
We were only right about minor details, like Eddie’s guitar-playing skill coming to the rescue, or the death of a major character — which also turned out to be Eddie.
When you think the show is becoming predictable or hackneyed, our list of theories showed us that Stranger Things still knows how to create twists, throw red herrings, and keep us on the edge of our seats. We’ll just have to keep speculating until potentially 2024.
What are your favorite Stranger Things fan theories for the next season? Let us know in the comments!