(Warning, spoilers ahead for Stranger Things season two, which premiered on Friday, October 27.)
“I’m a fighter.”
When Stranger Things debuted in 2016, it was clear that the breakout character was Eleven, played with a quiet intensity by a then 11-year-old Millie Bobby Brown. Though she barely spoke, you felt yourself leaning in whenever the psychokinetic pre-teen appeared on-screen. And in season two, Eleven came of age before our eyes, and it was a journey we really needed right now.
This is the story of a girl who took back control of her life from a man intent on controlling her for his own personal gain. That story could not be any timelier, given the entertainment industry’s recent scandal involving the many sexual assault allegations against mega-producer Harvey Weinstein, and the domino effect of women coming forward with their own stories over the years.
When we catch up with Eleven in season two (Spoiler alert: She didn’t die. Duh.), she is once again answering to a man of authority, at least in the beginning. In a flashback in episode two, we learn Hopper (David Harbour), who was seen leaving a box of Eggos at the end of season one, took Eleven in, hiding her out in his old family cabin tucked away in the woods, giving her a home, a TV, a sense of security, and a freezer full of Eggos.
They developed a quasi-father-daughter relationship, but still, Eleven was listening to a man in a position of power; just wait, he told her. It’s not safe, he told the young girl capable of killing men with a flick of her head. You need to listen to me, he said. “We’re not stupid.”
Unlike Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine), her “Papa,” Hopper had the best intentions when it came to keeping Eleven in the small cabin, with only All My Children‘s Erica Kane to keep her company as he spent almost a year dealing with the fallout of Will’s return and the Upside Down turning life in Hawkins upside down.
And like any young girl on the cusp on puberty, Eleven is restless, cooped up, desperate to see the boy she has a crush on, desperate for any human interaction. When she breaks down after Hopper learns she left the house and was scene, we don’t just see her anguish, we feel it.
The entirely Eleven-centric seventh episode, “The Lost Sister,” gave us the rebellion and realization (oh, and punk makeover) we so desperately wanted. Eleven heads to Pittsburgh to seek out her “sister,” Roman (aka Eight, played by Linnea Berthelsen), another young woman whose life was ruined by Dr. Brenner. She joins her band of misfit thieves, intent on seeking revenge on behalf of her mama.
But when given the opportunity to kill one of the men responsible for shocking her mother into a vegetable, for taking away her chance at a normal childhood and creating her in a lab, for just what he was asked to do, Eleven can’t do it. That flicker of humanity—sparked by Mike (Finn Wolfhard), the gang, and Hopper—burned brighter than her thirst for vengeance.
When at the crossroad between finding those who wronged her and returning to Hawkins to help her friends, Eleven chooses the harder path, reasoning, “But I can save them,” as she’s already saved herself.
She does just that, saving her new father figure (who finally comes to see her as his equal, standing by her side as she closes the gate), her friends, Hawkins, and the world, all in time to make it to the 8th grade dance to share a sweet, slightly awkward dance (to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take”) and kiss with the boy she likes…and rescued, her own damsel in distress.
Stranger Things 2 is now available to stream on Netflix.