Warning: There are MAJOR spoilers for Stranger Things 3 ahead.
You have been warned.
While it seems like, at every turn, that we might actually lose her this time, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) doesn’t die during season 3. However, it sure feels like parts of her — yes, multiple parts — have died considering where she is by the end of the season. And the toll Billy and the Flayed take on our girl does tell us one potentially scary thing about Stranger Things season 4's possible storyline: Eleven is not totally invincible.
But when season 3 starts, El is still adjusting to being a normal kid and going through some growing pains along the way. Many of them revolve around her relationship with her adoptive father, Hopper (David Harbour), and the ups and downs of being a new teenager. She’s also trying to make her new romance with Mike (Finn Wolfhard) work, even though he’s being kind of a jerk (Eleven doesn’t realise that Hopper has literally scared the living daylights out of him). On top of that, in an effort to try and save Billy (Dacre Montgomery), Eleven accidentally gets herself marked by the monster so he knows where she is and it comes looking for her. Just another typical day in Hawkins, Indiana.
Somehow, she manages to survive all of the above even though she certainly comes close a few times. With the monster tracking her down, Billy ends up knocking her unconscious and then sacrifices her to the giant new beast. For a hot second, it sure looks like she’s actually going to die but in the end, she makes it out alive — but not because she suddenly hops up and defends herself. Billy sacrifices himself to protect her and everyone else.
She survives, but a huge part of her seems to be dead — at least for now. The battle with the new monster (and Billy) causes Eleven loses her powers. She basically just uses them so hard, and so much, that she depletes her energy source (she makes a comment about how she needs to “recharge,” but that doesn’t happen by the end of the season). It appears as if some small inkling of her powers still remain, exemplified by the low humming that happens when she tries to use them to move a stuffed animal as the season closes out. But, she can’t move objects with her mind. She can’t communicate with others telepathically. She’s lost her ability to use ESP, and she’s certainly not having any nosebleeds. While overall she’s fine, she’s really only operating at 50 percent.
As if that’s not enough for her to grapple with, Eleven has also lost the most important person in her life. Hopper seemingly dies at the end of the season leaving her without her parental guardian for the last few years. Sure, she moves in with the Wheelers and Joyce (Winona Ryder) will certainly take good care of her, but Eleven and Hopper worked so well together. This is definitely going to have a lasting impact on her as she grows up as she already has so few people in her life that she truly trusts. (Even if Hopper isn't really dead, as some fans believe, that perception of initial loss is definitely going to have an impact.)
To pile on, Joyce has also decided to leave Hawkins behind. At the beginning of the season, she tells Hopper she’s planning to move her family, and she does — taking Eleven with her. So now Eleven’s lost her powers, her father, and the only place she’s ever been able to call home, her boyfriend, and her only girlfriend, now that she and Max have finally become real friends.
Going into season 4, we’re definitely going to see a new side of Eleven as her world has been completely shaken. She’s going to have to find a way to piece herself back together, and that includes tapping back into her powers that everyone is desperately going to need if they’re going to defeat the Upside Down once and for all. The question season 3 makes us ask as we wait for the final chapter is: Can she rebuild her strength and pull it off?
Stranger Things Season 3 is on Netflix now