The Stranger Things season 1 finale ended with the apparent death of Eleven, and season 2 revealed she was alive and living with Hopper – but how did he know she survived? Throughout its four-season run, Stranger Things has left a number of mysteries that are still waiting to be solved, but there are some others that have been forgotten by audience as there have been more interesting and exciting things happening in Hawkins, especially following the Stranger Things season 4 ending. Among these forgotten mysteries is how the Hopper and Eleven reunion happened after Eleven survived the Demogorgon’s attack in season 1.
At the end of season 1, the Demogorgon went after Eleven and the rest of the group at Hawkins Middle School. Mirroring the Stranger Things season 4, volume 2 finale, the original crew built their own sensory-deprivation tank. Dr. Martin Brenner and company arrived to take Eleven back to Hawkins Lab, and the agents were killed by the Demogorgon and Brenner was attacked, but he’s said to have survived. The monster then went after Eleven, Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, and so Eleven stepped up and “sacrificed” herself in order to defeat the Demogorgon, which disintegrated. However, in hindsight, the Demogorgon likely survived and was only transported to the Upside Down, as its “disintegration” looked highly similar to how Eleven disposed of One – also known as Stranger Things season 4 villain Vecna – following the massacre as Hawkins Lab. After the Demogorgon’s defeat, Eleven also disappeared and was believed to be dead, but at the end of the Stranger Things season 1, Hopper was shown leaving waffles in a box in the woods, implying that he either knew or hoped Eleven was still alive.
Indeed, Stranger Things season 2 revealed that Eleven wasn’t dead, and was instead sent to the Upside Down. She escaped from the other dimension and came back to the human world a couple of hours later, but by then, the school was surrounded by policemen and the kids were being interrogated. With no place to go and with agents all over the place looking for her, Eleven hid in the woods, where she survived on eating squirrels for weeks – though this was practically a vacation compared to Eleven’s then-repressed childhood experiences at Hawkins Lab. Eventually, this led to the first Hopper and Eleven reunion, and they lived together in Hopper’s cabin in the woods. Before that, he had been leaving food for her in a box, and the series never really explains how Hopper knew Eleven was alive. However, one of the flashback scenes might offer a clue as to how Eleven and Hopper reunite.
How Eleven and Hopper Reunite In Season 1
After weeks in the woods, Eleven was found by a hunter who asked her what she was doing there alone, a key piece of the puzzle in the Hopper and Eleven reunion. Eleven attacked him and stole his hat and jacket, as she had been surviving in the cold with only the dress and jacket she had at the end of Stranger Things season 1. Unlike in Stranger Things s4 where Eleven loses her powers, her powers are still active at this time, even though she was considerably weakened after defeating the Demogorgon, which is likely how the hunter survived her then-unfocused telekinesis.
Eleven then found the food, and some time later discovered Hopper was the one leaving the Eggos. The hunter probably went to the police after their encounter, and the profile of the girl in the woods surely rang a bell with Hopper. The problem with this Hopper and Eleven reunion premise is that it doesn’t really fit into the timeline when certain details are taken into account. Judging by Eleven’s hair, she had already been in the woods for a couple of weeks before stealing the hunter’s jacket, and Hopper also began hiding food not long after season 1’s finale.
In short, the hunter explanation doesn’t fully solve the mystery. While the show’s bigger mysteries like Eleven and Vecna’s true origins or how Vecna created Mind Flayer have been unraveled in Stranger Things season 4, the question of how the first Hopper and Eleven reunion actually happened remains unanswered. Perhaps Hopper didn’t know Eleven was alive and was just hoping she would be out there and would find the food someday, which eventually did happen. This could have been a subtle way for the writers of Stranger Things to show the strong bond between Hopper and Eleven, which would only grow bigger as season 2 progressed and later in season 3, when they legally became family. Indeed, as revealed by Stranger Things season 4, in which Hopper somehow finds a way to help Eleven from thousands of miles away and the two eventually reunite, there’s no separating this father-daughter team. Though the town of Hawkins is going through many changes, Hopper and Eleven’s relationship will likely stay the same in Stranger Things season 5.
Stranger Things Season 4 Gives Hopper And Eleven The Same Journey
Stranger Things season 4 doubles down on this bond by giving the two separate but very similar journeys, building up to a heart-rending Eleven and Hopper reunion in the final episode. In an effort to regain her lost powers, Eleven agrees to go with Dr. Brenner and once again undergo the traumatic experiments that Brenner forced on Eleven and the other children from Hawkins Lab less than a decade ago. Eleven eventually gets her powers back – but only after the mental torture of recalling both Brenner and One’s horrible actions and how Eleven herself created Vecna and unleashed the Upside Down on Hawkins.
Meanwhile, Stranger Things season 4 also reveals how Hopper survived following the Battle of Starcourt, leading to Hopper’s Russian prison action/spy movie story arc in Kamchatka. As Eleven was being mentally tortured at the NINA facility in Nevada, Hopper and former Kamchatka prison guard Dmitri were being physically tortured and stripped of their humanity by the Russians, who eventually try to feed them to a Demogorgon alongside other prisoners. Murray and Joyce eventually help break out both Dmitri and Hopper, but the Hopper they find is not entirely the same one who “died” back in Stranger Things season 3. Just as the ordeal of recalling her repressed memories allowed Eleven to get her powers back, Hopper’s suffering at Kamchatka solidified his grit and resilience (and abs). This is how Hopper escapes the Demogorgon the first time they meet in Kamchatka and epically slays it with a sword when they finally meet again.
Though the Stranger Things season 4 cast were separated throughout almost the entire season, it turns out Hopper was right about how killing the particles (which were inside the Demogorgon and the Demodogs) could somehow help Eleven and the kids take on the rising evil in Hawkins. As Hopper, Murray, and Joyce obliterate the creatures in Russia, Vecna loses some of his power over the kids back home, and Eleven also focuses on good memories to recoup her powers against Vecna. In near-perfect synchronicity, the separate efforts of Hopper and Eleven are eventually what give Hawkins its temporary victory against Vecna’s attempts to invade the physical world.
Stranger Things‘ seemingly unexplained synchronized attack against Vecna is simply another example of the extremely strong bond between Eleven and Hopper, which continues to be crucial to Hawkins’ defense against the strange denizens of the Upside Down. That said, the finale is bittersweet at best, as Stranger Things‘ Eddie dies and Max falls into a coma after almost getting killed by Vecna again. As the Upside Down opens up to Hawkins in season 4’s final scenes, the father-daughter team of Hopper and Eleven are bound to reunite against Vecna in Stranger Things season 5.
Stranger Things season 4, volume 2 is now streaming on Netflix.
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