Stranger Things 4 Villain Fully Explained: Who is Vecna (and How to Defeat Him)?
⚠️Warning — Spoilers Ahead!
The long-awaited season 4 of Stranger Things is finally out after years of waiting! The season brings more drama, shocking deaths, epic fight scenes and flying bodies. But most significantly, this penultimate season reveals the series main villain — Vecna.
Long-time viewers of this series are well-aware of how the series takes inspiration from the roleplaying tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Vecna is one of D&D’s most legendary villains.
Before Vecna, portrayed by Jamie Campbell Bower, became the vine-like tentacle covered skeleton that the kids of Stranger Things face, he was once an ordinary boy, named Henry Creel, with psychic-telekinetic powers. Just like Eleven, he can move things with his mind. He can also enter people’s memories and induce hallucinations. Using his powers, he murders his mother and sister and drove his father insane. However, being young, he overused his powers and became comatose. Upon waking up, he finds himself in a lab run by Dr. Brenner aka Papa and becomes the first of his experiments. Thus, becoming 001.
Vecna’s Plan Explained
Season 4 pretty much ties up and answers all the questions from the previous 3 seasons. It’s revealed that Vecna is the mastermind behind all the attacks from the Upside Down. In fact, it seems he rules the Upside Down. All the monsters that Mike and his friends have faced thus far — Demogorgons, Demodogs and the Mind Flayer — have been under the control of Vecna himself. After he was banished into the Upside Down by a young Eleven, he began to explore this hellish dimension. He encounters the Mind Flayer, and by using his powers, he consumes its power and utilises the hive mind ability, taking control of the creatures of the Upside Down and essentially ruling this dimension. He fashioned the Mind Flayer into the image of a spider-like eldritch monster and even created the spider creature that we see in the third season.
What other motive does an evil entity have but to destroy mankind and rule the world?for Vecna, it’s not that simple. He wants freedom and control. To shape the world as he sees fit.
In the final season, much of Vecna/Henry/001’s background is revealed, including his motivations.
Dr. Brenner wanted to control Henry, once again falling in the trap of being controlled. But when Brenner couldn’t control Henry he recreated him and thus began the program MKULTRA.
Black Widow Spiders
Spiders and the grandfather clock are two recurring symbols surrounding Vecna. These items represent what Vecna desires the most: having power, freedom and control.
In the series, Vecna morphs the Mind Flayer into a spider-like Eldritch monster and creates a spider flesh creature in season 3. In the Upside Down, we see a floating Vecna with tendrils stretching out of his body like spider legs. Alternatively, it’s like he’s hanging on a spiderweb.
But why spiders? Spiders are the epitome of power. According to Henry/Vecna, they are the ultimate predators. He sees them as superior to mankind. They are “Gods of this World”, Henry says, they “bring balance to an unstable ecosystem by feeding on the weak.” Ever since Henry’s fascination with black widows began when he found a nest in his Hawkins home, it was evident that he identifies with them. He aims to be powerful enough to reshape the world, and in doing so he kills those who deems weak, i.e. humans and the poor children in Brenner’s lab. Upon studying them, he found comfort and even kinship. As an outsider, not fitting into a mundane world that saw him broken, he related to the black spiders. Much like himself, they were solitary and misunderstood creatures.
Additionally, the black widow is associated with the idea of embracing uniqueness and individuality. In a world of ants, mindless creatures doing what they are commanded to do or following other ants, the spider works for itself. The colour black itself connotes rebellion. This parallels Henry/Vecna’s values. He despises the repetitive mundane life. He doesn’t want to be ordinary and embraces being different, going against the norm.
For the majority of Vecna’s human life as 001and Henry, he has been trapped. Dr. Brenner seeks to control him and went so far as imprisoning and torturing him in the lab. El trapped him in the Upside Down. Hence, Vecna has been trying to seek freedom. However, nothing is more confining for him than time.
Time is a human construct that dictates how we live life. This is, essentially, what Henry/001/Vecna believes. The clock symbolises the man-made rules that structure society and our lives.
“Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades. Each life a faded, lesser copy of the one before. Wake up, eat, work, sleep, reproduce and die. Everyone is just waiting, waiting, for it all to be over. All while performing in a silly, terrible play, day after day.” — O01/Henry/Vecna
While Henry despises the passivity and the wearisome uniformity of human life, he abhors how these man made rules are restraining. “Where others saw order, I saw a straitjacket. A cruel and oppressive world dictated by made up rules” he explains. He seeks freedom out of society’s rules. His telekinetic powers emerged when he reversed the hands of the grandfather clock in his home. This signifies his desire to break mankind’s rules, destroy their world and make his own. Thereby, “restoring balance to a broken world”. The grandfather clock of his representation of his rules, his control.
