Everything Stranger Things has revealed about Eleven’s past so far
A useful guide for Season 4 Part 2
Stranger Things 4 served as a reminder that sometimes going backwards is necessary in order to learn how to go ahead. Season four part one of the Netflix thriller included several flashbacks to Eleven’s history, detailing how her experience at Hawkins Lab is linked to the new monster, Vecna, as well as how they’ve created the person she is now.
As the fifth and final season of Stranger Things approaches, we’re sure to get even more solid answers to all of the show’s lingering mysteries, and information regarding Eleven’s origins is high on our must-know list. Stranger Things 4 was the first major step toward solving this mystery since season 2, which aired in 2017, so you’re not alone if you’ve forgotten about the prior crumbs the Duffer brothers left behind. There’s also the 2019 prequel novel Suspicious Minds, which revealed a lot about her parents that you wouldn’t know if you just watched the program.
We’ve compiled all we already know about Eleven’s backstory, from what happened to her birth parents to her connection with Vecna, ahead of Stranger Things 4 Part 2.
[Editor’s note: This piece includes spoilers for the conclusion of Stranger Things 4 Part 1.]
ELEVEN’S MOTHER WAS A TEST SUBJECT IN MKULTRA
Terry Ives, Eleven’s mother, was a test subject in MKUltra, a real-life CIA-sanctioned program in which the government conducted mind control experiments on humans. Terry, a college student, entered the program under Dr. Brenner’s supervision in 1969. She was subsequently exposed to a series of tests, including being immersed in sensory deprivation chambers and being forced to consume psychedelic medications.
Terry had no idea she was pregnant with her and her boyfriend Andrew Rich’s child at the time. If the name Andrew Rich doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because his true identity was revealed only in Suspicious Minds. Andrew, on the other hand, never got to find out he was going to be a father since he died fighting in the Vietnam War. Andrew’s death, however, was not entirely accidental. Dr. Brenner had arranged for Andrew to be dismissed from college, making him available for the draft – a move that not only frightened and punished Terry, but also made it easier for Brenner to take their daughter away.
DR. BRENNER ABDUCTED ELEVEN AT BIRTH
Brenner took Terry’s baby, deprived her of her birth identity (Jane), and turned her into test subject 011. Brenner insisted on Eleven calling him “Papa,” making him appear to her as a father figure and therefore easier to influence.
Eleven was continuously experimented on in attempt to cultivate her innate psychic powers, and she was cruelly punished when she failed their tests, often being sent in solitary confinement. Eleven was extremely scarred by these events, and in 1978, she retaliated by killing a guard who was attempting to imprison her. Rather than punishing Eleven, Brenner replied with compassion and delight in the way she was conquering her talents.
ELEVEN AND KALI WERE PLAYMATES AT HAWKINS LAB
Eleven and the other test subjects were permitted to play together in the Rainbow Room by Hawkins Lab, which is how Eleven met Kali Prasad (Eight). Terry also met Kali at Hawkins Lab when she was just five years old. When Eleven and Terry eventually meet in season 2, her mother revealed a vision of El and Kali as children. Eleven was persuaded by this vision that Terry intended her to locate Kali, which is why she followed her down in Chicago in season 2.
TERRY WAS TORTURED AFTER TRYING TO GET ELEVEN BACK
Brenner hid Eleven’s kidnapping by making it appear as if Terry miscarried. While everyone else believed the narrative, even Terry’s sister Becky, Terry knew her daughter was alive. Terry attempted to sue Brenner and the government for the theft of her kid, but the case was rejected. Terry, seeing no other alternative, attacked Hawkins Lab in 1974 to reclaim Eleven. Terry discovered Eleven and Kali playing in the Rainbow Room, but she was apprehended by lab employees before she could leave with her daughter.
