***SPOILER ALERT*** This contains mad spoilers for Stranger Things. If you haven’t watched it, don’t read this!
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One of the enduring mysteries of the show is, WHO is Eleven’s true “papa”?
Well….(Dustin! Drum roll please…..) ——— I think it’s Henry AKA Vecna AKA 001.
I know, icky icky icky, right? But, the math works out, for one thing.
Henry would’ve been maybe 20 or so at the time of her birth, so that’s no issue. It’s possible that he impregnated her mother due to some random affair, but that’s pretty lame. Far more likely is that he is a key pawn in Dr. Brenner’s machinations, specifically, that Brenner has been breeding Henry in order to produce more superpowered kids to use as weapons against the Commies, as would be consistent with the whole narrative of the MK_Ultra experiments, the distrust of Russians, the timing (i.e., height of the Cold War), etc.
So, the timing works. But more than that, there are many, many pieces of supporting evidence.
- For one, Henry and Eleven have highly similar powers, especially telekinetic abilities and the ability to enter people’s minds. Henry/Vecna also has illusion/mind-control types of powers, which Eleven does not seem to have. However, this is the same power as 008, a point I will return to later. The fact that their powers are similar, but not identical, is no threat to the theory of Henry being her father. After all, children do not inherit precisely the genes and traits of their parents, but a subset of them. So, Eleven inherited the telekinetiic/clairvoyant subset, but not the mind-control/illusion subset. (Actually, she might have some basic mind-control, as when she caused the bully to pee himself, and is able to paralyze people; but that could also just be subtle use of telekinesis…who knows?). Furthermore, her telekinetic powers are superior to Henry’s. Perhaps Henry’s powers, being more diverse, are slightly weaker when compared 1:1. That’d be cool….
- Second, Henry has a special interest in Eleven and, initially, wants her to rule by his side, recreating the world however they choose. He tells Eleven, mysteriously, that they have a lot in common, and repeats this when he reveals to her that he is 001. Of course, he could simply be referring to the fact they both have powers and were child-subjects in Brenner’s lab, but he says it with such emphasis it seems he is implying more than that. This is, to me, confirmed with the camera shot where he reveals his “001” tattoo, and he and Eleven hold their wrists together. Of course, it COULD, again, simply mean “Wow, we are both Brenner’s lab rats!”, but I think that specific camera shot was implying more.
- In addition, I think Henry might actually be the father of many (maybe all?) of the kids in Brenner’s lab. I imagine that Brenner, back in the early MK_Ultra days, found Henry after he murdered his family, and scooted him off to the lab to study his psychic powers. Realizing that Henry was kick-ass powerful, Brenner started a breeding program, hoping to engineer future generations of even more powerful psychics. I mean, it’s a perfect anti-Commie strategy, and it was, after all, the whole point of MK_Ultra in the first place.
One potential ‘sus’ part of this theory is the racial diversity of the kids, with not all of them being white. However, I see no reason why women of different racial backgrounds couldn’t have been impregnated, thus giving a racially diverse bunch of progeny. Of course, it’s also possible that only Eleven is Henry’s daughter and all the other kids are, like Henry, natural psychics discovered out there in the world. However, I think it’s more likely they are Henry’s offspring. After all, there is a narrow age range in the lab, with four or so kids being a few years older than Eleven (which would make Henry maybe 16 or so when he fathered them, which is entirely possible, and I can’t see Brenner having a lot of ethical concerns about breeding a 16 year old, given his general scumminess and “the end justifies the means” approach to his mad scientist research).
If the majority of the kids, or all of them, weren’t Henry’s offspring, why else are there NOT a whole slew of ages, from the youngest kids all the way through to adults in their 20s and 30s? It doesn’t make sense that psychic abilities all coalesced in kids around Eleven’s age (plus or minus some number of years), plus Henry about 15+ years older, and NOBODY else. But it does make sense if Henry was the first, (after all, he IS “001”), and the rest are his offspring.
(I have to admit, I don’t know why Eleven is “011” if they were numbered chronologically though, because she most definitely is not the 11th oldest; so, that’s one crack in this theory. But…..yeah, who knows? Maybe there were a bunch who died from the neural strain of Brenner’s experiments. Maybe the fact that using their powers results in nosebleeds means that they run the risk of premature aneurysms or something. Or maybe Henry killed them off in small ways because they were weak or something. Or, heck, maybe Brenner numbered them according to how much power they each initially seemed to have. After all, Eleven seemed weaker than the others, at first. Anyway….I dunno.)
