Stranger Things season 4 establishes Vecna as a powerful and menacing antagonist, preserving his name and title as « the god of secrets » from Dungeons and Dragons. The show has a history of referencing both niche and broad-sweeping pop culture lore, perhaps most prominently with the nomenclature of its villains. Dustin, Will, Mike, and Lucas are avid fans of the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, as first seen with their campaign in Stranger Things season 1. When spooky events transpire in Hawkins that parallel the storylines of the game’s villains, the unlikely heroes begin naming their foes after familiar opponents.
Dungeons and Dragons monsters appearing in Stranger Things is a familiar occurrence. Stranger Things season 1 introduces the Demogorgon and season 2’s big bad was the Mind Flayer, both sharing names with characters from the popular RPG. The key revelation in season 4 that Vecna was discreetly behind all of these villains makes the man formerly known as Henry Creel an even more imposing figure. Vecna’s Dungeons and Dragons nickname as « the god of secrets » is an apt choice in Stranger Things for a multitude of reasons, including the secrets surrounding his victims.
Vecna successfully claims three of his four targeted victims in Stranger Things season 4, utilizing their secrets against them with his curse. His first choice is Chrissy Cunningham, followed by Fred Benson and Patrick McKinney. His fourth intended target is Max Mayfield, and although Eleven may have temporarily saved her friend, It appears that Max is Vecna’s prisoner in the Upside Down. The common theme with the curse is that Vecna’s victims harbor unresolved trauma that is manifested through visions.
Vecna’s victims allow him to open a series of portals to the Upside Down, as their combined power enables him to create an even larger gate. There’s also an important link between his victims that ties together with his name as « the god of secrets ». Vecna reveals unresolved family trauma with two of his victims, Chrissy and Patrick. Chrissy suffers harassment from her mother which leads to insecurity about her body image. Further, Patrick’s father was also confrontational and abusive, leaving a scarring impression on his son. While Fred’s past is not marred by issues with family, he still carries the emotional weight of having been involved in a fatal car accident. Although Vecna is not able to fully claim Max, he exploits Max’s trauma surrounding the death of her brother Billy. Vecna chooses traumatized teens as his victims in Stranger Things season 4, a choice that reveals the secrets of their past, but also his own.
Vecna’s secret identity as Henry Creel is revealed in the shock twist from Stranger Things season 4. The first of Dr. Martin Brenner’s test subjects at Hawkins National Laboratory, Creel is designated patient 001. He presents himself as a friendly orderly to Eleven, before confronting and betraying her. The reveal that Eleven inadvertently caused the creation of the villain she would later contend with is harrowing and explains why Vecna seeks revenge. Vecna’s secret history, as well as the fact that Eleven couldn’t kill Vecna in Stranger Things season 4, bodes for a captivating rematch in Stranger Things season 5.
Most consequently, Vecna rules the secret underworld festering beneath the town of Hawkins, the Upside Down. Vecna possesses the other appropriately named villains from Stranger Things in his quest for revenge against Eleven. Vecna inhabits the Demogorgon, claiming Will Byers and preying on Nancy Wheeler’s friend Barb Holland. Vecna also controls the Mind Flayer, a towering creature that dispatches Max’s brother Billy and sought to take over Hawkins through Will. While Eleven has proven able to defeat Vecna’s other Dungeons and Dragons-inspired minions, she wasn’t powerful enough to stop the infamous undead D&D lich. Eleven makes the perfect foil to Vecna given the similarities in their abilities, but one major difference between Eleven and Vecna’s powers could be the key to the villain’s defeat in Stranger Things’ final chapter.
Stranger Things chronicles the consequences of power, particularly related to Eleven and Vecna. Eleven’s powers are unlocked with the unintended inception of the Upside Down. She then endures change and decides to use her powers as a force for good to help her friends. This contrasts with Vecna, as he utilizes fear, anger, and trauma to tap into the source of his powers. The rationale behind Vecna’s teenage targets and their associated trauma relates to his own tragic past when discovering his powers. Henry kills his mother and sister, blinding his father before nearly claiming him as well. Vecna perpetuates his own guilt and shame by seeking out victims that share similar secrets. Where Vecna draws power from those that are ostracized just as he was, Eleven’s strength comes from a place of agency and unity. The unbreakable bond that Eleven has formed with her newfound Hawkins family will be put to the test in Stranger Things season 5, as the Hellfire Club and Co. hope to prevail over the sinister and secretive Vecna.