Stranger Things season 4 looks set to tell Netflix’s own X-Men story. The Duffer brothers have never made a secret of their love for the X-Men; the very first chapter featured a scene where Will and Dustin discussed Uncanny X-Men #134, and in Chapter Three, Dustin suggested Eleven could be a mutant, like Professor X. Stranger Things season 4, episode 1 “The Hellfire Club,” a reference to a classic group of X-Men villains.
Eleven is best seen as a Jean Grey analogue, possessing a creative riff on Jean’s telepathic and telekinetic powers (and it’s no coincidence her real name was eventually revealed to be “Jane,” so close to “Jean”). The Jean Grey imagery came to a climax at the very end of Stranger Things season 2, when Eleven levitated and manifested a telekinetic shield – Jean’s stereotypical powers. The associated energy surges sweeping around Eleven were even reminiscent of the Phoenix raptor that sweeps around Jean at times she’s tied to the cosmic Phoenix Force. Meanwhile, the ending of season 3 – with Eleven losing her powers – is reminiscent of the fate writer Chris Claremont originally intended for Jean at the end of his classic Dark Phoenix Saga. The X-Men imagery is usually subtle, but it’s clearly there.
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And that makes the Stranger Things season 4 teaser all the more curious, because it raises the possibility the show will go full X-Men and see Eleven working in synergy with other superhumans for the first time in her life.
Stranger Things Season 4 Features Other Superhuman Children
Until now, Stranger Things has really been the story of one super-powered child – Eleven, the most powerful, who at her peak was able to open and seal tears in the very fabric of reality; it’s testimony to Eleven’s sheer raw power that all the equipment constructed by the Russians in Stranger Things season 3 was an attempt to do what Eleven had done by the power of her mind alone, creating a Gate to the Upside-Down. But the teaser for Stranger Things season 4 spent a deliberate attempt of time focusing on other children who were experimented upon by Dr. Brenner.
They may be other children experimented on at Hawkins Lab; tie-ins have introduced a number of other test subjects, such as the empathic Three, the precognitive Six, and the possible pyrokinetic Nine, while season 2 introduced the illusion-caster Kali, aka Eight. Alternatively, these children could have been identified by Dr. Brenner in the last few years, since his death was faked during the Demogorgon attack, and he could be running another facility. Whatever the nature of these children may be – whether they’re still children, or the teaser was a flashback and they’re now grown up – that teaser suggests Stranger Things is about to change its focus. It’s time to meet a lot more superhumans.
The Hawkins Institute is best seen as a dark reflection of Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in the X-Men comics. Where Xavier is a mutant who sought to teach fellow mutants how best to control their powers, Dr. Brenner is a human who wishes to weaponize gifted individuals. And although Xavier has always been “shades of gray” in terms of his morality – one of his students, Kitty Pryde, is most famous for a scene in which she boldly declared “Professor Xavier is a jerk!” – Brenner’s experiments are even more unethical in nature.
The X-Men Have Always Synergized Their Powers
In the X-Men comics, Professor Xavier does most of his training in a facility called the Danger Room. While this is a combat environment, the main goal is to encourage mutants to use their powers in concert. From a scientific viewpoint, Xavier’s greatest goal has always been to find ways for mutants to work in tandem, creating what he has called mutant “circuits,” and the sheer potential of such circuits has been demonstrated in Jonathan Hickman’s current X-Men comic book range. There, five X-Men have literally conquered death, synergizing their powers and Cerebro technology in order to resurrect millions of dead mutants; another circuit has been able to raid the heart of the Multiverse itself, retrieving the very essence of creation. The potential really is breathtaking.
Until now, it’s seemed as though Dr. Brenner was experimenting on his test subjects in isolation, treating them as individuals and never attempting to create anything resembling the X-Men’s mutant circuits. But the Stranger Things season 4 teaser suggests that, while this was mostly the case with Eleven, there have been – or, if this class is in the present, are – times when Brenner gets his children to synergize their powers. It will be fascinating to see what feats these test subjects can accomplish together.
What Would Eleven Gain From Such A Synergy?
All this raises the intriguing question of whether Eleven herself will wind up synergizing her phenomenal abilities with those of other test subjects, whether from Hawkins or elsewhere. It is possible her place in a conceptually similar “circuit” could be what restores her powers, which were lost after her confrontation with the Mind-Flayer in Stranger Things season 4. That would be a smart approach for the Duffer brothers to take, because it would force Eleven – who has reveled in her independence – to truly accept there are times when she actually needs to be part of a greater whole.
It’s safe to assume Eleven will regain her abilities, because the idea of a season of Stranger Things without a super-powered Eleven doesn’t bear thinking about. However that happens, she could well wind up using her powers in concert with others, and that would mean she could accomplish more than ever before. Given the extent and breathtaking range of Eleven’s powers already, it’s impossible to say what feats she would be capable of (and, indeed, it would also partly depend on what the other test subjects she was working alongside could do). But that could be just the kind of edge Eleven needs in a season sure to feature both Dr. Brenner and Russian enemies. It would also be the final step in transforming Stranger Things into a true X-Men analogue, because Eleven would no longer be alone; she would be part of a team.
More: Stranger Things: Everything We Know About Eleven’s Origins
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