Every season of "Stranger Things" ups the ante with newer, more powerful, and scarier villains, but somehow the fourth season brought out the scariest yet. In the new season, which released its final two episodes on July 1, our heroes face a super-powerful being they dubbed "Vecna" after the character in Dungeons & Dragons. As the episodes progressed, the Hawkins gang learned more about this mysterious villain, played by Jamie Campbell Bower, who used mind control to torment his victims before killing them.
In the season's final three episodes, viewers learned a lot about the mysterious Vecna, including his origins as Henry Creel, his connection to Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), and his life in the Upside Down. Read on for the biggest takeaways about this ultimate villain, including his connection to Dungeons & Dragons.
Who Is Vecna in "Stranger Things"?
The earliest materials about "Stranger Things" season four didn't give much away about the show's version of Vecna, though we assumed the Party gave their latest foe a D&D-themed nickname, just like they did in previous seasons with the Demogorgon. The newest supernatural creature to attack Hawkins actually has a similar physical form to the D&D villain, with a humanoid shape, a skull face, and tentacles.
Eventually, the Hawkins gang learn Vecna's real origins. As a child, he was Henry Creel, a seemingly normal boy who unlocked psychic abilities in himself. He used them to murder his mother and sister and to torment his father. Soon after, he was taken in by Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) and given the name One. In the Hawkins lab, he watched over the other children who the lab was trying to instigate psychic powers in, including a young Eleven. His identity as One was kept from the children, and he used Eleven's lack of knowledge to manipulate her into taking out the chip in his head that was keeping him from using his powers. Once she did that, he went on to massacre everyone at the Hawkins lab.
Did Eleven Create Vecna?
Yes, Eleven is essential to the transformation of One into Vecna. As One attacked the people of the lab, Eleven unleashed her own powers and fought back. Not realizing the depth of her strength, she knocked One back so hard that she started to tear his body to pieces and then opened a gateway to the Upside Down and trapped him inside. As he tells Eleven in episode nine, "The Piggyback," at first he thought he was dead, but then he realized he was in a new place, which he calls "unspoiled by humankind." He explored the Upside Down, growing his powers, and continuing to physically transform.
Did Vecna Create the Mind Flayer?
For most of season four, it was unclear what the exact relationship between Vecna and the Mind Flayer was. The Mind Flayer was the main antagonist in seasons two and three and tormented Will (Noah Schnapp) specifically after he was rescued from the Upside Down in season one.
Vecna tells Eleven he was roaming the Upside Down when he found "something that would change everything." The show illustrates this via flashback; Vecna finds some early version of the Mind Flayer. It seems that he used his own abilities to manipulate and transform the Mind Flayer to serve his purposes. "I saw a means to realize my potential," he tells Eleven, explaining that he was always meant to be a predator. Se Vecna didn't quite create the Mind Flayer, but he transformed it into something sinister for his purposes.
"It was you. Always you," Eleven says, realizing that Vecna was the ultimate bad guy, using the Mind Flayer as his pawn since the very beginning. Will also confirms this when he returns to Hawkins at the end of the episode. What he thought was the Mind Flayer was really Vecna.
What Is Vecna's Plan?
Vecna tells Eleven that he was going to use the Mind Flayer to expand his powers and reach. "All I needed was someone to open the door. And you did that for me without even realizing it," he explains. Once Eleven stopped opening doors, he used his curses as a way to create new gateways. Eventually, enough opened to break the barrier between Hawkins and the Upside Down, causing a massive earthquake and destruction. What his plan is now that he can roam freely is anyone's guess, but it will probably involve a lot more murder and chaos.
Is Vecna Dead?
The team did their best the try to kill Vecna. Eleven attacked his mind, and Nancy (Natalia Dyer), Steve (Joe Keery), and Robin (Maya Hawke) set him on fire, shot him repeatedly, and sent him out a window. But when they go look for his body, it's not there. At the end of the episode, Will says he can still feel him. Vecna is badly injured but not dead yet, and Will says they need to kill him ASAP.
Who Is Vecna in Dungeons & Dragons?
In the universe of Dungeons & Dragons, Vecna is first alluded to via the remaining "artifacts" of the being. Throughout versions of the game in the late 1970s, Vecna was mostly a mysterious creature in the game's lore, known only as a long-destroyed, evil "lich," or undead spellcaster who is extremely difficult to kill. The "Hand" and "Eye" of Vecna were mysterious artifacts that, if used, put the player at risk of being threatened by the eerie undead creature.
It wasn't until around 1990 that Vecna finally got more of an official "character" profile. He's seen as a wicked demigod and a fierce enemy and, eventually, is part of the game's pantheon of deities. Later additions to D&D lore reveal more about Vecna's physical appearance, depicting him in monstrous humanoid form. Vecna has human-like arms and legs, referencing the human he was thousands of years ago (although his left hand is missing and is a powerful magical artifact in the game), but his head is a frightening skull, and he's missing his left eye. He also has several tentacle-like extensions swirling off of his body — something "Stranger Things" fans have seen before.
Vecna's character biography traces his evolution from ancient, magic-wielding human to vengeful necromancer to undead master of dark arts. He plays an antagonistic role in several "stories" in the lore. According to these tales, Vecna ruled a great and terrible empire until he was betrayed by his right-hand man, Kas, who destroyed him with a sword Vecna made for him. In later tales, Vecna rose from the dead as a demigod of dark magic, pursuing ways to acquire the powers of a greater god.
None of that lore exactly matches the Vecna on the loose in Hawkins, but there are definitely similarities. D&D Vecna also had a human soul stored in a powerful, magical box. Eleven's attempts to stir his humanity in episode nine don't work, but could that be the key to defeating him? We'll have to wait for season five to find out.
— Additional reporting by Victoria Edel