Stranger Things fan theories have been rampant ever since the unsettling Peter Ballard (Jamie Campbell Bower) revealed himself as the horrifying Hawkins serial killer Vecna, an entity banished to the Upside Down by Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) sometime in 1979.
Specifically, viewers have been busy guessing how and why Peter’s true background as Henry Creel is so important to the overall arc of Season 4 that both Eleven and Nancy (Natalia Dyer) need to be privy to it. Why does this freaky guy care so much about terrorizing Hawkins, Indiana, anyway?
The answer may lie in Eleven’s DNA.
Who are Eleven’s grandparents?
One Redditor, u/SLGHammr, suggests that if the theory about Eleven’s grandpa and grandma are correct, then Henry/Vecna’s bloodlust suddenly makes a lot more sense. His psychopathy feels less like malice for the sake of malice and more like cold, calculated vindictiveness.
The theory suggests that Henry Creel was less interested in punishing his “father,” Victor Creel, as he was in torturing his mother (Tyner Rushing) for the “awful thing” she had done. That, u/SLGHammr states, was either allowing Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine) to experiment on her while pregnant, or letting him propose an evaluation of her son during an affair with the doctor.
The Redditor draws this conclusion from One having the same manipulation powers as Eight and psionic powers as Eleven. They also suggest this experimentation and/or affair between Dr. Brenner and Virginia Creel must have occurred while Victor was away during the war. It would explain why Dr. Brenner ultimately winds up “in custody” of Henry after Victor is imprisoned, why he’s known as “Papa” to his test subjects, and why Henry thinks Victor is “dumb and blind.”
This theory would serve as the starting point of a clear (albeit twisted) family connection between Dr. Brenner, Henry, and Eleven, establish the origins of Eleven’s abilities, explain why she was spared by Henry, why Vecna hasn’t targeted her yet, and why Dr. Brenner seems to have a soft spot for her.
Who are Eleven’s parents?
If Dr. Brenner is Henry Creel’s biological father, then u/OH1523 takes u/SLGHammr’s hypothesis one step further: Henry is Eleven’s biological father, making Dr. Brenner and Virginia Creel her grandparents.
We know Henry was born in 1947 and showed signs of telekinetic powers growing up. The Creels, under mysterious pretenses, moved to Hawkins, Indiana and wound up close to a government laboratory headed by Dr. Brenner. Suspiciously, Henry went on to live out the rest of his human days at Hawkins National Lab once he used his powers to murder his mom and his (maybe) half-sister.
About 24 years later Eleven’s mother, Terry Ives, gets pregnant while in residence at the laboratory at the same time as Henry. She delivers Jane in 1971, who’s abducted soon thereafter by Dr. Brenner and renamed Eleven. The Redditor theorizes that Henry/One either seduced Terry during her time at the laboratory, or he psionically impregnated her. Not exactly an “immaculate” conception, but not a “normal” one either.
Later, Henry/One takes on the identity of lab orderly Peter Ballard, implying Dr. Brenner wanted some separation between father and daughter. As Eleven grew older, Peter began to pay close attention to her and reel her in with false sincerity. Placing her trust in Peter, Eleven removes his inhibitor chip and he immediately executes almost every single resident and researcher in the lab. His “compassion,” or rather his desire to exploit the psionic prowess and genetic inheritance of his daughter, spares Eleven from Peter’s vengeance.
This theory, paired with u/SLGHammr’s above, explains why Vecna doesn’t just leave Hawkins or create other gates elsewhere. His desire isn’t to conquer the world but to ally himself with his own progeny, the only person he thinks can understand him. It also explains why Dr. Brenner has always been so fixated on Eleven’s mastery of her powers. He can’t take down his own son, but his granddaughter could.
If true, then the final conflict in Volume II will be between Eleven, Vecna, and Dr. Brenner, and Eleven will have to choose which horrible option to have faith in.