Read with caution: The following contains major spoilers for "Stranger Things" season 4, volume 2!
The long-awaited fourth season of "Stranger Things" is finally here. Due to pandemic-related shutdowns, season 4 of Netflix’s hit sci-fi series premiered three years after season 3 shattered streaming records, and scattered its cast to the winds. In season 4, half of the kids are on spring break in Hawkins, while Mike visits Eleven, Will, and Jonathan in California, and Joyce heads to Russia to find Hopper. Through flashbacks, the newest season also brings us back to Hawkins Lab, where we see Dr. Brenner’s experiments at their peak and meet a variety of new characters with supernatural powers. Given these additions, perhaps it’s time to rank each of the show’s superhuman characters based on the strength of their abilities.
But first, a quick caveat: The "Stranger Things" universe has dramatically expanded in the time between seasons. In 2018, Dark Horse launched a line of comics based on the Netflix show, and 2019 saw the release of the first of several tie-in novels that dive into various characters’ backstories. Creators Matt and Ross Duffer have reportedly already planned the fifth and final and final season of "Stranger Things," so it’s possible that some of these additional characters will pop up in future episodes. For now, however, let’s simplify our campaign and focus solely on the characters that appear on screen.
12. Terry Ives
We meet Terry Ives (Aimee Mullins), who is in a catatonic state, midway through season 1. Though she doesn’t play a large part in the onscreen action, she is a critical piece of the show’s initial mysteries, and a source of strength for her daughter. The tie-in novel "Suspicious Minds" expands on Terry’s backstory, revealing that she was a young woman with mild telepathic abilities who participated in one of Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine)’s early experiments. Under the guidance of the man who will someday be known as "Papa," Terry takes psychedelic drugs before learning she is pregnant with the baby who would grow up to be called Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown).
Terry’s child, who is (correctly) assumed to have powers of her own, is kidnapped immediately after birth. Years later, Terry breaks into the lab to try to get her daughter back, but pays a heavy price for her rebellion. Dr. Brenner subjects Terry to extreme electroshock treatments that leave her comatose. When Eleven finds her, Terry has been reduced to sitting in a chair, quietly repeating the words, "Breathe. Sunflower. Rainbow. Three to the right, four to the left. 450," referring to the traumatic events that unfolded after Eleven was born. Though Terry’s story is tragic, she does get a chance to reunite with her daughter, using her weak telepathy to convey her love for Eleven and to connect her with Kali, Eleven’s spiritual sister.
Season 4 of "Stranger Things" opens with a bang. After a slow reveal of Dr. Brenner getting ready for work on September 8th, 1979, we’re back in the rainbow room at the height of his experiments. Children and teenagers, all wearing hospital gowns and sweatsuits with shaved heads, play with toys using their psychic powers. These are Eleven’s fellow test subjects, some of whom we will come to know better in the coming episodes. Dr. Brenner enters the room, ready to start the day, and talks to a young boy with 010 tattooed on his inner forearm. Using a magic 8-ball, Ten (Christian Ganiere) tells Dr. Brenner that yes, he is ready for more lessons.
They retreat to a private testing room where, with wires attached to his head, Ten attempts to describe the drawings on Dr. Brenner’s hidden clipboard. He possesses remote viewing, i.e., the extrasensory ability to perceive things outside of the physical field of vision. Along with most of the test subjects, Ten also has telekinetic powers, which he uses to mentally manipulate the 8-ball.
Unfortunately, Ten does not possess precognition and does not predict the massacre to come. While attempting to identify another doctor in the facility, Ten sees visions of blood and begins to cry. Seconds later, screams sound outside the room. The heavy door is blown in by a powerful force, killing Ten in what will come to be known as the Massacre at Hawkins Lab.
10. Will Byers
Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) is in the wrong place at the wrong time when he is first dragged into the Upside Down. Even worse, he spends the majority of the first season there. While trapped, Will communicates with his mother, Joyce (Winona Ryder) by manipulating electricity, though this seems to be more of a feature of the Upside Down rather than a unique power that Will possesses. He’s ultimately rescued by Eleven, Joyce, and Chief Hopper, but season 1’s final episode shows that the Upside Down is not done with the teen just yet: On Christmas, Will sneaks into the bathroom and vomits up a baby Demogorgon.
