Stranger Things Season 3 takes everything we loved about the show and throws evil Russians into the mix, but why is the U.S.S.R. interested in the Upside Down in the first place? The series never gives a straight answer, merely hinting that the Soviets are focused on capturing a Demogorgon (presumably to use as a weapon), but a look back at Stranger Things Season 1 may reveal their real intention: espionage.
The first season of Stranger Things featured frequent cuts between the present (1983) and flashbacks showing how Eleven honed her powers through terrible government experiments. These flashbacks ultimately reveal how El met the Demogorgon and accidentally released it until the real world, but before that, one overlooked scene offers our first glimpse at the Russian presence looming over 1980s America.
The brief scene, which takes place during Season 1, Episode 5, shows one of the experiments the evil scientist Dr. Brenner conducted on Eleven. This is one of the first times we see her ability to locate people from a distance and eavesdrop on whatever they’re saying — a skill which comes in handy during Stranger Things Season 3.
All of a sudden, she’s spying on U.S.S.R. agent who speaks quickly in Russian. There’s no subtitles, leaving the viewer just as confused as the scientists observing Eleven. Then, her vision ends and the plot moves on. In the moment, it feels insignificant, but in hindsight, this might be the most important scene in Stranger Things Season 1.
Think about it. If Dr. Brenner realized that Eleven could be used to spy on enemy nations, perhaps that’s how he convinced the government to keep funding his evil experiments. And if the U.S. knew, it’s certainly possible that the information could have leaked to the U.S.S.R. as well.
Thanks to the Stranger Things Wikia, we even know exactly what that Russian agent was saying, though the exact words aren’t particularly meaningful:
“There are rumors that Americans have exposed few of our spies on American soil. We are checking it. Perhaps it was intentional disinformation in order to shift our focus from more important things. Contact Evgeniy, Sergey and Anatoliy, find out who made a contact (with them) and if someone didn’t, report to me immediately… Actually no, bring Sergey to me right away. He was on duty when this information… Rumors, appeared first. I need to know where rumors came from… If this is not disinformation, but I am fairly certain, I don’t want to think about the consequences. Go now, what are you waiting for? Hurry up, I need to know where rumors came from.”
See? Pretty basic spy stuff. But the point remains. Eleven and the Upside Down represent a huge tactical advantage for whichever side of the Cold War can harness them first. Stranger Things Season 1 subtly introduced this possibility, and by Season 3, it looks like the Russians are determined to claim control over this power, supernatural power for themselves.
Stranger Things Season 3 is streaming now on Netflix.