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The Biggest Mistakes Eleven Has Made In Stranger Things

Considering that she has the power to cross dimensional barriers by taking a bath and that she can flip trucks into the air by thinking at them, it's easy to view Eleven from Stranger Things in terms of her phenomenal psychokinetic powers. They are, after all, the driving force of the show's events, and for the audience members who can look back on the series' 1980s setting with adult eyes, it's really easy for them to imagine using those abilities in a situation where, say, a zombified ex-Power Ranger with a mullet was trying to kill them in a mall. 

What's easily lost in that line of thinking, however, is that for all her power, El's still just a kid, and kids are bound to make mistakes. And unfortunately, El's mistakes are usually on the same scale as her powers. From misunderstanding social situations to accidentally tearing apart the distressingly thin borders between dimensions to just straight-up ending her enemies, here are the biggest mistakes Eleven has ever made on Stranger Things.

(Warning — lots of Stranger Things spoilers ahead!)

Eleven started everything by opening the gate

A lot of Eleven's mistakes aren't actually her fault. After all, for most of her life, El wasn't really in charge of what she did. Instead, she was used as little more than a weapon and a tool by her "papa," Martin Brenner, and the rest of the sinister scientists at Hawkins Lab. It's the tragedy of her origin story, and the reason that the friendship and family that she finds once she escapes are so important.

Unfortunately, even if you can't blame her for how it all went down, she was still a big part of the inciting incident that led to events of the series, as well as a whole lot of suffering in Hawkins. As revealed in season one's sixth episode, "The Monster," Brenner used Eleven's powers to send her to the Upside Down, where she made contact with the monstrous creature that would become known as the Demogorgon. When she encountered this misshapen, flesh-eating nightmare blob, El understandably freaked out, and unfortunately, that had dire consequences. In addition to shattering the walls of the Hawkins Lab's underground facility, Eleven also opened up the gate to the Upside Down that gave the Demogorgon access to the Right-Side Up world.

Again, it's hard to criticize a literal ten year-old for completely losing her sugar when she's confronted with a full-ass Cthulhu. If, however, Eleven had reacted in a different way — perhaps by lashing out and vaporizing the Demogorgon, which is something that we see her doing to the creatures of the Upside Down later in the series — then a few of the Hawkins residents who were taken from us too soon might still be with us today. RIP to Bob, Barb, and Joyce Byers' security deposit.

Not explaining things to Benny was a big mistake

We can all agree that Eleven's escape from the Hawkins Lab was a good thing. At the very least, she was being exploited and horrifically mistreated by Brenner and the scientists there, who neglected teaching her things like "how to speak English" in favor of trying to make her telekinetically murder cats. Bailing from that situation is not only good but also admirable, especially when you consider how much she had to overcome to get out alive.

Unfortunately, she made a couple of bad choices along the way, and one of them happens very early on. In the very first episode of Stranger Things, we see Eleven as she wanders into Benny's diner and steals a handful of french fries before being confronted by Benny, who quickly understands that she's a kid who's been through some rough times. It's not the thievery that's the problem, although when you've been living on whatever sort of rations that you get while being experimented on by the Reagan administration, stuffing your face with a handful of greasy diner fries is absolutely going to give you an upset tummy. It's what happens to poor Benny after he tries to help out.

It's understandable that El would be a little reluctant to trust anyone given her upbringing, but still, a word of warning might've gone a long way to making sure that Benny's total lifespan on the show was longer than 19 minutes. Rather than giving Benny that crucial heads up about the bad men who are after her, Eleven gets distracted by the promise of a Jugheadian heaven of unlimited hamburgers and ice cream. As a result, one of the most unambiguously kind characters on the entire show takes a lethal bullet to the head courtesy of Brenner's hit squad, and Hawkins gets another mysterious casualty in the process.

That time Eleven sent Lucas on a trip

Eleven spends most of the first season of Stranger Things hiding from the sinister government agents who are pursuing her, and most of the decisions that she makes over the course of running from the bad guys are actually pretty good. That's especially surprising when you consider that this list of choices includes "team up with four middle school D&D nerds to fight a deadly conspiracy" and "steal waffles from the grocery store."

