Warning: This article contains major spoilers for Stranger Things Season 4 Volume 1.
Watching Stranger Things is no walk in the park. There are demogorgons, exploding rats, a secret Russian operation under the mall, and as of Season 4, Vecna, the new big bad in town.
This season, Stranger Things‘ creators Matt and Ross Duffer have raised the stakes of the Upside Down like never before with Vecna, a towering, skeletal creature who has the added bonus of having a bunch of dark, gooey vines popping out of his back. He’s got big ol’ hands with claws best used for slashing faces, too. Love that for him.
Like the demogorgon, Vecna’s name comes from the immensely popular board game Dungeons and Dragons. Here’s everything you need to know about the new Stranger Things supervillain.
Who Is Vecna in Dungeons and Dragons?
To best understand Stranger Things‘ Vecna, let’s first examine the Dungeons and Dragons character of the same name. Fans of the show, of course, will know that the Stranger Things kids are huge fans of the game and are all avid players. The demogorgon’s name is also derived from the game, and the show features a ton of references to it — along with many horror villains from the 80s and 90s.
When it comes to Vecna, think big bad. Like, Darth Vader bad. One of the most powerful villains of the game, Vecna was once considered the most powerful lich on Oerth, that is, before he ascended and became a demigod.
Once he was destroyed, though, he was left with only his left hand and left eye, and within the game, his right hand and eye are very valuable for gameplay. When found, they can offer the player special protections and abilities.
It’s also important to note that within D&D, liches are also depicted with skull-like features, which could explain that element of Vecna’s (Stranger Things’ version) appearance.
How Does Vecna Kill People?
Vecna’s an especially gruesome villain who feeds on people with insecurities and past traumas. He first taunts his victims with voices, and then visions, most of which involve a grandfather clock.
When it’s time for him to actually kill, he puts his victims in a type of trance. Then, we see their eyes whiten as they levitate, before all their limbs snap and their eyes get gouged out.
What Does Vecna Want?
Vecna’s goal is to open as many gates to the Upside Down as he can, in order to help the Mind Flayer. The Mind Flayer, is, of course, the ULTIMATE big bad, and he’s looking to take over the world.
Vecna is more powerful than your run-of-the-mill demogorgon, and whenever he kills someone, it creates a gate to the Upside Down.
Basically, gates to the Upside Down are created when there’s an intense psychic connection between someone from the real world and a being from the Upside Down, which is why Vecna is the big bad for the job — when he puts them in a trance, he’s creating a psychic connection between them, and building a fancy new gate to the Upside Down in the process.
How to Vanquish Vecna
So far, there’s no clearcut way to defeat Vecna once and for all, as of the end of Stranger Things Season 4 part one, anyway.
One way to break free of Vecna’s trance — before he breaks all your limbs and gouges out your eyeballs, that is — is with music.
Over the course of the season, Victor Creel reveals that he was almost killed by Vecna, but heard the voice of an “angel”, which broke the trance enough for him to be able to follow it to safety. Vecna killed his wife and their two children, Henry and Alice, and Victor believes he survived as “punishment”.
As it turns out, the voice of an angel was actually… the radio, which is perhaps less spectacular, but definitely more accessible for those looking to DIY their way out of Vecna’s trance.
Luckily, this same approach works for Max. When Vecna has Max in his grip, her friends play her favourite song, Kate Bush’s classic “Running Up That Hill” on her headphones. This breaks the curse and brings Max back to reality, safe from Vecna’s grasp. She then spends the rest of the season listening to it on repeat, to ensure Vecna won’t come back for round two.
What Is Vecna’s Origin Story and Who Is One?
Eleven spends a lot of the later episodes of Season 4 part one trying to uncover her repressed memories, which she hopes will restore her telekinetic powers.
In the process, she revisits the time she spent at Hawkins Lab, and everything that led up to kids and attendants of the facility being brutally slain in a mysterious rampage, which Eleven believes she’s responsible for.
As Eleven relives her memories, she recalls befriending an orderly at the facility, who tells her that she reminds him of “One” — the first child who was ever tested at the lab.
Only thing is, Papa — aka Dr Brenner — denies the very existence of One, which prompts the orderly to tell her that she’s being lied to.
Eleven and the orderly hatch a plan to escape the lab, but in order for him to join her, Eleven must first use her powers to remove a tracking device from under his skin.
The twist? The orderly is One. After Eleven removes his tracking device, One’s powers are restored, and he promptly uses them to take down all the guards that are chasing them as they try to flee the facility.
Oh, and you know that massacre that Eleven’s been blaming herself for? Yeah, that was One, too. Turns out One’s been bearing quite the grudge about the way he was treated at the facility, and was quick to seek his revenge.
So the orderly is One, but who is One? Turns out, One is Henry Creel, Victor Creel’s son, and more importantly, how does this relate to Vecna?
Well, Vecna is One, who is Henry Creel.
As a child, Henry was ostracised for being different, and had strange powers. His family moved them all to Hawkins in the hopes that Henry would be able to have a fresh start, but Henry had no interest in that. Instead, Henry began using his powers, and was soon reaching into the minds and memories of animals.
Henry grew to resent his parents for trying to force a normal childhood on him, and began to haunt them. While Victor assumed it was a demon, Henry’s mother was onto him, which prompted Henry to kill her and his sister Alice.
With each kill, Henry became stronger, but because he hadn’t managed to harness his power properly yet, he collapsed and fell into a coma.
Where Victor believed that Henry had also been killed by Vecna, what had actually happened was that Henry woke up as Dr. Brenner’s very first patient.
Can Eleven Defeat One/Vecna?
Possibly. Here’s the thing: she’s done it before.
At the lab, Eleven refuses to join forces with One. They get into a turbocharged supernatural fight, and she wins. She’s able to do this by channelling two memories at once, one that triggers anger and sadness and one that triggers feelings of love.
When she defeats him, he gets booted into the Upside Down, and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a gate left behind.
What’s more, as One/Henry is being sent flying, he gets struck by lightning. In the final shot, we see One/Henry as Vecna, with a 001 tattoo on his wrist and all.
Stranger Things Season 4 part one is streaming now on Netflix. For more info on how to tune in, and when part two is coming, click here.