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Stranger Things Fans Have Some Pretty Strong Opinions About Brenner Ahead Of Season 4

Warning: Contains spoilers for "Stranger Things" Season 4.

Over the course of three seasons, "Stranger Things" has introduced viewers to a host of terrifying monsters, but some might point to Dr. Martin Brenner as the sci-fi drama's original antagonist. Portrayed by actor Matthew Modine, Dr. Brenner is a character whose actions have had a significant impact on the show's narrative. Brenner was in charge of the MKUltra project that gave Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) her powers, later abducting her from her mother in order to pursue the development of her telekinetic abilities. After Eleven makes a daring escape from her captors, Brenner's pursuit ultimately leads her to Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), who teach her about friendship and freedom. Although Brenner is not as deadly as a Demogorgon or the Mind Flayer, his actions are no less harmful. After all, Brenner pressuring Eleven to use her powers is what ripped a hole in the fabric of reality. 

Even though Brenner hasn't been seen in person since he seemingly perished in Season 1, trailers for the upcoming season have shown that the character will be making a comeback. It's been almost three years since new episodes of "Stranger Things" were released, but thankfully, Netflix has released the first eight minutes of footage from the 4th season. The scenes show Dr. Brenner several years prior to the start of the series, and his actions have ignited a debate among fans about his role in Season 4.

Brenner's unethical experiments

Although Eleven is cruelly isolated when we first meet her in Season 1, she was not the only child being subjected to testing at Hawkins Lab. The released footage shows that Brenner was working with numerous children who exhibited telekinetic abilities. The kids, who we can only assume are the kidnapped children of other MKUltra participants, all wear hospital gowns, sport shaved heads, and play in an area eerily decorated to resemble a child's playroom. Brenner chooses a boy, whose forearm tattoo identifies him as Ten, and they head to an observation room for testing. Brenner gently coaxes Ten into using his powers, a meeting that's quickly derailed by the sound of horrified screams. Brenner is knocked out and when he awakens, he is visibly shocked to find Ten and all the other children dead.

While viewers might have a hard time forgiving Brenner for the way he hunted Eleven in Season 1, some fans on Reddit think that the flashback sequence humanizes the doctor. "Weirdly enough, it looked like he was about to cry until he heard more screams," pointed out u/FEAR_LORD_DUCK. Another fan, u/Emptilion, argues that Brenner "has always had really questionable morals for sure. He is still keeping these kids locked up in a lab, but I do think he somewhat cares about them."

On the other hand, Brenner could be upset because, without the kids and their powers, his experiments are useless.

Is Brenner worthy of redemption?

The sneak peek shows Brenner doing his morning routine in an obvious attempt to humanize him to the audience, which begs the question: Does Brenner deserve a chance at redemption?

A few seconds of kindness toward one child doesn't erase all the hardship he's caused Eleven and her mother, Terry Ives (Aimee Mullins), who was driven to insanity after her daughter was taken away (via IMDb). While the inhabitants of the Upside Down are inherently evil, Brenner's brand of wickedness is ominous because it's grounded in reality. "Don't let the first 8 minutes of season 4 lead you to believe that Dr. Brenner cares about those children," warned Reddit u/Tstorm239. "I'm pretty sure his sorrow over 10 is because he lost his science experiment, not a child."

It's true that Brenner is not what you'd call a sympathetic figure. He kept Eleven locked up, engaging with her only to conduct experiments and effectively reducing her existence to that of a lab rat. Years later, she is still learning to cope with the emotional, physical, and psychological damage inflicted upon her. However, some fans are intrigued by Dr. Brenner's return. Reddit u/Terribleirishluck wrote, Brenner "caring for the kids (in probably his own twisted way) is way more interesting and has a lot [more] potential than him just being a one note villain."

Viewers will get to draw their own conclusions about the character when Season 4 of "Stranger Things" premieres on Netflix this Friday.