Stranger Things Creators Know Fans Have Big Questions About Eleven, And Already Have An Answer For Viewers

Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in Stranger Things Season 4
(Image credit: Netflix)

Spoilers ahead for Vol. 1 of Stranger Things Season 4.

Vol. 1 of Stranger Things Season 4 took Eleven on a blast to the past with the other characters spread across the world, and the flashbacks filled in some blanks about what made her the way that she is, but also raised some questions about the Eleven who was introduced back in Season 1. She barely talked in Season 1, and actions definitely spoke louder than words. Poor El didn’t know the meaning of “friend,” but she’s fully conversational in her Season 4 flashbacks. So is this a plot hole, or just something that Stranger Things hasn’t revealed yet? The Duffer brothers have the answer.

The creators – who wrote the full fourth season ahead of filming, in a departure from the Stranger Things norm – weighed in on the Eleven question that plenty of fans are talking about in the wake of Vol. 1 releasing. Speaking with TVLine, Ross Duffer said: 

The trauma [of the massacre] definitely affected Eleven. Ideally, when we were writing the flashbacks, the goal was to mimic her speech, with the breaks, with the limited words…But what happens is that she’s surrounded by other kids at the lab. She’s socialized. Then she goes into a coma for a period of time, reawakens and then is isolated completely by Dr. Brenner. That’s the story of Eleven.

All things considered, it’s no surprise that the trauma of One massacring almost all of the children and staff at Hawkins Lab – a.k.a. the only people who Eleven had ever known beyond the distant memory of her mother – traumatized her. Spending time with her “brothers” and “sisters” meant that she had more people to talk to than Brenner. Sure, some of them were bullies who may or may not have wanted to kill her, but she was more socialized than she was when she escaped the lab in Season 1 and showed up at Benny’s Burgers. (R.I.P. Benny.)

Interestingly, Eleven falling into a coma and then waking up to be isolated by Brenner didn’t happen in the record-breaking first volume of Season 4, so that’s either going to happen in Vol. 2 or was meant to be inferred by fans. If it does happen in Vol. 2, it’ll likely mirror what happened to One after he murdered his sister as Henry Creel. He fell into a coma, woke as the first of Dr. Brenner’s child patients with powers, and was presumably isolated until Brenner could bring in more kids. Matt Duffer elaborated on what his brother shared, saying in the same interview:

When you meet her, she’s 9, right? And then she blacks out. She doesn’t have a memory of all this, which is why she has to re-experience it [via Nina]. The Season 1 flashbacks that take place post-massacre, she’s locked up in a cell just by herself, with no other children.

Even though Eleven did have relationships with kids around her own age for a while, it may be for the best that she didn’t remember those days or what happened to them until she was older. Plus, it’s not unprecedented for her to collapse after pushing herself too far with her powers, and it makes sense that doing it when she was 9-years-old knocked her into a coma. Ross Duffer added that she had “no interaction aside from occasionally her quote-unquote Papa” between the massacre and when she debuted in Season 1, and “that was the thinking behind” her speech change. It wasn’t a plot hole, but also wasn’t fully explained on screen in Vol. 1.

Will it be explained on screen in Vol. 2, or will fans have to come to that conclusion themselves? I wouldn’t be surprised if a comatose Eleven waking up to nobody other than Brenner happens on screen, for the sake of the parallel to One before his transformation into Vecna (which was done with practical effects for the fourth season), but only the last two episodes of Season 4 will reveal how much is left of her flashbacks to her Hawkins Lab days. (Netflix subscribers can watch and rewatch Vol. 1 for clues, though!)

Vol. 2 of Stranger Things Season 4 arrives on Netflix on Friday, July 1 at 12:01 a.m. PT. The show has already been renewed for a fifth and final season, but only time will tell if all of the key characters will still be around for the last chapter of the saga. For some viewing options during the wait for the show to return next month, check out our 2022 TV premiere schedule.

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. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.