How Game Of Thrones' Night King Inspired The Creation Of Vecna For Stranger Things Season 4

the vecna on stranger things season 4
(Image credit: Netflix)

Spoilers ahead for Vol. 1 of the fourth season of Stranger Things on Netflix.

Stranger Things delivered a very different kind of villain in Season 4 with Vecna, who isn’t part of the Mind Flayer’s army and has the power to pick off victims in Hawkins while based in the Upside Down. The show used practical effects to transform actor Jamie Campbell Bower into Vecna, whose look might have reminded Game of Thrones fans of the Night King. According to prosthetics makeup designer Barrie Gower in an interview with CinemaBlend, that’s no coincidence, as the Night King inspired Vecna in some key ways. 

Barrie Gower and the prosthetics team from the BGFX makeup effects company created Vecna’s look with effects that involved more than 20 pieces that were applied to Jamie Campbell Bower, who went prosthetics-free when playing One before being banished to the Upside Down by Eleven. It took between six and nine hours to complete Bower’s transformation into Vecna, whose similarities to the Night King stem from Gower’s previous work on Game of Thrones. Speaking with CinemaBlend, the prosthetics makeup designer explained the connection between Vecna and the Night King: 

The Duffers had seen our work on Game of Thrones, and they really loved the Night King. They also loved our work on the HBO show Chernobyl with all the radiation burns, and I think they almost wanted a combination of two, in a way. Realizing that they needed to design a character – a new villain, a new presence for Stranger Things 4, which would be quite an iconic villain – being fans of the Night King for Game of Thrones, I think they were thinking, 'Well, why not? Let's approach the guys who made the Night King.' I think that's partly how we kind of got the gig, so we were very fortunate for that.

Like millions of people all over the world, Matt and Ross Duffer – who created Stranger Things – were evidently fans of Game of Thrones who loved the look of the Night King, who was one of the primary villains of the final season. Barrie Gower and his team also worked on Chernobyl, which didn’t involve any mythological creatures but did involve radiation burns in adapting the real-life story of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster

One certainly looked like he was being exposed to an Upside Down version of radiation when he was sent through what seemed to be the first-ever gate, and the finished product was more reminiscent of the Night King than Jamie Campbell Bower. I would argue that Vecna is even scarier than the Night King at this point in Season 4, so the Duffers recruiting Barrie Gower and his team – who also transformed Nightmare on Elm Street’s Robert Englund into Victor Creel – certainly paid off. Gower continued:

I think it's also just natural that many of our artists who worked on Game of Thrones got to work on Vecna as well. So there's probably traits of their design skills and their approaches and just their styles in the sculpture and styles in the painting that you can probably see references between between the Night King and Vecna in a way, because it's been designed and created by the same people. So I think that's probably why there's a little bit of a relationship there.

The Upside Down is even more perilous than ever in Season 4, to the point that breathing in the air down there isn’t even on the list of concerns for Steve, Nancy, Robin, and Eddie after going through Watergate. The Demo-Bats (whose sounds have some surprising origins) were an immediate threat, and then Vecna got Nancy when she was just on the verge of returning to her normal Hawkins.

Whether or not Nancy emerges unscathed (or at all) from Vecna’s grip in the Upside Down remains to be seen; Max was saved by her friends and a Kate Bush song, so it’s not impossible for people with no powers to at least temporarily defeat him. Only Vol. 2 of Season 4 will deliver all the answers. Fans with a Netflix subscription can find out what happens next when Vol. 2  of Stranger Things Season 4 releases on Friday, July 1 at 12:01 a.m. PT on Netflix. 

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).