How much of the Vecna that we see on screen is taken from the tabletop game lore?
Vecna in Dungeons and Dragons vs Vecna
In Dungeons and Dragons, there is no concrete lore, however there are suggested ways you can play characters and widely used understanding.
In Dungeons and Dragons (DnD), Vecna is one of the most legendary villains in the game with a long rich history. He has many titles, ‘The maimed one’, ‘The Whispered one’, ‘The Chained God’ and ‘Lord of the Hand and the Eye’.
There are many theories regarding Vecna’s origins in D&D. One of the most-commonly accepted origin stories is that he started out as a human (though some say he was half-elf), who was studying to become a wizard. After the untimely death of his mother, he became obsessed with immortality. He then became a lich (an undead creature) whose powers and influence grew by gaining knowledge, collecting powerful artefacts and making deals with demons and dark entities alike.
Likewise, Vecna in Stranger Things also started out human but with superpowers. He became sort of undead when a young Eleven burnt his body and banished him into another dimension.
In the series, Vecna/Henry/One has telekinetic powers as well as psychic powers which allows him to enter people’s memories and trap his victims in his Mind Lair and cause hallucinations. For instance, he filled his father’s mind with hallucinations of his time at war, specifically a burning cradle.
Additionally, in the game, Vecna has a special ability called the “Finger of Death”. It’s a move that allows him to deal cold damage and paralysis. Just like in the series, Vecna paralyses his victims.
Towards the end of the final episode we see frosted fields, showing the Vecna is coming.
In the game, Vecna seeks power through artefacts, while in the series, he enhances his powers by consuming the essence of his victims, like the other gifted children in the lab, and absorbing their powers. When he took over the Mind Flayer, he gained control over the Demogorgons and other monsters.
According to D&D lore, Vecna is a power-hungry lich who loves secrets and knowledge. He’s innately evil and has very little care for life, killing anything that stands in his way. Veteran Dungeon Masters often recommend playing Vecna as an extremely cocky villain with God-like powers.
True to D & D lore, Vecna/Henry/One is just as cocky with a superiority complex and power-hungry as he’s constantly finding ways to become more powerful. Though Vecna doesn’t collect artefacts in the world of Stranger Things, he has often sought knowledge. When he first discovered his powers and was banished into the Upside Down, he learned more about them through exploration. “I became an explorer,” he claimed. He’s quite the researcher, studying the Black widow. Through these, he was able to learn new things that helped him enhance his powers.
Vecna is known for playing mind games with his victims and using their secrets against them in both D&D lore and the series. He manipulates his victims by using their deepest, darkest secrets against them. For instance, by revealing that “Papa doesn’t always tell the truth”, he manipulates Eleven into trusting him like a brother and convinces her to remove the Soteria (power-inhibiting implant) from his neck. Before he murders his victims, he reveals their inner secrets and guilt to haunt them. Just like how he reveals to Max her hidden guilt about wanting her brother dead. He does so not just to taunt them, but also because of his obsession with purifying the world of secrets and lies by making men see the truth.
When Vecna’s power grew, he gained worshippers. One notable worshiper is a paladin named Kas. He became Vecna’s right hand man i.e. his lieutenant and enforcer. However, later on, Kas betrays him and they enter a ferocious battle at Vecna’s Rotter Tower. Though Kas was ultimately defeated, he sliced Vecna’s hand and stabbed him in the eye. This destroyed Vecna’s body and caused a massive explosion which sent Kas to another dimension called Cavitus. Though Vecna’s body was destroyed, his spirit lived on.
The closest Vecna/Henry/One has to a “worshiper” in the series is Eleven, whom he manipulates and grooms into being his ally. She frees him from the Soteria, unleashing his powers. Henry did admit during their final encounter this season in his evil home lair, that he wanted El to be at his side. But she “betrayed” him by turning against him and by using her magical powers, she destroyed his body, opened an inter-dimensional gate and blasted him into the Upside Down, destroying body and ignites his final transformation.
Unlike in the game, Vecna’s final form in Stranger Things is not missing an eye or a limb. However, when Vecna claims his victims he breaks their limbs and blinds them which is a nod to his game counterpart.
