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Some Stranger Things Fans Aren't Sure If Vecna Or The Mind Flayer Is The Big Bad Of The Series

"Stranger Things" Season 4 was a long-awaited return to one of Netflix's most popular series. With episodes that ran well over an hour and a finale that was the length of a feature-length movie, the ending of "Stranger Things" Season 4 was some of the most impressive lengths a television series has gone to in order to continue an already compelling story. While there were areas to nitpick and fans were devastated at Eddie's death, Season 4 turned out to be one of the best the show had to offer, getting everyone pumped for the final season.

All that said, fans are still debating one of the most important aspects of Season 4. For the entire length of the show, the gang has faced off against The Mind Flayer, an otherworldly entity that acts as the queen of an elaborate hive-mind connecting every living creature from the Upside Down. With the introduction of Vecna (a.k.a. Henry), however, fans aren't sure which force is supposed to be the series' ultimate "Big Bad."

Fans seem to be divided over who's to blame

Since the ending of Season 4 and the reveal of who Vecna was, fans have been divided on which enemy is responsible for what's happening in Hawkins. There are a lot of fans who love Vecna as the true villain. Henry was the original super-powered kid, and there was only one child who surpassed him — Eleven. After witnessing the massacre of Hawkins Lab that killed all of the other gifted children and most of the staff, Eleven destroyed Henry by opening a gate to the Upside Down.

Their backstory makes for the perfect revenge arc, which also makes Vecna a more compelling Big Bad. If he managed to take control of the hive-mind and influenced it to do his bidding, it'd make for an extreme, villainous twist. Plus, he could get back at Eleven and humanity. On the other hand, fans love The Mind Flayer and want the show to commit to it being some sort of Lovecraftian monster that is all-consuming.

One fan thinks people are overestimating Vecna

One fan took to Reddit to discuss their thoughts on The Mind Flayer vs. Vecna debate. U/HollowAcoltye started a discussion with the title, "I think that some people are overestimating the abilities of a certain villain." "I've noticed several people on this sub talking about Henry as if he is the one in control of the hive-mind in the Upside Down," they posted. "I don't think this interpretation holds up to scrutiny, for a few reasons."

The initial post included a brief list explaining why they don't think Vecna is in control of The Mind Flayer. They also pointed out that while Vecna is extremely powerful, he's still human. Meanwhile, The Mind Flayer existed before Vecna came to the Upside Down and has been in control of its dimension for longer than viewers can confirm. They also touched on the dark particles and how the hive-mind relies on them, meaning they're probably an ability The Mind Flayer possesses on its own.

"I think that, at most, Henry is influencing The Mind Flayer via a physic link and could be responsible for its obsession with the human world," u/HollowAcoltye posted. "Henry is likely also the one who devised the plans utilized by The Mind Flayer, which makes him see himself as the mastermind." 

The possibility of Vecna's redemption

U/teddyburgers added their thoughts by bringing up interviews with the Duffer Brothers, reminding fans that "there is more to learn about Henry and questions about whether he is capable of redemption," which allegedly will be addressed in Season 5. "That information alone makes me think that there is definitely more to the Flayer," u/teddyburgers wrote. If they were setting Vecna up to be the ultimate baddie, a redemption arc doesn't make sense for him. For him to be the "end boss" but still get redemption would make what these kids have gone through feel pointless. Meanwhile, if The Mind Flayer is behind this, then it could be manipulating Vecna.

"My theory is that the Flayer has ways of manipulating certain psychic kids from the Upside Down," u/teddyburgers wrote, "and is the cause of Henry's warped state of mind. Because of the way he talks, he speaks of humans as the true pest that is invading the world," which sounds more like something an interdimensional being would say than what a human outcast would say, even though Vecna also has no sympathy for humanity.

U/DigitalBritt resonated with that theory. "When they show young Henry frantically drawing ... and reveal a drawing eerily similar to Will's drawing of The Mind Flayer," they wrote, "that immediately made me think that The [Mind Flayer] had somehow already possessed him." For the first two seasons, Will was the main target of The Mind Flayer and its direct connection to Hawkins. As seen with Henry's backstory, he has a lot of similarities to Will when he was acting as a "spy" for the Upside Down. By the time Henry decided to kill his family, he may have already been possessed like Will was in the past. 

Others aren't convinced that the Mind Flayer is in control

While some fans are behind the idea of The Mind Flayer being the Big Bad, others are not sold. U/Pitbullpandemonium, for instance, isn't a fan of Vecna as the Big Bad because they would prefer if the "indescribable, alien horror" was the Lovecraftian Mind Flayer as opposed to a superpowered human. With that in mind, they also condeeded that this seems to be the direction the show is going. U/byharryconnolly backed up u/Pitbullpandemonium's points.

"We didn't actually see him use his abilities much when he was a human in Brenner's lab. Just the massacre," u/byharryconnolly wrote. "Besides, when Henry took control of The Mind Flayer, he seemed to be doing it via his telekinesis, forcing it to take a shape he wanted. I believe the show gave us a demonstration of his dominance and left it at that." As u/strandycheeks pointed out, this would make Vecna the mastermind. 

The ending of "Stranger Things" Season 4 made it seem like Henry was a dominating presence that forced The Mind Flayer to take a shape that was more appealing to him. After all, Henry developed a fascination with spiders at a young age, and then he appeared to mold The Mind Flayer into a spider-like beast. This could be proof he is controlling The Mind Flayer, or it could be The Mind Flayer altering itself based on a reciprocated connection to Vecna. 

The answer could be in their Dungeons & Dragons counterparts

The kids use Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) terminology to classify the Upside Down monsters. In D&D, mind flayers (illithids) are a race of creatures feared across worlds due to their psionic abilities (via SkullSplitterDice). They are also referred to as "mind rulers" and have an array of mind-affecting spells that allow them to control others. Mind flayers are even able to detect the thoughts and feelings of others, which allows them to adjust their tactics to each individual. They even look like squid-faced monsters, which mimics The Mind Flayer's design in "Stranger Things." 

While the mind flayers referred to an entire race of creatures, Vecna was a single character in D&D (via Dicebreaker). He started as a human and lich king that ascended to godhood. Considered a lesser deity, Vecna is capable of powerful magic and is immune to many forms of damage, including mind control.

With all the information available about their D&D counterparts, there's still an argument to be made for either one to be the ultimate villain. Vecna, however, didn't exist until Henry fell into the Upside Down. The Mind Flayer, on the other hand, existed long before that, so the theory that The Mind Flayer has been influencing Henry since he was a kid feels more realistic.

Let's not forget that Dustin also described Vecna as a 5-star general for The Mind Flayer. They didn't have all the information about Vecna then, but this quote could still hint at which one is actually in control.