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Millie Bobby Brown's 7 Best And 7 Worst Stranger Things TV Episodes Ranked

Every once in a while, a character comes along that instantly becomes part of the pop culture lexicon. This type of character sells toys, becomes a go-to Halloween costume, and usually makes a household name of the actor who plays them. In the modern era, they also get turned into a multitude of memes. Eleven — the psychokinetic and telepathic child who endures experimentation in "Stranger Things" — is one such character. The captivating yet slightly creepy girl with a shaved head and routinely bloody nose became the show's breakout character early on. Creators the Duffer brothers deserve credit for Eleven's backstory and visual styling, but she wouldn't have resonated so thoroughly with audiences if not for Millie Bobby Brown's confident portrayal.

Brown plays Eleven like there's a quiet storm brewing inside her at all times. She gives "Stranger Things" a constant source of dramatic tension, as Eleven is, at any moment, as likely to hanker for a waffle as she is to blow a hole in our dimension. Her tenure on the show so far has been, for the most part, a highlight reel. But, some moments are more memorable than others. These are Millie Bobby Brown's best and worst outings as Eleven, ranked.


Season 2 of "Stranger Things" opens with a pre-credits sequence that sets up one of the show's most disliked storylines. About a year has passed since the end of Season 1, and somewhere in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a bunch of street punks is evading police in what seems like a scene from a totally different show. A young woman who appears to be their leader makes a fist, whispers "boom," and then makes a bridge explode. We won't catch up with these post-apocalyptic-looking hoodlums until later in the season (and later in this list), but her "008" tattoo and her conspicuously bloody nose confirm there are others out there like Eleven.

Back in Hawkins, the boys — including Will, who is still suffering some side effects of Upside Down exposure — are trying their best to be normal kids. They're hanging out at the arcade when Dustin notices that someone who goes by the name MADMAX has bested his Dig Dug score. This is our introduction to future fan-favorite character, Max Mayfield. Elsewhere, another new addition, Murray Bauman, is questioning a dismissive Hopper about Eleven and Barb.

"MADMAX" is a mixed bag of an opening episode, but the fact that both Murray and Mike are desperately looking for Eleven means she doesn't get to be in very much of it. The audience gets wise to her whereabouts before they do, thanks to a half-eaten waffle on Hopper's table. This is followed by a brief final scene between the duo that establishes their living arrangement.

Best: The Gate

Though the vast majority of fans still enjoyed it, Season 2 of "Stranger Things" isn't the best the series has to offer, nor does it showcase Eleven in the best light. But at least it goes out on a high note. By Episode 9, the kids have figured out that the Mind Flayer prefers cold and that the Upside Down's creatures detest fire. The crew heads to Hopper's cabin and tries to de-mind control Will by overheating him. Meanwhile, Eleven and Hopper return to the lab to take on the Demodogs and try to seal the rift that leads to the netherworld.

Millie Bobby Brown's Eleven and David Harbour's Jim Hopper have incredible father-daughter chemistry, so seeing them team up — especially to kick some Upside Down butt — is always endearing and exciting. Eleven uses her powers to close the gate (for now), then the tone switches entirely.

In a flash forward, we see that Dr. Owens has provided Hopper with a birth certificate for Eleven so that they can be a family and she can reenter society, at least to some extent. The kids all attend the Snow Ball, which leads to Mike and Eleven's adorable first kiss. Though we know things don't stay so rosy, it's nice to see Eleven so happy.

Worst: The Monster and the Superhero

Critics and fans were generally happy with Season 4 of "Stranger Things," despite some backlash against the supersized episodes. There isn't a truly bad one among the batch, but the least appealing chapter — as far as Eleven is concerned — is Episode 3. She's still reeling from having attacked Angela and things aren't good with Mike. Their fight is difficult to watch for fans of the couple, and it's interrupted by police (who've come to arrest Eleven for the assault) before they can smooth things over.

