Spoilers ahead for Stranger Things 4A. Stranger Things has watched Eleven grow from a powerful, mostly silent young girl into a full-blown teenager slamming doors with her mind, making out with Mike, and embracing her independence — much to Hopper's chagrin. But after losing her powers in Stranger Things 3, Eleven may stay exactly that: a regular teen who's biggest concern is boy drama and nosy parents, not battling monsters from another dimension. For those who got wrapped up in all of the Mind Flayer's chaos, though, let's back up: how did Eleven lose her powers in the first place, and what does that tell us about whether or not they'll come back?
Right before the big Season 3 Mind Flayer face-off at Starcourt Mall, the D&D crew was horrified when Eleven suddenly collapsed in pain, a small piece of the monster writhing within her now-infected looking leg wound. Eleven summoned a lot of strength to get the tiny creature out, but afterward, she realized that her powers were gone. Three months later, they still hadn't returned, but Mike assured her that they would come back one day.
There isn't an exact answer for why Eleven's powers stopped working, but the Mind Flayer was definitely the catalyst. Will's encounter with a similar creature in the first season has affected him ever since, including giving him those new spidey senses that alert him whenever the Mind Flayer is near. So, perhaps this incident had the opposite effect on Eleven by draining her telekinetic abilities.
The slug creature could have introduced something into her bloodstream that nullified her powers, at least for the foreseeable future. Eleven seemed to be doing well with no other negative effects, but another encounter with anything from the Upside Down might reverse whatever happened and restore her abilities — not that she should go seeking out more monsters to try it.
Of course, it's also possible Eleven just overextended herself, and her powers simply need some time to recover. At the end of Season 3, only three months had passed since El's injury, so it's possible that her body is still healing from everything and her powers will slowly return. There's a low vibration that takes place when she tries to use them, which must mean something is still there, right? Though the Upside Down isn't the reason Eleven has powers (that's thanks to the experiments MKUltra scientists performed on her mom, Terry, while she was pregnant) there's always been a connection between her and the dimension, so perhaps it will take her going there or the gate being opened (again) to bring her abilities back.
At the outset of Season 4A, Eleven’s powers still hadn’t returned, and she struggled to adjust to her new life in California with the Byers. That was made evident when she attempted to conjure her abilities to retaliate against a school bully, suffering another embarrassing blow when nothing happened as she stretched her hand out to summon them. The moment became extra fodder for her tormentors, and unable to defend herself by supernatural means, Eleven improvised with a roller skate. The assault she committed eventually led her to reunite with Dr. Owens. As it turned out, Hawkins was in danger once again, and needed her help to defeat a new Upside Down baddie known as Vecna.
After Eleven reminded Owens that she’s lost her powers, he cryptically replied, “What if I told you there was a way… a way to bring them back?” He went on to explain he’d been preparing for this moment by “developing the means to restore” Eleven’s abilities. His program, known as the Nina Project, had “the potential to, not just bring them back, but to bring them back stronger than before,” even. The catch? There was “a very real possibility” the program would fail and she would never see her friends in Hawkins again.
Despite the risks, Eleven agreed and accompanied him to a “top secret” Ruth, Nevada, location “to become a superhero again,” as she wrote in her goodbye note to Mike. Once there, she was immediately faced with a past demon of a different kind: Dr. Brenner, aka “Papa,” who told her he believed he knew why her gifts were “stolen” and how to get them back if they work together again. After an unsuccessful escape attempt, Eleven awoke trapped inside a memory from her past at the Hawkins lab — the apparent key to re-learning her dormant telekinetic powers.
Her first involuntary attempt at the experiment ended with Eleven needing crash paddles to resuscitate her, and upon awakening, she attempted a second escape. But this time, she was able to ward off three guards by using her anger to summon an electrical explosion. Though it seemed her powers had returned, it was only a momentary jolt. That was all the evidence Eleven needed, however, to voluntarily continue the experiment.
Though Eleven’s traumatic memories initially implied that she’d killed all the other children in the lab, she learned by Season 4A’s end that a lab employee, later revealed to be both 001 and Vecna, had committed the Hawkins Lab massacre. Ironically, he was also the same superhuman who helped her harness the abilities that allowed her to banish him to the Upside Down following a brutal battle.
Did reliving that memory officially restore Eleven’s powers? Viewers will have to wait until Season 4 Volume 2 premieres on July 1 to find out for sure, but it certainly seems to be the case. That will also likely set the stage for a final showdown between Eleven and 001/Vecna, especially as Nancy seems poised to be the villain’s next Hawkins victim.
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