There are, however, a few places where she goes astray, and like a lot of the difficulties she'll have over the next few years, they tend to involve how she interacts with other people. Despite the fact that there were at least ten other kids involved in Brenner's project, you really get the sense that there definitely weren't a lot of children around when she was growing up in the Hawkins Lab. If there had been, then she probably wouldn't have done things like, say, trying to break up a fight between her new friends by chucking one of them about 30 feet headfirst into a big piece of scrap metal.

We've all had the experience of being caught between two friends who are having a fight with each other, but generally speaking, the best way to go about navigating that situation is to listen to both sides and be sympathetic to how they feel while they sort things out for themselves. Using your X-Men powers to give one of them a concussion — which, fortunately, isn't really an option for most of us — is definitely not going to help things. El does wind up learning her lesson when Mike and Dustin react with shock and anger, but sadly, this isn't the only time that she tries to navigate an awkward social situation by tossing people around with her mind.

El commits a whole lot of justifiable homicide in Stranger Things

Remember that scene in episode seven, "The Bathtub?" The one when the kids are being chased by Brenner's goons, and just when you think they're going to be caught and Eleven will be sent back to the horrors that await her at the lab, she goes full Dark Phoenix and flips a dang van over their heads, sending it crashing to the ground so the kids can make their escape? Remember how awesome that was? Of course you do. It's one of the most iconic images of the entire series. It's also definitely Eleven choosing to straight-up murder at least a couple of people.

Look, we're not saying we feel bad for them or anything — again, evil stooges, horrors awaiting, etc. — but think about how much effort it takes to lift a 3,000-pound, '84 Dodge at least 20 feet in the air and then drop it on its roof. She could've swerved them off the road and into a tree or a telephone pole, or she could've hit the vans from the side and sent them toppling over sideways like a set of dominoes. Not exactly pleasant for the passengers, but significantly more survivable than having a ton and a half of Detroit steel crashing down and cracking the drivers' heads open like a crème brûlée. Would it have been as awesome? No. But is a middle school-aged kid choosing to definitely kill someone really all that "awesome" after all?

Okay, in this case, maybe it is, but if you think about this show in any sort of realistic terms, which you probably shouldn't, Eleven racks up a body count in the last episode of Stranger Things' first season that should be distressing by virtually any measure. The van might be a little abstract, and you could argue that maybe those guys were fine because they had seat belts on, but when the bad guys come after her at the school, El makes them cry blood until they die. This is bad judgment, and even if you don't think all the death is a big deal, the fact that the blood-weeping attracts the Demogorgon pushes it into some inadvisable territory. Even if nothing weird ever happens in Hawkins again — fat chance of that — making that choice is bound to have some kind of effect on El as she grows. "When I was a kid, I killed five people with my brain" is a heck of a way to start a therapy session.

Lock the gates!

At the climax of the first season, Eleven takes what appears to be a one-way trip into the Upside Down to close the gate and end the threat of the Demogorgon once and for all. The good news is that she was wrong about the one-way part. She manages to make it back mostly safe and sound, secretly living with Hopper until he officially adopts her. The bad news is that she was also wrong about everything else.

While El does in fact shred the Demogorgon into Lovecraftian confetti, she doesn't do a stellar job of closing the gate. Will's connection to the Upside Down persists long after he makes it back to the regular world, and it causes no end of trouble once the Mind Flayer shows up in season two and starts making his own flesh cradle in season three. It's not like any of us really want to see El stuck in the Upside Down having an all-Clash karaoke party with Barb's corpse or whatever, but honestly. Jiggle the handle once you close the door behind you just to make sure it's locked ... or whatever the nightmarish interdimensional version of that is.

Of course, this one's not really El's fault if you look at it from our real-world standpoint. The real reason that the creatures from the Upside Down kept on coming back is because Stranger Things was so popular that it was renewed for a second season and just kept on going from there. And of course it would be! It has cool ideas, great scares, the nostalgia hook, and well-crafted characters like Elev — hey, wait a second, this one actually is her fault.