Mike isn't able to free Eleven before Dr. Owens and his people come to confiscate her. Owens whisks her away to a greasy spoon diner and gives her the option of going into hiding with him in a secret lab in the desert where he can attempt to restore her powers. In "The Monster and the Superhero," other characters say and do things to Eleven rather than the other way around. With the exception of her letter to Mike, she's pretty passive. The standout scene is the shoot-out at the Byers' house from which Mike, Will, and Jonathan barely escape.

Best: The Monster

The title of this episode refers to the Demogorgon that Jonathan rescues Nancy from, suspicions about Eleven's origins and abilities, and Brenner's cruel treatment of her mother. In "The Monster," Joyce and Hopper meet with the catatonic Terry and realize that Eleven must be connected somehow to Will's disappearance. To Dustin's dismay, Mike and Lucas are locked in a spat over what to do about the strange girl with the shaved head and the unexplained superpowers who's been living in Mike's basement. Their hostility causes her to take off and splits the group into two factions. Lucas goes off to look for Will himself, while Mike and Dustin try to find Eleven.

This episode features three signature Eleven moments. While on her own, she steals some Eggo waffles from the grocery store. She also experiences a flashback which reveals to the audience that it was she who opened the portal in her first encounter with the Demogorgon, on the orders of Brenner. Finally, she intervenes at the crucial moment when school bullies force Mike to walk off a cliff by holding Dustin at knifepoint. Eleven levitates Mike back to solid ground and breaks the arm of the mean kid before the three friends embrace.

Worst: The Body

Season 1, Episode 4 of "Stranger Things" resolves an important plot point. Joyce refuses to believe that the body recovered from the lake is Will, despite it looking exactly like him. Eleven knows that she's right: Will is in the Upside Down, and that isn't his corpse at the morgue. The kids realize they'll need a stronger radio to communicate with their friend, so they sneak into the A/V room at school. But Eleven, who's pretty recognizable, is still being hunted down by mysterious authorities.

To safely maneuver out in public, the boys disguise Eleven as a "normal" seventh grade girl in a pink dress and a blonde wig, though the result is awkward and anachronistic. Eleven's new look generated a branded Halloween costume and a Funko POP! variant, but — though Brown's acting is up to par in "The Body" — the episode primarily uses her as a sight gag. The more emotionally weighty storyline goes to Joyce and Jonathan, who have renewed hope that Will might still be alive.

Best: Vecna's Curse

The second episode of Season 4 gets its name from the fact that the kids back in Hawkins start to figure out the nature of the threat they're dealing with, but what fans remember from "Vecna's Curse" is that sure-to-be-infamous roller rink moment. After months of lying to her long-distance boyfriend about her social standing in Lenora Hills, Mike comes out to California to visit. El has promised the "best spring break ever," but things turn sour before they have the chance to be sweet.

Angela and her awful friends show up at the roller rink where Will, El, and Mike are trying to enjoy a day out. When El attempts to pass Angela off as a real friend, the bullies all taunt her in a way that borders on scary. They form a circle around her and throw a chocolate milkshake at the poor girl, all of which they capture on camera.

El is mortified that Mike is now aware of how little she fits in. As she hides in a storage room, El experiences repressed memories from her time as a guinea pig at the lab. When she sees Angela again, she goes into monster mode and smacks her hard against the nose with a skate, to everyone's horror — including her own in the immediate aftermath. This episode gives Brown the chance to depict Eleven with some new and nuanced vulnerabilities, and she rises to the challenge.

Worst: The Pollywog

It's refreshing to see El forget about the fate of the world for a moment and just be a teenager, but the thing about teenagers is that they are sometimes obnoxious. By the third episode of Season 2, El is growing frustrated with Hopper and her home-imprisonment. Hopper makes El an 8000 calorie Eggo dessert and fixes up his deceased daughter's room for her, but she's ungrateful. She just wants to see Mike. Eventually, El loses it and uses her powers to show Hopper who's boss. She explicitly disobeys his "Don't Be Stupid" rule and ventures out by herself.