Another potential objection to this is the question of why Henry would kill a bunch of his own kids. That seems pretty evil….. BUT, first of all, Henry is a total psycho, as is clear right from his early days of torturing and killing small animals. Plus he did kill his original family, so killing even more of his ‘family’ seems right up his alley. Plus, he is obviously a highly authoritarian kind of personality, who holds POWER as the highest value. Authoritarians absolutely loathe weakness, and it’s not uncommon for authoritarian types to idolize one of their children “a so-called Golden Child” and despise others, particularly if they are weak. So, maybe Eleven was simply his favourite, because he saw her as being like him.
In any case, Henry is Eleven’s father, and may be the father of the other kids as well. This also explains why Brenner kept Henry around even though he no doubt knew that Henry was psychotic; he needed to take the risk, to use Henry as “a stud”.
But there is one more, rock solid, indisputable piece of evidence for Eleven’s parentage — Star Wars.
The original Star Wars trilogy has some key similarities to Stranger Things, Season 4. Of course, superficially, Star Wars starts with Episode IV. Hmmmm…..
Then there’s Eleven learning to use her powers again, by going to some secret, hidden place to work with special power-releasing dudes (Brenner & Owen).
In Star Wars, Luke needs to learn to use the Force better, so travels to a secret, hidden planet (Dagobah) to get trained by Yoda. The difference is that in Stranger Things, Yoda is split into two people, the ‘good’ Dr. Owens, and the ‘bad’ Dr. Brenner. But otherwise, it’s basically Luke on Dagobah.
When Eleven has her breakthrough and really gets in touch with her powers, what does she do? For no real reason other than seemingly the dramatic effect of “wow, she’s so powerful now”, she lifts Nina right off the ground, and then sets it back down. This was an entirely useless thing to do; it served no purpose whatsoever. EXCEPT, it so obviously parallels Luke Skywalker lifting his X-wing out of the muck. (Or rather, trying to; Yoda actually completed the lift as a demonstration to Luke of the power of the Force). Also, it’s noteworthy that Luke, much later in The Last Jedi, does lift the X-wing for Rey; so, he gets there eventually, once he does master the Force. So, not an exact parallel, but in the spirit of Strangers Things’ other parallels, close enough.
(It should be noted that Stranger Things uses a lot of parallels and shout-outs to popular culture, which are not exact replicas but rather, rough allusions to the original. For example, the Demogorgon in Stranger Things is a nasty monster, but the Demogorgon in Dungeons & Dragons is a SUPER-powerful, practically invincible Demon Lord, far, far, far more powerful than Stranger Things’ so-called Demogorgon. Also, the Mind Flayer in Stranger Things is a crazy-huge and powerful smoke-like monster, whereas in D&D it’s hilariously different — basically a psychic dude with a head that looks like an octopus. Also, the parallel to Nightmare on Elm Street has Eleven believing she is waking up from a dream in Brenner’s lab, but really she’s still dreaming; she also keeps leaving the rainbow room and running through doors, only to end up back in the rainbow room; this is similar, but not identical, to tricks Freddy Krueger used to play on his hapless victims. (And it’s noteworthy that Freddy is actually Victor Kreel — that is, the same actor plays both.))
Another Star Wars parallel is Eleven wanting to leave the Nina project in order to save her friends, but Brenner tells her she isn’t ready yet; she’s not strong enough and needs to complete her training. This is exactly the situation of Luke & Yoda back on Dagobah; Luke wants to leave his training early to save his friends, and Yoda warns him not to. Again, this is not a perfect parallel; in Star Wars, Yoda simply expresses his disapproval to Luke and provides some stern warnings, whereas in Stranger Things, Brenner goes all mad scientist-y and drugs Eleven in order to force her to stay. So, not perfect parallels, but clearly another shout-out to Star Wars.
Yet another, rather chilling parallel, although not with the original trilogy but rather with the second, is that in Star Wars, all the Jedi children are slaughtered, by Anakin, not long before he becomes Vader. Only two Force-wielding children survive: Luke and Leia, still in their mother’s womb. In Stranger Things, all the psychic children are slaughtered, by Henry, shortly before he becomes Vecna. Only two (so far as we know), psychic children survive, 011 and 008 (011’s ‘sister’).
Thus, Henry/Vecna is Eleven’s father, just as (another SPOILER alert, re: Star Wars, but hey, if you haven’t seen Star Wars yet then……yeah, seriously????), Darth Vader is revealed to be Luke’s father. Notably, Henry says to Eleven, as he’s about to escape Brenner’s lab, that she should join him, that together they can remake the world however they choose. Darth Vader extends a very similar offer to Luke, telling him to join him, that they may rule the galaxy together.
So….yeah. “Who’s your daddy now?” (That is, biological father….obviously, Jim is her “real” father, in every meaningful-other-than-DNA sense of the word….)