Mad (at) Max

Eleven has a pretty rough start to the second season of Stranger Things. As much as she's getting along with Hopper and finding a home with someone who actually cares about her for the first time, she's feeling stifled and trapped by his policy of never, ever letting her out of the house or letting her friends know that she's still alive and not a half-eaten meal floating around an empty void. Eventually, she gets fed up enough that she leaves, looking for Mike and hoping to rekindle their friendship. That leads her back to Hawkins Middle School, where she stumbles on Mike and his new classmate (and future friend/party member) Max hanging out together in the gym.

That's right — hanging out. That's it. In fact, they're actually arguing a little, with Mike specifically forbidding Max from joining up with the rest of the kids by defending El and her mysterious power. That's not enough to keep El from feeling the intense sting of jealousy, though. As she's watching Mike and Max, she uses her powers to knock the redhead off of her skateboard, sending her sprawling onto the floor. And as anyone who went to one will tell you, there's no floor quite as unforgiving as that found in a middle school gymnasium.

This is one of the few mistakes that you can place squarely on El's shoulders. There's no Brenner forcing her to do his bidding or evil creature from a nightmare dimension making her choose under pressure. It's just full-on jealousy that the guy she likes is talking to another girl and possessiveness that drives her to violence. It could be worse, though. At least Max is just on a skateboard instead of, you know, driving a two-ton van.

That episode where Stranger Things met the New Mutants

"The Lost Sister" is one of Stranger Things' strangest things. Coming at the midpoint of season two, it's a big departure in tone, shifting from the Goonies meets Gremlins horror story that we'd seen from the series up to that point and taking things into a different sort of '80s flavor. It drew its influences from places like the weird gang visuals of The Warriors and the ominous, smoke-filled streets of flicks like RoboCop, with a hefty helping of X-Men comics thrown in for good measure.

If your memory is a little hazy, the plot involves El running off to Chicago in search of answers about her mysterious past and finding Kali Prasad, another subject of the Hawkins lab. Like El, Kali — who was designated "008" — has her own mental superpowers. In her case, it's the ability to cast terrifying illusions into her enemies' minds, a power that — not coincidentally — she shares with Mirage from Marvel's New Mutants, the comic that inspired a lot of this episode's aesthetic. After giving El a slicked-back, New Wave haircut and some heavy eyeliner, Kali leads her on a mission of revenge against a former employee of the lab. While she initially intends to take her frustrations out on the guy, El, presumably having had enough of killing at the end of the last season, spares him. And instead of sticking with Kali and the other members of their strange family, El decides to return to Hawkins alone to help Mike, Hopper, and the rest of her friends deal with the monster that's threatening their town.

The keyword there is "alone." As her brief trip to Chicago comes to a close, El never actually bothers to tell Kali about what she's been dealing with back in Hawkins. Even if Kali is hell-bent on revenge, you'd think "literal Dungeons & Dragons monsters are trying to eat my friends" would be the kind of thing that would convince the founding member of the Not-Brand-X-Men to lend a hand. Imagine if there had been a full-on super-team hanging out in Hawkins the next year when the Terminator and a cadre of Russian spies showed up.

When Eleven got a little too nosy

When it comes to the big stuff, El generally uses her powers for good. Sure, she makes a few mistakes every now and then, but she always does her best to take on the various Monster Manual pages that have come to life. The smaller stuff, though, tends to find El using her phenomenal powers for purposes that aren't so selfless. Petty revenge, jealousy, waffle theft — these are the things she deems worthy of a psychic nosebleed.

In the third season of Stranger Things, though, we get what might be her worst and nosiest choice of targets for her power. "Chapter Three: The Case of the Missing Lifeguard" finds El and Mike having a spat, which leads her to a fun and well-deserved slumber party with Max. This particular sleepover goes into the shadowy realms between realms, though, when the two of them decide to do the psychic version of a prank call and send El to spy on a few of the other characters.

Not only does this constitute a pretty rough invasion of her boyfriend's privacy, it also leads her to try void-stalking Billy after he's been taken over by the Mind Flayer. That, in turn, allows him to sense her power, creating a connection that almost leads to the Mind Flayer nearly taking out El. That's one of the rare times that El using her powers goes bad in both a real-world and a supernatural way. Maybe next time, just stick to playing Mystery Date or watching Carrie after Hopper goes to sleep. Actually, no, she should definitely not watch Carrie, the movie about a girl with psychic powers who burns down buildings. She might get the wrong idea.