Will’s time in the Upside Down gives him a special sort of perception that Mike (Finn Wolfhard) dubs "True Sight." Will is able to flip into the Upside Down, although this uncontrollable ability often feels more like a curse than a blessing. He also has a psychic connection with the Mind Flayer, the sentient being that controls the Upside Down, and is able to detect the malevolent creature’s activity by feeling a twinge at the nape of his neck. Will is possessed by the Mind Flayer in season 2 and slowly loses control of his body, but is thankfully able to hold onto pieces of his mind and sends secret messages to his friends and family using Morse Code. Will maintains this connection with the Upside Down as the series continues, often providing key insights into both the Mind Flayer and Vecna.
9. Three, Four, and Five
Three (Morgan Gao), Four (Sparrow Nicole), and Five (Jessica Arden Napier) are members of the older generation of the Hawkins Lab test subjects. Possessing powers similar to Eleven’s, the teenagers are capable of telekinesis, extra sensory perception, and the ability to manipulate electricity. They are friends with Two (Tristan Spohn), and bully Eleven when a sparring session reveals that she is stronger than they are. Left alone with Eleven in the rainbow room, they threaten to kill the young girl if she reports their abuse. Then, they circle Eleven and use their telekinetic powers to push her around. Though their combined powers are not as formidable as Eleven’s, they are aided by a lack of morality that allows them to brutalize their fellow test subjects. That said, they’re also fairly weak-willed, and we see that they’re essentially dominated by Two, acting out violently on his orders.
Season 4 marks the first time we’ve seen the larger Hawkins Lab group as a whole. While we don’t learn much about many of the other test subjects, we see glimpses of them playing in the rainbow room and get a sense of how powerful they are during the duels Dr. Brenner orchestrates. This group includes Two, Fourteen, Nine, Seven, Sixteen, Seventeen, Thirteen, and Twelve. While each child is unique, they all seem to have some form of telepathy and telekinesis, recreations of the powers possessed by the project’s first test subject.
8. The Flayed
The unfortunate Hawkins residents who are possessed by the Mind Flayer in season 3 are known as the Flayed. Beginning with Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery), the victims are attacked by vine-like tendrils that give them monstrous powers and cause them to do the Mind Flayer’s bidding. While possessed, they maintain some of their humanity, and are able to go about their regular lives, collecting new victims as they go. They are also connected to a type of hive mind, and can communicate telepathically with the Mind Flayer and anyone else under his control. But the Mind Flayer’s influence is hard on the Flayed’s bodies. Their veins pulse with an inky liquid, and they crave fertilizer and household cleaning products.
The Flayed possess superhuman strength, but not enhanced durability, and the longer they remain at the Mind Flayer’s disposal the more their bodies disintegrate. Once they’re either dead or no longer useful, the Flayed explode into piles of viscera that come together and regenerate into larger forms. For example, the bodies of local reporters Bruce Lowe (Jake Busey) and Tom Holloway (Michael Park), killed while attacking Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), reassemble as the Hospital Monster, a crab-like creature made from their combined remains. Later, the Flayed form the Spider Monster, who attacks Eleven at the Starcourt Mall. Though the Flayed are hideous and powerful, they are limited by an aversion to heat and are dependent on their connection to the Mind Flayer. Breaking this link will make them collapse into useless piles of flesh and blood.
Two (Tristan Spohn) is the oldest known test subject at Hawkins Lab. Possessing strong telekinetic powers, he easily makes it to the last round of Dr. Brenner’s sparring contest, nearly defeating Eleven, his final challenger.
Throughout season 4, we see flashbacks in which a friendly orderly (Jamie Campbell Bower) coaches Eleven and helps her learn to use her abilities. He instructs her to channel the emotion from a painful memory and spin the anger, fear, and sadness into psychic power. As a gentle soul, Eleven struggles with this, even though she has plenty of upsetting experiences to choose from. Two, on the other hand, is very much in touch with his anger. He is a psychopathic bully who relishes his status as the strongest and oldest of the kids. As such, he is humiliated by his loss to Eleven, and enlists fellow test subjects Three, Four, and Five to make her pay for her victory.