Brenner then forced orderly Ray Carroll to give electroshock therapy to Terry until she suffered serious brain damage and was virtually catatonic. As a result, Terry was left repeating the same phrases describing Eleven’s birth through her own torture: “breathe” (what Becky said when Terry went into labor); “sunflower” (the first thing she saw after the C-section); “rainbow” (the room where she discovered Eleven); and “three to the right.” “450” (the combination to the safe where she kept her rifle) and “four to the left” (the voltage of the electroshock therapy).
Eleven and Kali’s group sought down Ray and assaulted him in his house in 1984 as retaliation for what had happened to her mother. Despite Kali’s desire to murder him, Eleven insisted on keeping him alive.
ELEVEN WAS BULLIED BY THE OTHER KIDS AT HAWKINS LAB.
Though the Eleven we saw in season one was extremely powerful, she struggled with her talents for many years as she grew up. As a result, several of the other test participants, led by the eldest, Two, bullied her. However, in 1979, during a group activity in which the test participants competed against each other to establish who was the strongest, Eleven defeated Two. Two and his lackeys beat El up and caused her a concussion in retaliation for embarrassing him. Eleven declined to report them, but Brenner had no trouble figuring out what had transpired.
ELEVEN AND ONE WERE ALLIES BEFORE HE BECAME VECNA.
An orderly approached Eleven in the Rainbow Room in 1979 and began to assist her, providing advice on how to harness her skills and detailing ways Brenner was exploiting her. Eleven had no idea at the time that the orderly was Henry Creel, also known as Brenner’s first test subject, One.
One informed El that Brenner had been allowing the bullying because he was afraid of her strength and couldn’t easily manage her after Two threatened to kill her. One of them informed Eleven that if she didn’t flee quickly, she’d be murdered, so he showed her the drain pipe she could take to escape the facility. Eleven, on the other hand, didn’t want to leave One behind and used her talents to remove what she assumed was a tracking chip from his neck. What she had actually removed was a chip that prevented One from using his powers. One began viciously killing everyone at Hawkins Lab as soon as the inhibition was removed (although Brenner did manage to survive).
When Eleven realized what One had done, she was appalled. But One, who had always seen himself in Eleven, sought to explain his rationale to her and insisted on continuing as comrades. Eleven refused, and the two engaged in a fight to the death, which Eleven won by employing the advice One had previously provided with her – drawing power from a memory. Rather of drawing power from a painful memory, as One suggested, Eleven found it in a loving recollection of her mother. Eleven launched her final strike, pushing One into the Upside Down, where he was changed into Vecna.
ELEVEN UNWITTINGLY OPENED THE GATE TO THE UPSIDE DOWN
Despite the fact that One had taught her how to flee, Eleven elected to remain in Hawkins Lab after the slaughter and continue her lessons with Brenner. Brenner assigned Eleven to spy on a Russian agent in 1983, after she had honed her eavesdropping skills. Eleven heard the Demogorgon for the first time while performing this. Brenner, ever the insane scientist, told Eleven to contact the thing again. She could see the Demogorgon brutally eating one of its victims this time. When Eleven reached out and touched the Demogorgon, the entrance to the Upside Down in Hawkins Lab opened, allowing the monster to cross over into our world.While the Demogorgon was slaughtering everyone it could, Eleven escaped down a drain pipe and was later discovered by Mike, Dustin, and Lucas.
DR. BRENNER WAS PRESUMED DEAD FOR THREE YEARS.
Brenner divided his time between looking for Eleven and exploring the Upside Down portal after she got away from Hawkins Lab. Shortly after Brenner eventually apprehended Eleven at the school, he was assaulted by the Demogorgon and supposedly died, prompting Dr. Owens to take over as Hawkins Lab director. Brenner, on the other hand, survived the attack (again) and continued his work as part of The Nina Project, allowing Eleven to relive her history, recall her love with One, and maybe reclaim her powers.
STRANGER THINGS 4 PART 2 WILL BE AVAILABLE ON NETFLIX ON JULY 1.