The episode's A-plot involves Dustin and the baby demo-slug he's attempting to keep as a pet. Dart has (predictably) escaped, and Dustin enlists his friends to roam the school halls in search of him. Max and Mike meet up by chance in the gym and argue about whether or not she's allowed to join their Dungeons & Dragons group. Mike mentions El to Max for the first time and describes her as someone who played in their game a long time ago, who has since moved away. El happens to be standing outside a windowed door, watching their interaction unfold. From her perspective, it looks like Max is flirting with Mike, which causes a jealous El to telekinetically knock her off her skateboard. El's behavior in this episode doesn't paint her in a particularly good light.

Best: The Battle of Starcourt

The premise of "The Battle of Starcourt" is a fantasy almost every kid has had: Being stranded overnight in a mall. Starcourt is lit only by neon signs, which gives the episode an extremely cool aesthetic. This also marks one of the very few instances in which almost every character is fighting side by side at the same time and in the same place. Since El is presumed to be the Mind Flayer's prime target, the rest of the cast does the scheming, prepping, and fighting while a drained Eleven grunts in pain and practices mentally crushing a Coke can.

As this is the final chapter of Season 3, the stakes have been raised and plenty goes wrong. Hopper, Joyce, and Murray have to improvise (which means gunning down a whole lot of soldiers) when their plan to sneak by the Russians goes sideways. The kids can't protect El from a possessed Billy, who carries her limp body to the food court as an offering to the Mind Flayer. Millie Bobby Brown does a fantastic job of neither looking too lame when she's injured nor too inhumanly tough when she has to summon her strength. The heartfelt exchange when she enters Billy's memories of his mother is particularly well-acted.

Worst: The Flayed

Season 3, Episode 5 has to do a fair amount of narrative heavy lifting. It brings together the disparate plotlines of the previous four chapters, but that means our characters are doing a lot of walking and having a lot of revelations rather than engaging in action, at least until the end. Hopper and Joyce decide to visit Hess Farm, the last parcel of land connected to the Starcourt Mall property deal, where they encounter a secret Russian cell. Later, they call upon Murray to join them in their efforts, as he speaks fluent Russian. Steve, Robin, Dustin, and Erica escape a stalled elevator and deduce that the Russians are interested in the Upside Down. 

Meanwhile, Will, Mike, Eleven, Lucas, and Max are licking their wounds in Mike's basement. Sure, an enormous spider-like monster is taking control of minds and bodies in Hawkins, but Mike's upset that El and Max might be talking about him, since they've been in the bathroom for too long. This episode features one tough-as-nails shot of Eleven that was used as a promotional clip for the season, but, content-wise, it mostly ties up loose ends and serves as filler between more interesting plot developments.

Best: The Weirdo on Maple Street

We may meet Eleven in the pilot episode of "Stranger Things," but we get to know her much better in Episode 2, and so do the rest of the core group of characters. While Joyce, Hopper, Jonathan, and some civilian volunteers look for Will, Mike is holed up with Eleven in his house playing hooky, eating snacks, and reclining in the La-Z-Boy. This was back in the days when Eleven barely spoke, so through a few choice words and hand motions she explains that bad people are after her and that they're all in danger. Perhaps more importantly, she knows something about Will. When Mike's mom comes home unexpectedly, he has to stash her in his closet. Eleven's previous trauma (which we see in flashback) causes her to have a panic attack in the confined space. 

The town's on edge, too, as Benny's body is discovered in his burger joint from what's been staged to look like a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Dustin and Lucas want to tell someone about El, but she uses her powers for the first time in their presence to slam the door closed. It would've been easy for a child actor to overdo both Eleven's past and present meltdowns and her wide-eyed, fish-of-out-water moments, but Millie Bobby Brown shows just the right amount of wonder, anguish, and restraint. The kids' storyline concludes with a lesson in friendship and a demonstration about the Upside Down.

Worst: The Lost Sister

The much-derided Season 2 episode "The Lost Sister" is tonally different from every other chapter and it functions like a bottle episode, since the plot and characters it introduces never go anywhere. Eleven runs away to Chicago where she meets Kali, formerly a patient-slash-prisoner at the Hawkins lab numbered 008 and currently the leader of a gang of misfit criminals. It's clear to the audience (though not yet to Eleven) that Kali has crossed the line between sympathetic victim and callous villain. In theory, her MO is to exact revenge on anyone who's hurt her in the past. But her morals are extremely slippery and she uses her powers on anyone who gets in her way without a second thought.

