‘Stranger Things’: Eleven’s Connection to the Upside Down

A show like Stranger Things lends itself to countless fan theories. Over the years, some of those theories have proven to be accurate, while others were a little more out there. Of course, that’s not to say that those wilder theories can’t come to fruition eventually. Creators Ross and Matt Duffer have implied there will be five seasons total of the show.

One of the unanswered questions audiences have is why Eleven is so familiar with the Upside Down. Here’s what we know so far.

Millie Bobby Brown and David Harbour in a production still from 'Stranger Things' Season 2.
Eleven tries to close the rift in ‘Stranger Things’ Season 2. | Photo courtesy of Netflix

Eleven is familiar with the Upside Down

In the opening scene of Stranger Things, Season 2, Episode 2, Eleven wakes up in the Upside Down. She seems alarmed, but it looks like it’s because she can’t find her friends. This is right after she banished the Demogorgon in the season finale of season 1. 

Once she realizes where she is, she uses her powers to open up a portal to the real world. How would she know to do that unless she’d been there before?

We know Dr. Brenner has no good intentions with his experiments on these children. We also know he’s spying on the Russians and using Eleven to do it. In a teaser trailer for Stranger Things Season 4 released on May 6, 2021, we get a glimpse of some of the other children with special abilities that Hawkins Lab is experimenting with.

If Eleven created the riff that opened the portal to the Upside Down, could she have also made the Upside Down? One Redditor thinks her genetic makeup may allow her to contact the dimension. “I think El was able to access the Upside Down in the first place not only because it thrived off the negative emotions of her trauma, but also because the mutated portion of her DNA (which gives her powers) by sheer coincidence is genetically similar to its inhabitants. That’s why the Demogorgon in season 1 seems to have psychic powers like her.”

RELATED: ‘Stranger Things’: Are Eleven’s Similarities with ‘X-Men’s’ Jean Grey Hinting at a Dark Path?

Eleven recognizes Will in ‘Stranger Things’ Season 1

When we first meet Eleven in season 1, she’s just escaped from Dr. Brenner and Hawkins Lab. She barely speaks, and her head is shaved. Once she meets up with Mike, Dustin, and Lucas, she’s seen Benny, the diner owner, shot dead in front of her and escaped Dr. Brenner’s henchman, Connie Frasier.

The boys have no idea who they’ve found, and Eleven doesn’t speak much. At Mike’s house, she recognizes Will from a photo in Mike’s room. He disappeared before Eleven met up with the boys, so there was no way she saw him in Hawkins. This leads viewers to believe she had to have seen him in the Upside Down, telepathically or with her own eyes.

RELATED: ‘Stranger Things’ Season 4: Does Eleven’s Haircut Hold a Clue?

Eleven knows about the Demogorgon

In Stranger Things Season 1, the boys are trying to figure out exactly where Will could be. Eleven takes their Dungeons and Dragons game board and flips it upside down. She then grabs the Demogorgon figurine and places it on the board. She calls the place the Upside Down, and we later learn from Mr. Clarke, the boys’ science teacher, that it’s equivalent to a parallel universe.

Mike, Dustin, and Lucas haven’t seen the Demogorgon at this point in the series. There’s no way they could’ve described it to Eleven, and it’s still the one piece from the Dungeons and Dragons game she chooses to depict the monster. 

We also know that Dr. Brenner had her contact the creature in an area the show refers to as The Void. This looks nothing like the Upside Down. After she touches the monster, her fear opens up the gate that leads to the parallel dimension. 

Brenner seems shocked but intrigued. Later on, we see him sending his team members into the Upside Down to explore, even though he knows the risks the parallel dimension poses. He also seems determined to get Eleven back. This could be because he doesn’t want yet another of his subjects escaping, or it could be because he knows she’s the key to the Upside Down. 

Regardless of what we’ve seen so far, fans still have two more seasons to go to get all the answers. The first three seasons of Stranger Things are streaming on Netflix, with season 4 premiering sometime in 2022.