Everything Stranger Things has revealed about the Upside Down so far
And what all of this implies for Season 5
Stranger Things 4 showed a lot about Eleven’s backstory and disclosed a major plot surprise regarding who is truly leading the Upside Down’s assault on mankind. But, with only one season left, there are still many unsolved concerns, many of which revolve around the Upside Down.
Ross Duffer did declare in an interview with Variety that “solutions for the Upside Down are essentially what the core of season 5 is about.” Rather of waiting for everything to be disclosed, we’ve compiled a list of all we currently know about the Upside Down so we can start making our own predictions.
[Editor’s note: The following includes Stranger Things 4 Part 2 spoilers.]
WHAT IS THE UPSIDE DOWN?
The Upside Down is an other reality that replicates our world — or, at least, our world if it were a poisonous hellscape covered with creepy, creeping vines, populated with violent creatures connected together in a hive mind system, and subjected to electrical storms on a regular basis.
The Upside Down most likely influences our world’s electromagnetic field as a result of these storms. This is how Would was able to speak with Joyce using Christmas lights, and why compasses will point to Upside Down gates rather than true north if they’re close enough.
When Henry Creel/One/Vecna (who shall be referred to simply as Vecna from here on) initially entered the Upside Down, the area he landed at did not appear to be a version of Hawkins. All we saw were mountains and more electrical storms. There are no dwellings. There is no school. There are no Castle Byers.
But, if the Upside Down didn’t always reflect Hawkins, is it really a parallel realm that represents our world, or an other dimension that was modified to reflect our world? Perhaps it’s simply because the Upside Down extends far beyond Hawkins and we’ve only seen a little piece of it thus far.
DID ELEVEN CREATE THE UPSIDE DOWN?
The first recorded human interaction with the Upside Down occurred in 1979, during Eleven’s battle with Vecna. During the match, Eleven used her psychic skills to hold Vecna pinned to the Rainbow Room wall as his corpse destroyed. But, before he could entirely dissolve, she unwittingly opened a portal to the Upside Down behind him, through which Vecna plunged.
It’s debatable if this sequence suggests that Eleven created the Upside Down or simply opened the first doorway to it. However, Millie Bobby Brown claims that the Upside Down existed before El tampered with it. In June, Brown told Variety, “I don’t think she created the Upside Down.” “No, I think it was always there; she simply opened a gate to it that no one else could.”
Brown is probably correct when he says that no one created the Upside Down and that it has always been. And, if the boys’ scientific instructor was correct in claiming that there are “infinite variants” of our world in parallel dimensions, there may even be several versions of the Upside Down.
WHY IS THE UPSIDE DOWN STUCK IN 1983?
Nancy discovered in Stranger Things 4 Part 1 that the Upside Down became frozen in time on November 6, 1983, the same day Eleven opened the mothergate in Hawkins Lab and Will vanished. Obviously, this is not a coincidence, but it was good to hear from production designer Chris Trujillo that the Upside Down getting trapped in time is directly related to Eleven opening the gate. In a featurette, he explains:
The set dressing and the universe of the Upside Down were frozen at that instant when Eleven unwittingly “made” the Upside Down. So, for example, when we’re in Nancy’s room, we’ll discover in the Upside Down that Nancy’s room is exactly as it was in season 1 when we first saw it.
While we still don’t know why Vecna invaded the Upside Down, it’s likely that he altered it to look like Hawkins (he does want to reshape the world, after all). Then, when the Upside Down came into contact with the actual Hawkins and/or Eleven’s powers when the mothergate opened, it may have disrupted his control over the realm and so frozen time.
Another idea is that the Upside Down remained the desolate environment we initially saw Vecna visit for years, and it wasn’t until the mothergate opened that the identical 1983 version of Hawkins was replicated into the parallel realm.
Is one of these hypotheses better than the other? At this point, who knows? They’re not giving us much to work with.
WHAT MONSTERS LIVE IN THE UPSIDE DOWN?
The realm is filled with creatures, in addition to the terrible flora and fauna that flourish in the Upside Down, such as poisoned vines and spores. These include the Mind Flayer, a terrifyingly strong, many-legged mist monster; Demogorgons, whose juvenile versions are known as Demodogs; and Demobats, which can fly and are smaller than Demogorgons but just as violent.
Then there’s Vecna, Henry Creel’s monster development who preys on human trauma before gruesomely murdering them.
IS VECNA THE MIND FLAYER?
Dustin assumed Vecna was the Mind Flayer’s “five-star general” in the early half of Season 4, but it’s actually the other way around.