Dr. Brenner encourages this one-sided rivalry, creating opportunities for Two’s bullying, perhaps in hopes of strengthening Eleven’s own powers. However, afraid of Two’s lack of control, Brenner punishes the teen by affixing a shock collar around his neck, one that subdues Two when he attempts to use his powers. It’s further humiliation for a bully whose life has been filled with pain and exploitation. Though Two is the most malevolent of the known test subjects, he is still only a pawn in Dr. Brenner’s cruel experiments. Denied a name and known only by a number, it’s no wonder that he desperately grasps for any power he can find.
If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.
6. Kali Prasad (Eight)
Also known as Eight, Kali Prasad (Linnea Berthelsen) is a former Hawkins test subject and friend to Eleven. Though the younger girl barely remembers her older "sister," Eleven sees Kali in the memory her mother shares of the two girls playing together in the rainbow room. Kali possesses the unique gift of "mental domination," able to create illusions that can be both seen and felt in the minds of her targets.
When we first meet Kali, she is fleeing from the police. As the sirens get closer to her speeding van, Kali makes it look like an overhead bridge has collapsed, blocking the police cars from following her through the tunnel. When police later find her headquarters, Kali renders her group invisible by creating the illusion of an empty room in the officers’ minds.
Kali used her unique ability to escape from the lab, and has found a group of misfit friends to help her seek revenge on those who hurt her. Eleven joins them on a mission to kill former orderly Ray Carroll (Pruitt Taylor Vince), whom Eleven remembers shocking the lab’s children with a cattle prod. Though Eleven has killed before, it was out of self-defense and a desire to protect those she loves. Ultimately, Eleven rejects Kali’s quest for vengeance and returns to Hawkins. Though they ultimately part ways, Eleven learns a lot from Kali. Not only does she find a connection to her past, but Kali teaches her to harness her anger and focus her powers.
5. The Demogorgon
Named for a fearsome creature from Dungeons and Dragons lore, the Demogorgon roams the Upside Down as a powerful part of the Mind Flayer’s army. Little is known about the origin of this species, but they begin life inside a human host. When they are expelled from the body, they emerge as tiny slugs and go through several molting phases, growing rapidly into Demodogs before becoming full-grown monsters.
The Demogorgon is bipedal, resembling a tall and gangly human with a flower-like face that opens to reveal petals lined with razor-sharp teeth. The Duffer Brothers described their signature monster to Entertainment Weekly as "an interdimensional being that has more in common with the shark from ‘Jaws’ than Pennywise from ‘It.’" Bound by the laws of physics, Demogorgons possess enhanced strength and have regenerative properties, but are repelled by fire and can be destroyed in many of the same ways that are fatal to humans.
The Demogorgon who drags Will Byers into the Upside Down is a fully-grown version of this species. Portrayed by Mark Steger, he hunts for victims and uses mild telekinesis along with a heightened sensitivity to blood to pull them into the Upside Down. Once in its lair, it will either devour his prey or use them as a host in which to reproduce. The Demogorgon is capable of interdimensional travel, creating a temporary tear between worlds each time he enters ours. Nancy Wheeler and Jonathan Byers lure it through the barrier between realities with their blood, then trap it and attempt to burn it with a makeshift flamethrower. Hopper uses fire to ward off a similar Demogorgon held captive in Russia before decapitating it with a sword.
4. Billy Hargrove
Billy Hargrove (Dacre Montgomery) rolls into town at the beginning of season 2 and wastes no time in making his mark. The older step-brother of Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink), Billy is a terrifying bully who copes with a lifetime of abuse by spreading his misery to anyone who crosses his path, although his younger sister and her friends are his most frequent targets. With his cruel words and powerful fists, Billy is terrifying because he feels so real. Describing their inspiration for the character, the Duffer brothers told Entertainment Weekly, "Stephen King always has really great human villains. The evil in the real world is often as bad or worse than the supernatural evil, so we wanted to introduce a character like that."
Billy becomes even more deadly in season 3. He crashes his car when driving past the Brimborn Steel Works and is pulled inside the empty factory, where he is possessed by the Mind Flayer. This gives him access to the mysterious creature’s hive mind as well as superhuman strength and durability. Though he’s still vulnerable to heat, Billy’s enhancements almost make him as powerful as Eleven herself. Billy is also able to turn the tables on Eleven’s remote viewing, and finds her while she is trying to locate him. But Billy maintains a significant piece of his humanity, too; he is the only one of the Flayed who doesn’t become part of the Mind Flayer’s Spider Monster. With Eleven’s help, he rejects his possessor’s influence long enough to protect the girl and her friends, sacrificing himself to save them.
