STRANGER THINGS is Back and the Dungeons & Dragons Inspired Villains Keep Getting Better

Dungeons and Dragons' most fearsome greater villain enters the Stranger Things universe.

A group of people playing Dungeons and Dragons by candlelight in Stranger Things season four.

Stranger Things is back. Let’s discuss the series to date, spoilers ahead. Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) goes missing in the first episode, in Hawkins, Indiana on the street his group of friends fictionally call Mirkwood. Mirkwood is a dense and heavy woodland in eastern Rhovanion in The Lord of the Rings series of books by J. R. R. Tolkein first published in 1955. It was later part of a Dungeons and Dragons (5e) campaign within Aventures of Middle-Earth. The popular fantasy tabletop role-playing game, first published in 1974 continues to be a through-line in the Netflix series, specifically with regards to its villains.

Season One introduced Will’s friends, Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo), Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfard), and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), a girl with psychic abilities from Hawkins Lab. As Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) assists in the search, Nancy Wheeler’s (Natalia Dyer) best friend Barbara Holland (Shannon Purser), is taken to the Upside Down, a dismal, filthy, and gloomy alternate dimension. By the season finale, Nancy, Will’s brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) have battled and distracted the Demogorgon long enough for Will to be discovered by his mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Hopper. While Will’s friends are in a final battle with both the “bad men” from Hawkins Lab and the Demogorgon at Hawkins Middle School where Eleven disappears after destroying the Demogorgon. In Dungeons and Dragons, the Demogorgon is a chaotic evil demon lord and lesser deity from the Abyss within the Gaping Maw.

In Season Two, a small remnant of the Mind Flayer or Illithid breaks through the barrier into our world and inhabits Will’s body. The Illithid are tentacle-faced creatures from the Underdark in Dungeons and Dragons that seek to enslave other races. They typically dwell in moist caverns and have a hatred of the sun. As Will states after he’s first inhabited, “He likes it cold.” Will’s psychic connection to the Mind Flayer is made apparent when burning the growth between the down inflicts pain on Will. Eventually, they expel the Mind Flayer, and Hawkins Lab is shut down. Eleven and Mike dance and share their first kiss as the Mind Flayer looms over Hawkins in the Upside Down.

In Season Three the Mind Flayer returns in the goriest season yet culminating in a showdown at Starcourt Mall on the fourth of July. In Dungeons and Dragons, the creature dines on the brains of other creatures and requires hormones, enzymes, and psychic energy to sustain its physiology. In the last season, several new characters were introduced including, Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink), her step-brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery), and Lucas’ little sister Erica Sinclair (Priah Ferguson), an investigative reporter Murray Bauman (Brett Gelman). These supporting characters all play much larger roles in the new season. While Steve and newcomer Robin (Maya Hawke) sling ice cream at Scoops Ahoy.

Billy becomes the new host for the Mind Slayer, forced to do its bidding, which includes helping the Mind Flayer reanimate itself by consuming the bodies of people from Hawkins. The group of friends must fight for survival against not only the Mind Flayer but the Russian government. During the battle at Starcourt Mall with the Mind Flayer, Joyce and Hopper infiltrate the Russian base below to close the gate to the Upside Down. Billy fights against the Mind Flayer’s possession and sacrifices himself to save Eleven and the others. In perhaps the most gut-wrenching moment of the series, Hopper sacrifices himself to save Joyce and the town from the Upside Down by destroying the machine that opened the gate. With a tearful goodbye a month later, Joyce, Jonathan, Will, and Eleven leave Hawkins behind.

In the latest trailer for Stranger Things 4 things get much darker in Hawkins as Vecna, one of the greatest villains in Dungeons and Dragons from the World of Greyhawk campaign is introduced. Vecna, once a human king ascended to a deity, becoming a decrepit lich. He is considered the scourge of all civilizations in the multiverse. Unlike earlier seasons, the final trailer for the new season spends a significant portion of the time introducing a side of the Upside Down we’ve never seen before and the Creel House where the mysteries of what’s been truly been plaguing Hawkins await our heroes. Victor Creel is being portrayed by horror legend Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984) and Stranger Things co-creator Ross Duffer said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly confirmed that “What occurs in that house is pivotal to understanding what has been happening in Hawkins all of these years.”

What chance do these mere mortals have against the greater evil that is Vecna? Only time will tell. The Stranger Things 4 trailer presents an ominous tone, warning that war is coming. A long-awaited, ultimate showdown is what audiences are expecting. Hopefully, the new season will live up to those expectations as previous installments did and continue to blend science fiction, horror, and fantasy.

Volume One of the fourth season of Stranger Things releases on Netflix on May 27, 2022, followed by Volume Two on July 1, 2022.