Stranger Things 4 is the show’s most expansive season yet, with the action split between Indiana, Nevada, Russia, and California. The first three locations are essential to the plot, but — and this is one of the biggest questions and criticisms I’ve seen online about the new season — why did creators Matt and Ross Duffer, known professionally as the Duffer brothers, send Eleven, Joyce, Mike, Will, etc. to California, only to have them almost immediately flee the state? Basically, it’s the same reason Captain Marvel didn’t instantly destroy Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War? She was, uh, busy.
“I guess if there is a formula to Stranger Things, the idea of everyone kind of solving one piece of the puzzle and then joining forces together, that is not possible in the same way that it was before,” Matt told Variety. “So we love the idea of throwing that challenge at our characters, the idea that Eleven is so far away from Hawkins that she can’t swoop in like Superman in the same way she has before and save the day.”
Also, Eleven doesn’t have her powers (except for the power to smack bratty girls in the face with a roller skate).
Matt added that one of the reasons why Stranger Things leaned “much harder into horror movie territory” in season four is due to Eleven’s absence. “It’s so often that she’s able to come in and kind of rescue our characters and she isn’t there. And so they feel particularly vulnerable,” he explained. “They are exposed and vulnerable in a way that they haven’t been before as they move into this final fight with Vecna.”
Stranger Things returns for two very long episodes on July 1.