Returning to Netflix, Strange(r) Things Are Afoot

May 18, 2022

Stranger Things started out as a Netflix Original that featured cute references to the famous tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG), Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). Since then, it’s safe to say that the show has become quite iconic within the sci-fi/fantasy genre and pop culture in general. However, the show’s season 4 looks like it is making some fascinating decisions that warrant discussion, specifically where the main antagonist is concerned. Without further ado, let’s get into why you might lose your mind.

The (Other) Looming Threat Within the Upside Down  

It has been a while since Stranger Things has adapted another character from the D&D. The show started us off with the Demogorgon in season one, with hints of something more. Seasons 2 and 3 dealt much more heavily with the Mind Flayer and eventually included variants of the Demogorgon (I’m looking at you Demodogs). Since it is not truly dead, the Mind Flayer might return once more, but the trailer chooses to focus on something else instead. Based on the visuals we have from the trailer, it appears the newest up and comer will be a being by the name of Vecna. 

Vecna is an interesting choice, mainly because of his background in D&D. According to an article from Gizmodo, Vecna, who is best described as “an ancient god-like Lich”, also has some critical supplementary details to boot. To give you a better idea of what Vecna is like, the being is also described as “calculating and ruthless” and one that manipulates a person’s greatest fears to his own ends and personal satisfaction. 

Better yet, there might be more to Vecna than meets the eye once we harp in on a key detail and look into his design some.

Speculations of the Strange

Before we start, it should be mentioned that Vecna is well and truly a credit to the magic of practical effects. It’s been stated by Ross Duffer, one of the creators of Stranger Things, that the villain will be a good “90% practical” in terms of special effects throughout the season. The talent behind this villain is none other than Barry Gower, who also worked on Game of Thrones’ Night King. Pictured below is what Vecna will look like in the show.

Vecna (human form with tentacles) from Stranger Things Season 4

Vecna’s appearance is intriguing, to say the least. He bears a notable resemblance between two antagonists that viewers have seen already, these being the Demogorgon and the Mind Flayer. Now it is possible that this could simply be a product of the Upside Down being his native dimension, but where’s the fun in chalking it up to that? There are a couple of potential explanations as to why he looks like this. 

For one, Vecna could indeed be the true form of the Mind Flayer. It is something of a stretch considering that Vecna and the Mind Flayer of D&D do not share any explicit connection. But it is not impossible either since Stranger Things isn’t necessarily married to D&D’s character lore. For instance, the Mind Flayer doesn’t look like a shadowy spider in D&D, this design is a creative adaptation. Speaking of the Mind Flayer, the most noteworthy thing about both of these characters’ designs is that they both have similar tentacle-like appendages. It’s possible that what we refer to as the “Mind Flayer” might in actuality be a projection of Vecna’s power. It’s certainly something a god-like Lich could pull off.

In this vein, the second and third explanations for Vecna’s appearance could be as follows: either Vecna is the one pulling the strings behind the Mind Flayer or the Mind Flayer is the one puppeteering Vecna (though not as heavily as it does the Demogorgons). This is supported by the way he seems to be “plugged in” to the Upside Down via his tentacle appendages. Whether that gives him greater control over his subordinates or how he draws his power from the Mind Flayer remains to be seen in terms of defining this relationship. 

A key detail we have yet to mention might also support the notion that Vecna is the true mastermind behind Upside Down. Going back to that article from Gizmodo, another part of Vecna’s description reads that “he sought to play with the toys left by other gods…and reshape the world, his Exandria, to his liking”. It has always been somewhat unclear why the Mind Flayer has such a vested interest in Earth, despite the fact that Eleven ripped a hole in the fabric of reality to the Upside Down, to begin with. The absence of dialogue from this character makes it all the more vague too. But Vecna, at least in his D&D lore, has a reason other than tormenting people for his enjoyment. Who’s to say his Exandria, or perhaps, in this case, his Upside Down is enough for him? Maybe he wants more worlds to reshape, and upon being presented with Earth, sees an opportunity to do this? This theory would also serve to deepen our understanding of the Mind Flayer, should it be revealed that it is a pawn or an alternate form of Vecna. 

As stimulating as these theories are, there is no way to truly know until the first part of Stranger Things is released, so we’ll just have to see now, won’t we? Volume I of the fourth season of Stranger Things will premiere exclusively on Netflix on May 27th and Volume II will release on July 1st.