Kali teaches Eleven how to channel her rage into their particular kind of mental magic. For a good chunk of the episode, El seems willing to do her bidding. She also gets a more mature, '80s version of an emo look (that doesn't entirely work) after six episodes with an unfortunate haircut. When Kali instructs El to kill someone, she can't bring herself to do it. She returns to Hawkins having learned a valuable lesson (her powers should only be used for good), though watching her learn said lesson is jarring and kind of boring.

Best: The Mall Rats

The second episode of Season 3 is "Stranger Things" at its most delightful. Like a triple scoop sundae, it combines some of the show's best flavors. Jim Hopper is dialed up to 11 as an overprotective girl dad. Steve, Robin, Dustin, and Erica (Hawkins' snarkiest quippers) team up to decipher a Russian communication. And Max and El become besties during some much-needed retail therapy at the Starcourt Mall.

After Hopper strong-arms Mike into giving El some space, he makes the excuse that his Nana is sick to get out of seeing her. Max immediately susses this out as a fib and tells El that friends don't lie, but boyfriends sometimes do. To cheer her up, Max takes El shopping for the first time in her life. El's "Pretty Woman" sequence is fun to watch, but it's also deeply meaningful. El wonders what it means to choose something that she likes. She's never been afforded that kind of autonomy before. Max tells her to pick something that feels like her, not anyone else's idea of her.

Instead of scrunching her face with intensity and getting a nosebleed, Millie Bobby Brown gets to giggle with joy as she tries on clothes to Madonna's "Material Girl" and struts around with confidence. Elsewhere in the mall, Mike is looking for the perfect gift to apologize for his deception, but he only has "like, $3.50, so it's hard." When they run into each other, Mike doesn't do the best job of apologizing, so El drops one of her best lines: "I dump your ass."

Worst: The Spy

For most of Season 2, Eleven is hampered with storylines that keep her separate from the rest of the cast. Hopper has her hidden away and won't even let his trusted inner circle in on the secret. Mike faithfully sends her messages every day, to which she can't respond. All of this means, for most of "Stranger Things 2," we get mere snippets of El on her own or through her conversations and confrontations with Hopper. In Episode 6, Eleven is MIA completely.

In her absence, we get a chapter that focuses on Jonathan and Nancy's burgeoning relationship and Will's worsening condition. At Murray's place, Nancy and Jonathan are working out what to do with the recording that proves the Hawkins lab is complicit in all the supernatural and super-deadly goings on. He offers to let them stay the night and makes bold assertions about their feelings for each other — feelings that they deny, although they share a passionate kiss shortly thereafter.

Dr. Owens is still treating Will because Joyce doesn't really have the option of taking him to a regular hospital. They determine that the creatures of the Upside Down are connected by some sort of hive mind, and in one of his lucid moments, Will suggests that fire could be the Mind Flayer's weakness. "The Spy" establishes some important "Stranger Things" lore, but for fans of Eleven, it's a dull installment.

Best: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab

The finale of "Stranger Things 4" Part 1 isn't just the best Eleven episode of the season, it's arguably the best chapter, period. So much happens that it's hard to believe it all occurs in one installment. Hopper and the Russian prisoners fend off a Demogorgon gladiator-style before he and Joyce are reunited at long last. The older Hawkins kids save Steve from the Demo Bats, then escape the Upside Down with the help of the younger kids, who make clever use of a Lite Brite. But the highlight is undoubtedly the big reveal (that the supposedly well-intended Peter Ballard is actually One), which is perhaps the most effective twist in the show's history.

Much of "The Massacre at Hawkins Lab" takes place in Eleven's triggered memories. We see One gain her trust. We see Two bully her, then suffer Brenner's consequences. We see her progress from believing she's responsible for the other kids' deaths to understanding that One manipulated her. Finally, we see Eleven shove One through the gate she's opened, turning him into the monster that's been terrorizing Hawkins since the beginning. This memorable episode gives Millie Bobby Brown a wide range of emotional notes to play, and she turns in a spectacular performance.