The first two seasons of Stranger Things ended with pretty similar final battles. While the rest of the kids—and Hopper and Joyce—distract the monsters from the Upside Down, Eleven uses her powers to save the day. Stranger Things 3 appeared to be preparing for another big showdown between Eleven and the Mind Flayer—until early in the final episode. When Eleven is trying to move a car she flipped in the middle of Starcourt, nothing happens. Then, in the next scene, Eleven is trying to crush a can of New Coke—a callback to the first season when she’d crush cans of original Coke—but, again, nothing happens.
By the end of the Stranger Things Season Three finale, Eleven’s powers have still not returned.
“They’ll come back, I know they will,” Will tells Eleven three months later when she tries and fails to move a stuffed animal at the top of her closet.
But what actually happened to them? And will they?
The last time we really see Eleven use her powers in this season is at the beginning of the final episode of Season Three. A piece of the Mind Flayer blob has burrowed itself into Eleven’s leg, and the kids are attempting to do some light field surgery to get it out. When that doesn’t work, Eleven uses all the strength she has to suck it out of her body. It works, but we never see her use her powers again.
Most of the time, when Eleven’s powers are depleted, they describe it as if she’s low on batteries, which will eventually recharge. But given that three months pass between when she sucks the Mind Flayer out of her leg and when she still can’t use her powers, something else must be going on. Actress Millie Bobby Brown played coy when Entertainment Weekly asked if her character’s powers would be gone forever:
I think Eleven is powerful with and without powers, so I think that’s always an exciting journey to explore further. But at the end of the day, I have a giant collaboration with the Duffer Brothers, and I definitely have my input, but they are the storytellers and I couldn’t tell you what they’re up to next.
So, we’ll have to dig into the evidence we have from the later episodes of this season.
Clearly, the Mind Flayer being attached to Eleven somehow sapped her of her powers. The details of what the Mind Flayer is and does are still pretty unclear. But we do know that it has the ability to absorb and take control of host bodies. It’s possible that this is also the case with Eleven’s powers. While the Mind Flayer didn’t take control of her body, it’s very possible that it actually took her powers instead. We know that the Mind Flayer was being controlled from the Upside Down, and when Joyce destroyed the portal it also cut the connection to the big spider blob monster. When they closed the portal, it seems that they also cut off Eleven from whatever stole her powers.
There’s another more technical reason for why Eleven had to lose her powers. As one Redditor points out, if Eleven still had her powers, she would have used them to search for Hopper after his supposed death. With Eleven unable to use her Patriot Act wire tapping power, she can’t confirm his death, making it a total mystery until next season.
If Hopper is indeed trapped in the Upside Down—transported there in the explosion of the portal machine—that might mean Season Four would involve the kids traveling there to save Hopper and get Eleven’s powers back.