Vecna traveled the wilderness when he first entered the Upside Down until he came across a living cloud of dark mist, which was a rudimentary form of the Mind Flayer. Vecna, who absorbs creatures’ consciousnesses and feeds off their strength, realized he had found just what he needed to execute his vengeance on the world:
I saw a lot of things before discovering the most astonishing thing of them. Something that would completely transform everything. I saw a way to reach my full potential, to transcend my human body and become the predator I was always meant to be.
Vecna reached out to the Mind Flayer, presumably reshaping it into the spider-legged creature he had doodled as a youngster. Vecna most likely developed the Upside Down hive mind at this point, becoming the puppet master behind all the monsters while also getting stronger by consuming their thoughts.
Vecna was ultimately allowed to enter our realm when Eleven opened the mothergate years later. He utilized the hive mind to send out his warriors, such as Demogorgons and Mind Flayer, while remaining in the Upside Down and amassing even more power.
WHAT DOES VECNA ACTUALLY WANT?
Vecna’s disdain for mankind was on full display during his 20-minute rant in the season 4 part 1 finale. As Vecna emphasized, he considers people’s hypocrisy detestable and regards them as irredeemable parasites. Eleven was the one exception, since he perceived himself in her as superior to the rest of humanity. But when she turned on him and cast him into the Upside Down, any affection he had for her turned to hatred.
In sum, his objectives don’t appear to be complicated: kill Eleven and mankind, all in the name of creating a better planet free of humanity’s taint. But how Vecna has carried out this concept is a little more complicated.
Vecna’s ultimate objective is to create enough fractures in the barrier between our world and the Upside Down to allow his army of monsters to take over our planet. But Vecna realized that his strength alone wouldn’t be enough, and that he needed to acquire and utilize Eleven’s abilities as well, which is what everything he’s done up to this point has been about.
“We’ve been developing it for you all this time,” Vecna told Eleven through Billy in season 3.
Eleven battled Vecna in Max’s head in the season 4 finale, while Steve, Nancy, and Robin assaulted his physical form, shooting him and enveloping him in flames. Despite the fact that they thought they had destroyed him, Vecna lived and even managed to carry out the next part of his plan.
Following the fight, Hawkins was shaken by a major earthquake, which created four gigantic rifts in the earth that converged on the town center. For a few days, these rifts showed no evidence of their supernatural origins; nevertheless, by the last scene of the episode, the Upside Down had begun to pour through the fissures, bringing with it electrical storms and the vegetation-killing illness.
With the barrier between the worlds barely intact, it’s just a matter of time until Vecna attempts to take over our planet completely.
WHAT IS WILL’S CONNECTION TO THE UPSIDE DOWN?
Will was still plagued (literally) by his stay in the Upside Down after emerging from his week-long imprisonment there. Will saw images of the Upside Down, vomited up monster slugs, and was possessed by the Mind Flayer in Season 2. We’ve shown that even after the Mind Flayer was pushed out of Will’s body, Will can still detect its existence in Hawkins. Only, the conclusion of Season 4 showed that Will wasn’t truly detecting the Mind Flayer, but Vecna.
While this is undoubtedly troubling for Will, the gang’s continued link to the Upside Down may provide them an advantage in their struggle against Vecna. “I recall what he thinks and how he thinks,” Will said to Mike.
But why is Will still linked to the Upside Down when no one else who has gone has had the same experience? Some fans believe it’s because Will is even more inextricably linked to the Upside Down than we currently know. Some think that Will was particularly selected for abduction in season 1 because he had undiscovered talents comparable to Eleven’s, and that this is why he survived a week there while no one else did.
HOW MANY GATES TO THE UPSIDE DOWN ARE THERE?
The first known gate is the one Eleven opened in 1979 and used to send Vecna through. After establishing physical touch with a Demogorgon/Vecna while in a profound mental state, Eleven created the first permanent portal in 1983.
When the Demogorgon fled into our world, it was able to construct a number of temporary portals between dimensions, such as the one in Will’s chamber and the one Nancy uses at the foot of the tree. In the years following her escape from the lab, Eleven has also built temporary gates, such as the one at Hawkins Middle School.
Russia learned the presence of the Upside Down in 1984 and began building on its own gate. This is what led to the development of the Keys, fussy and volatile devices capable of momentarily opening a gate. While there are multiple keys, we only know where two of them are: one under Starcourt Mall and one in Kamchatka.
After breaking the Starcourt entrance in season 3, the Hawkins gang believed they had sealed off all access to the Upside Down. However, Vecna’s murders of Chrissy, Fred, and Patrick each corresponded with the opening of a new gate.
However, Vecna’s fourth sacrifice in Max did not just open another little gate. Instead, massive rifts between worlds burst up across Hawkins, transforming the entire city into the largest gate ever.
So, how many gates are there in total? The answer is: far too many.