Stranger Things: Eleven's Escape From the Upside Down Is Season 2's Laziest Storyline
Warning: this post contains spoilers for the new season of Stranger Things!
In the first season finale of Stranger Things, our story with the Demogorgon comes to a shocking conclusion at Hawkins Middle School. Dr. Brenner and the rest of his lackeys finally locate the kids and Eleven, only for the Upside Down's monster to burst out of the wall one final time. Fortunately, our psychic heroine crushes the brains of the bad guys and gets rid of the Demogorgon for good . . . but disappears herself. Listen, we've known for a long time that Eleven survives the ordeal, but her season two entrance is frustrating after a season one finale that almost certainly suggests she's dead.
Let's go back. In this finale episode, Eleven exerts a lot of energy. She's already pretty wiped out from locating Mike in the Upside Down. Once the bad guys show up, a small chase ensues. This pursuit culminates in a magnificent show of power from Eleven. She decimates the brains of all the agents with her mind, causing blood to ooze from eyes, noses, ears, mouths, etc. The top-secret government agents collapse, and so too does Eleven. Her telekinetic abilities have taken their toll. Then, of course, the Demogorgon shows up.
Eleven is so weak that Dustin has to carry her to a classroom and lay her down on a table. As the boys try in vain to fend off the Demogorgon with a slingshot and some rocks, Eleven rises one final time to rid Hawkins of this otherworldly evil for good. Dark circles have bloomed under her eyes. Using what is presumably the last of her life force, she destroys the creature from the inside and vanishes into thin air.
Flash forward to season two. An early clip of the new season shows how Eleven escapes the Upside Down, because that's apparently where she goes after destroying the Demogorgon. It seems her psychic blast was so strong, she somehow teleported to this other dimension. Which is fine, I guess. I can get on board with that one. What really bothers me is Eleven somehow seems back at full strength, in spite of everything that went down in the finale.
To put Eleven in the Upside Down is the only way to keep the character alive. I get that. But why is she suddenly so fine? Her dark circles have vanished. She runs through the halls like Dustin hasn't just carried her limp body through the same tiled corridors. She happens upon the hole the Demogorgon made in the wall just before their final face-off (another too-good-to-be-true convenience, if you ask me). Then she uses her power to widen the hole and crawl out, easy-peasy.
Look, I'm glad Eleven is back, and I'm glad she's a huge part of the story. But I do wish the show didn't completely ignore her season one trajectory and hastily solve all her problems. We learn in season two that Eleven has a long and difficult journey after returning to the physical world, but the fact that Stranger Things doesn't address her near-death situation is distracting and lame.