3. The Mind Flayer
The Mind Flayer dominates the Upsides Down, exerting ultimate control over all of its creatures. The shadowy version of the villain seen in season 2 appears as a cloud of black smoke that converges to form a giant spider-like creature that looms over Hawkins. The Mind Flayer possesses Will Byers with this smoke, giving him a way to spy on the opposition. However, this doorway works both ways, and Will is able to gather valuable information about the monster’s plans as well.
When Eleven closes the interdimensional gate, part of the Mind Flayer remains stuck in our reality. The Russians activate these particles when they attempt to reopen the gate and the Mind Flayer is reborn, using the bodies of Hawkins’ residents to create hordes of possessed humans. In season 3, the Flayer commands Billy and the other members of his growing army to bring their victims to the steel mill so that he can dominate them with his poisonous tentacles.
With its powerful psychic powers and amorphous physical form, the Mind Flayer has more in common with the cosmic horrors of H.P. Lovecraft than more traditional movie monsters. The Mind Flayer is capable of "biokinesis," or the ability to manipulate the bodies of those he possesses, but this disgusting creature is also dependent on its connection to its host in the Upside Down. Once Joyce Byers closes the gate, it severs the mental connection between the Mind Flayer and his avatar, making the monster little more than piles of disembodied flesh.
2. Vecna (One)
For much of the show’s run, the Hawkins Lab’s first test subject is thought to be dead, but his psychokinetic powers serve as the inspiration for all the abilities Dr. Brenner develops in his young charges. However, part one of "Stranger Things" season 4 concludes with the shocking reveal that One (Jamie Campbell Bower) is still alive. He was formerly a boy named Henry Creel (Raphael Luce), who went on to work as an orderly in the Lab. He also has the ability to change the perceptions of those around him, and uses this gift to torture and kill his family, crimes that serve as the catalyst for Dr. Brenner’s experiments.
At first, One befriends Eleven and convinces her to remove an inhibitor device implanted in his skin. With his powers unleashed, he massacres the lab’s other subjects, and has a showdown with Eleven in the ruined rainbow room. Eleven eventually gets the better of One and dispatches him to the Upside Down, but his regenerative powers come in handy in that harsh environment. Eventually, One transforms into the terrifying monster known as Vecna and connects with the Mind Flayer. Time will tell if these beings are actually one and the same, but this powerful partnership will likely dominate the fifth and final season of "Stranger Things."
Using a technique that Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) dubs Vecna’s Curse, the former human seeks out troubled victims and exploits their past traumas. Once he has located his prey, Vecna’s targets suffer from headaches, and soon begin to see visions that play directly into their negative intrusive thoughts, mentally torturing themselves with their own guilt and shame. In the final stage of this torment, Vecna destroys his victims’ physical bodies, breaking their bones and gouging out their eyes. Each death creates another portal between worlds, four of which will give Vecna unprecedented power over Hawkins.
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) is the most gifted test subject at the Hawkins Lab, and most likely the most powerful character on "Stranger Things." She possesses strong telekinetic abilities, telepathy, and remote viewing capabilities, and is able to use sensory deprivation to locate nearly anyone in the world. Using her skills, however, takes a physical toll on her body, and she usually experiences nosebleeds and exhaustion after pushing her abilities. The battle with the Spider Monster at the Starcourt Mall leaves Eleven without the use of her powers, for example, and season 4 sees her dig into the recesses of her mind to restore them. She recovers her memories of the massacre at the lab, and realizes that she inadvertently created Vecna by sending One into the Upside Down instead of becoming his murderous partner.
Eleven is also able to enter the minds of others, as seen when she finds Billy’s memory of a cherished day he spent on the beach with his mother. Gently touching Billy’s cheek, Eleven uses this gift to amplify his willpower and enhances his strength so that he can fight back against the Mind Flayer’s possession. She is also capable of biokinesis, disintegrating the Demogorgon and seemingly bringing Max back to life. Eleven’s most significant power, though, is portal manipulation. She created the gate between our reality and the Upside Down, and she’s the one who closed this portal in season 2, although she leaves a disembodied piece of the Mind Flayer trapped in Hawkins. The final battle for Hawkins has yet to occur, but it stands to reason that if Eleven is strong enough to create Vecna, she must also be strong enough to kill him.