In one scene, before his complete transformation as Vecna, we see one of his eyes have turned white, while one arm is completely burnt while the other is still covered with tattered cloth. This could perhaps be a nod to the Dungeons and Dragon lore.
In the game, Vecna spreads his influence throughout the planes by garnering enough worshippers to become a demigod. He merged with the plane of Sigil, giving him brief control over the entire multiverse. In Stranger Things, Vecna gains control and dominion over the Upside Down dimension and its creatures, including the ichorus tentacles, Demogorgons and mutant bats, after controlling the Mind Flayer.
In D&D lore, Vecna is a deity with a cult of worshippers. Though in the series, Henry doesn’t have a legion of followers, Dustin and his friends in the Hellfire club, led by Eddie, were mistaken as his cult.
The Antithesis of a Hero
The series explores the duality between 11 and 1. Both have similar circumstances and abilities but stand on the opposite ends of good and evil. Eleven is the super-heroine, while 001 is the villain. Their similarities: their names (the ones Papa tagged them with) have ones, both possess strong telekinetic abilities, they have been imprisoned and experimented on and both felt like outsiders.
On the contrary, where 001 turns to the dark side, embracing his loneliness. He draws power from his anger and sadness. Whereas Eleven finds a home and love in her friends. She draws strength from happy memories and love.
How to defeat Vecna?
In Dungeons and Dragons, Vecna seems almost indestructible, making him one of the most difficult antagonists to defeat. As a deity with god-like powers, he is immune to almost everything. From cold to necrotic damage to poison. This is because one of his most powerful attributes is Undying. When he is killed, his spirit lives on and he is able to create a new body for himself.
Stranger Things’s Vecna is just as invincible. Fire and gunshots only severely wounded him but not actually killed him. So how can he be defeated? Here are our theories.
Major plot points in the game usually have Vecna imprisoned someplace, somewhere. El can perhaps close the inter-dimensional gates once and for all and trap Vecna inside.
Use electrocution to disarm him
If fire and gunshots don’t work, then perhaps electricity can immobilise or restrain him. In the lab, Dr. Brenner used electricity to torture the gifted children, as well as 001. They could put the electrical neck restraint around his neck or use a massive electrical source to disarm or weaken him.
Implant the Soteria (or something like it)
The Soteria is a miniature implantable device that inhibits psychokinetic abilities and tracks the individual’s movement. Dr. Brenner implanted this device in Henry Creel’s neck while he was imprisoned in the lab. Perhaps the team can use this device (or something like it) to take away his powers so that Eleven can ultimately destroy him.
Eleven becomes more powerful than Vecna
Without Dr. Brenner, Eleven needs to find another way to learn how to channel and increase her powers. They might bring back Kali/008 to train Eleven with her powers. Both 008 and 001 have taught Eleven to use her anger or a sad memory to channel and strengthen her powers. However, as cliché as it sounds, happy memories and love that will make Eleven strong enough to overpower Vecna. This has been proven to be effective several times. The first time she defeated Henry and banished him into the Upside Down was when she thought of her mother and her saying“I love you”. The second time it was hearing Mike’s voice proclaiming his love for her that boosts her powers. Additionally, Max has proven that 001’s favourite music and happy memories help break out of Vecna’s mind lai
Bonus question: One/Vecna revealed to Eleven that he uses a sad memory that also makes him angry to channel his powers. What do you think that memory is? Perhaps we’ll find out in Season 5.
Team Work makes the Dream Work
Unlike in previous season when the team was physically together to defeat the monsters, this season the main cast were separated. Mike, WIll, Jonathan were rescuing Eleven. Joyce and Hopper were in Russia fighting Demogorgons while the remainder of the crew stayed in Hawkins. While apart, they were able to help each other, in their own ways, defeat Vecna — but only just. Perhaps, now that they are all together they use the power of friendship and their resourcefulness to destroy Vecna once and for all.
Team up with other Gifted ones
In season 2, we found out that there were others who escaped the lab. One of them was Kali/008Eight who has the same psychic powers, that is she can cause hallucinations. It would certainly be cool to see Eleven team up with Eight and the other gifted ones (and the Hellfire Club, of course!) to fight Vecna in an epic battle!
What do you think of our theories?
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Photo Source: Stranger Things: Season 4. The Duffer Brothers. Netflix, 2022. TV series.
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