If you haven’t seen the Netflix original series Stranger Things yet, firstly: where have you been? It’s eight episodes! Seriously, drop what you’re doing and watch it. Trust me.
And secondly: stop reading here. This is going to be spoiler heavy and will likely ruin one of the most interesting and original shows to air this year for you.
You have been warned.
After finishing Stranger Things you, like the rest of us, were likely left with a lot of questions. One thing the show does brilliantly is leave you wondering without feeling loose ended. You have questions, but you appreciate why. It’s this that has sparked much discussion both in private and online conversation around several pivotal points in the show, and theories have been born from these. Specifically; the relationship (if any) between Eleven and the Demogorgon, Will, and the ideology of alternate realities in the World of the show.
Of course, everyone has their own theories – myself included – which do not necessarily line up exactly with the most popular ones circulating now, so, please, if you have a theory or idea I do not touch on here then share it in the comments. I would love to discuss with you.
Of all the discussions online at the moment, there seem to be a few widespread accepted points – all of which the show paints relatively clearly for us, but I would like to clarify:
- Eleven still, in some way or another, exists at the shows ending. Hopper leaving Eggos in the crate in the woods seems to signify this.
- The Demogorgon will appear when characters are hurt, when blood is present, and when fear is in the air. Eg; Will is alone and afraid, Barb is rejected by her friends and appears lost as she bandages her sliced hand, Nancy is desperate and unsure. The Demogorgon lures all three in, and initially meets Eleven when she is in a state of intense stress and fright. In the context of the show, and in our own hierarchy of predator vs prey in nature, this makes sense. Nancy and Jason blatantly discuss this and use it to their advantage.
- The Demogorgon we see in the show may not be all that resides in the upside down/in other dimensions.
Past these points, things begin to get unexplained. So, let’s discuss:
There seems to be a split between two camps on this one. A lot of people agree that Eleven and the Demogorgon are one and the same, where as others believe them to be separate.
To elaborate: Eleven and the Demogorgon being the same correlates with several themes in the show well, and does make sense within the context of what we are given so far to an extent.
This theory says that the Demogorgon is a physical manifestation of Elevens subconscious; an amalgamation of her fear, neglect, and immense stress born to life. When Eleven goes into the Void (the big black room she enters after being subject to sensory deprivation) she does not go outward to another plain of reality, she goes inward to her own mind. This unnatural state she finds herself in allows her to see her pain physically in front of her, and pull it into the world upon her return.
This would explain why the upside down looks as it does, why it is a mirror of the real world, because that is the only world Eleven knows. Once she realises her fears and comes to face with them, she makes them manifest. This is how she knows who Will is despite never having met him as Eleven, because she has met him as the Demogorgon. Why the Demogorgon seems to find Will so easily in the upside down once Eleven was given the chance to locate him in the gym. Eleven even says, after rescuing Mike from the cliff, “I am the monster”, which can be taken metaphorically, as her blaming herself for what has happened and being ashamed of her powers, or can be interpreted literally. From this, comes the theory that Eleven and the Demogorgan are connected, and run off of one another in a very Agent Smith and Neo type connection.
Other instances of duality between the two is in the name of the monster: the Demogorgon. In Dungeons and Dragons, the Demogorgon, also known as The Lord of all That Swims in Darkness, is a powerful daemon prince who lives on the plain of the abyss. The prince has two heads who are constantly trying to dominate and even kill one another, much like Eleven and her Demogorgon, but are unable to do so without destroying themselves.
In the final episode, when she faces Papa and kills him, she becomes better than her fears. She beats them, and so is able to destroy the Demogorgon. She raises her hand to it, and it mirrors her actions. They both disappear because they cannot survive alone, and both return to the upside down, Elevens mind, where they came from.
The other side of this theory, that Eleven and the Demogorgon are separate, tackles some issues with the previous.
The theory goes that the Demogorgon possesses the ability to travel through dimensions, seeking prey and mating opportunities in said dimensions – I will elaborate on this a little later. The Void is like an in-between, a highway to other realities – like the one Ramona used through Scotts mind in Scott Pilgrim vs the World – which Eleven is pushed and forced into accessing through the experiments Papa subjects her to.
Here, she accidentally stumbles upon a creature travelling through in the form of the Demogorgon. Swayed to approach the creature by Papa (he says, “it is seeking you out” before dropping her into the sensory deprivation tank) instead of hide as is her initial instinct, she reaches out and touches the beast. When she does so, Eleven alerts the Demogorgon to our reality, her reality, and creates a path through which it can travel to our realm.
This could explain, in a different way, what we see in the show. Throughout the series Eleven is pressured by other characters to communicate with the Demogorgon or to find Will. She appears reluctant and unable to do so, despite her obvious want to help and willingness to try.
We never, at any point, see Eleven enter another plain of existence besides her own reality and the Void. As if she cannot complete the connection, like she lacks the ability to do so. It’s as if she can almost get there, she can press her ear to a door, or see through a window, but cannot step over the threshold. She remains unable to pass through the Void, to extend further than the in-between. She is not a flea, she is merely a talented Ballerina.
