Watch out! This post contains spoilers.
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After a nearly three-year hiatus, “Stranger Things” has finally returned to Netflix with season four. At the end of season three, Joyce moved her sons and Eleven away from Hawkins, so season four features a six-month time jump and a plethora of new characters surrounding your favorites. Perhaps the most anticipated of the new faces to join this incredibly talented cast is Jamie Campbell Bower. Speculation about his role and his relationship with both Eleven and Hawkins Lab has circulated since images of him on the set of season four first leaked, so let’s break down everything to know about his character, Peter Ballard. Warning you now: this is going to get complicated.
Who Is One, aka Peter Ballard, in “Stranger Things“?
When Bower first appears, he’s introduced as a friendly orderly who works for Hawkins Lab named Peter Ballard. He’s much older than Eleven and the rest of the gifted children at the research facility, but he isn’t nearly as old as the doctors. His presence feels odd, as he works closely with the gifted children but also doesn’t seem to engage them beyond being somewhat of a caregiver — someone the children recognize and feel comfortable around, but not necessarily someone who holds any authority.
Peter takes a special interest in Eleven, especially after witnessing her being bullied by the other children. Her peers think she’s weak and ungifted, and they don’t understand why Dr. Brenner has taken such a serious interest in her. Peter approaches Eleven when she is attempting to sharpen her skills by moving a wooden puck through a maze. She’s struggling, and he compares her to someone he “used to know quite well.” Peter tells her about One, the first of the gifted children who was more powerful than all the rest, but only after he learned how to harness his anger and his hatred to fuel his abilities. One is the only child who is not present and accounted for at Hawkins Lab. Throughout the season, One is nowhere to be seen, and the way Peter talks about him as an old friend leads Eleven and the audience to believe something happened to him.
During the volume one finale, Peter convinces Eleven that Dr. Brenner staged an assault on her by the other children, hoping he could entice them to kill her because he was afraid of her. Peter presents himself as a friendly savior to gain her trust and turn her against the doctors experimenting on her as well as the other children who bully and look down on her. Considering the horrible conditions in which she lives, Peter succeeds in earning her trust and moves to help her escape.
After he takes her to a small pipe that will allow her to crawl out of the facility and off the grounds, Eleven decides to stay and help Peter instead because he would never be able to fit through the pipe. Peter reveals that there is a tracking device implanted in his neck that keeps him from leaving the grounds and “weakens him.” Eleven removes the device by ripping it out of his skin.
Now, this is where the story of Peter Ballard the friendly orderly gets interesting. By this point, it’s somewhat safe to say that while he seems helpful, he also seems shady. There’s enough foreshadowing and story beats to make an audience wonder why he’s so interested in Eleven, especially after we get a glimpse of him being tortured for helping her.
Peter leaves Eleven hidden in a storage room so he can find them a new way to leave the facility together. He asks her to wait, and then we finally see the truth. The opening scene of the season was the massacre of all the gifted children at Hawkins Lab. The way it played out made it seem like Eleven was responsible for all the deaths, and after the horrible bullying and attacks she endured, it’s understandable why a young child with unimaginable power might snap. The truth, however, is that it was Peter all along.
In a manner extremely similar to how Vecna, the main antagonist of the season, kills his victims, the children and staff are contorted until their bones break and they die under the control of Peter. When Eleven sees the carnage for herself, Peter attempts to win her over with the truth: he’s been going by an alias the whole time, and his real name is Henry Creel.
Who Is Henry Creel in “Stranger Things”?
Peter’s real name is Henry Creel, the son of Victor Creel, the man wrongfully imprisoned for the grotesque murder of his family that Nancy and Robin investigate at the start of the season. Victor’s wife and daughter were Henry’s first human victims. He tormented them with images and memories of their past, showing them their “true selves.” When his mother grew suspicious and wary of him, he finally moved to kill her. He set up his father to go down for the murders and was soon taken to Hawkins Lab, where he became the very first gifted child, One.
After a childhood of being mistreated and punished for being different, Henry lost most of his empathy for humanity. He only saw the bad in people and sought to punish them the same way that he punished his family. His power and his thirst for vengeance frightened Dr. Brenner, so they implanted him with the device that Eleven removed to quell his powers and trap him in Hawkins Lab, but also allowing them to attempt to replicate his power in new gifted children who wouldn’t be quite so unstable.
Why Did Henry Creel Try to Save Eleven in “Stranger Things”?
Henry chose to save Eleven because he empathized with her. He saw himself in her and wanted to form a kinship with her so he could remove her from her suffering. Henry saw himself as a savior, but Eleven couldn’t stomach the carnage and destruction he’d caused without batting an eye. Instead of joining him, she retaliated, throwing him back and breaking down his body in the process, opening the very first gate to the Upside Down.
How Did Henry Creel Turn Into Vecna in “Stranger Things”?
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Banished to the Upside Down, Henry was mercilessly attacked and corrupted as the hive mind linked with him. He’s the reason that the Upside Down mimics Hawkins so heavily. He was the Upside Down’s gateway to Hawkins, and the corruption turned him into a monster. The reason that the death of Henry’s parents and the massacre at Hawkins Lab so closely resemble Vecna’s current murders is that Henry is One and One is Vecna. He picks his targets very carefully: teenagers who are suffering, tormented, or haunted by something that makes their life intolerable. Like his attempts to help Eleven end her suffering, he sees his killings as saving his victims.
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