In addition, this could also explain why the upside down appears to mimic reality.
A predator wants to incapacitate it’s prey, – going off of the previously mentioned origins of the Demogorgon in Dungeons and Dragons, we know it is a creature intent upon domination – creating an environment where it feels it cannot escape. In nature, many predators isolate while hunting, drawing unsuspecting animals away from their protective herds. The Demogorgon does just this, while simultaneously putting it’s prey in a World it instantly feels uncomfortable in. If the Demogorgon can pull its prey into other realities, or alternate dimensions, why not bring them to a parallel universe of their own? One that feels familiar, but off. Unsettling. It confuses them, makes them feel as if this is a daemon facing them and them alone. They no longer feel comfortable in their own reality because of this, making them easier to catch down the line.
This theory of the Demogorgon being its own thinking and acting entity also helps explains a few other questions:
If Eleven and the Demogorgon were one and the same, why is she unable to travel to the dark recesses of her own mind? Why does she appear to have no answers, or able to hear and see but not communicate? When she sees Will in fort Byers, why can’t she get him to recognise her? He appears to not even notice her presence or her touch. Maybe it is because she isn’t really there, she is simply looking through a window, her hands on the glass.
In the final episode, when Eleven fights the Demogorgon, it is faced with powers it does not know how to combat. It becomes predator vs predator, the lion against the tiger, no prey in sight. While it is not really agreed where the two disappear to, I believe the Demogorgon dies, and Eleven remains trapped in the Void.
This could explain why Hopper leaves Eggos in a crate in our reality: Eleven can travel between there and the Void. Either she is stuck, and unable to fully return, or is living in fear that she may create another portal if she returns.
This version of events would also shed more light on Will’s final moments.
If we go with the events in the first theory, that Eleven and the Demogorgon are one, then Will’s last scene makes less sense.
If the Demogorgon is a creature born of Eleven’s fears, why would it remain within Will? Are his own fears manifesting in a similar way, his mind poisoned beyond repair from Eleven’s dark subconscious? If so, why is this Demogorgon the first? And why did Papa and Hawkins not build her into a weapon, rather than a spy?
If we consider the Demogorgon being a separate entity, however, we can explain Will coughing up the slug and, briefly, returning to the upside down a little more.
When Hopper and Joyce venture into the upside down, we see Barb dead on the ground, a slug like tentacle protruding from her mouth and several other humans in the same morbid state. They grab Will, realising he is alive, and pull the grotesque slug like creature from his mouth.
We see the Demogorgon eat one thing throughout the show: deer. It pulls one into its dimension leading Nancy to follow and watch as it devours it. We never see it eat a human. Even Barb, lying dead, is whole. This has lead to theories that the Demogorgon can choose what it does with its prey; and has decided to use humans to mate. The slug like larvae we see in the mouths of victims could be a form of conception, entered through the mouth and incubating in the subjects stomach. Here, it could feast on the victims innards for nutrients, eventually killing the host once fully grown; much like the facehuggers from Alien, who breed in a very similar way.
This could be further evidenced by the fact that Barb’s “slug” is much larger than the one we see spill from Will, perhaps it has had more nutrients and has been able to grow to a more complete state?
Following this, there still appears to be a semblance of the slug within Will, leading to the idea that it is still growing inside him. When we see Will briefly flash into the upside down – something Eleven was never able to do – it is believed this is due to that larvae inside him, making Will into a sort of plain-walker, able to travel through dimensions as the Demogorgon did.
This could also explain how he communicates with Joyce throughout the show, affecting a reality completely separate from the one he is in. If the Demogorgon grabbed and mated with Will, that could also explain why he did not hurt him during his week in the upside down. It would also lead to a belief that there is more than one Demogorgon, with each being born of human – or other species’ – flesh.
This could lead to further exploration in other realities, as well as a link to Eleven, in the now confirmed Season 2.
There are several other theories circling which are, as a whole, less fleshed out. One’s which cover the other characters in the series and others which are really left field. One theory is that Eleven is Hoppers daughter, others tackle why he got into the car with Hawkins personnel at the end, another explains that Stranger Things and Parks and Recreation are related due to Dustin being Jean-Ralphio’s brother, or others discussing the romantic future of Nancy/Jonathan/Steve. Some even believe that the Demogorgon is but a worker bee to a much more sinister being, referencing the egg we see in the upside down for this.
Do you agree with any of these theories? Personally, the idea of Eleven and the Demogorgon being separate from one another, and the Will theories following fall closer to my own ideas following the end credits; though I do understand why the links to them being one exist, it feels to simplistic to me. If you have your own spin or explanation, or if there was anything I missed, please let me know below! I would absolutely love to discuss with you!
Theories discussed origins (as I learnt about them):
Eleven and Demogorgan being one:
Eleven and Demogorgan being separate, Demogorgan mating theory:
Other theories thread: