Spoilers for Stranger Things below! You know the drill.
I didn't think things could get any crazier for the group of friends at the heart of Stranger Things after the insanity of season two, but clearly I was wrong. Season three has arrived, and with it comes a whole bunch of twists and turns for the main characters. Billy, for instance, is possessed by the Mind Flayer and becomes even more violent and threatening than usual. Hopper might be gone for good. And Eleven? Well, Eleven loses her powers.
The silent telepath who we meet in season one is a far cry from the self-assured Elle who runs around the mall with Max in season three. She listens to pop music now! And has sleepovers! And shops at the Gap! And has the courage to break up with Mike in epic fashion ("I dump your ass")! But just when Elle was finally finding her footing as a "normal" teenager being raised by her adoptive dad, Hopper, the Mind Flayer returns and messes things up for everyone.
By the end of season three, Eleven has been put through the wringer both physically and mentally in an effort to protect her friends. Practically every scene she's in ends with her getting a nosebleed from using her powers to psychically spy on people, ripping monsters in two, tossing Billy through a wall . . . the list goes on. She also ends up with a severely wounded leg in the season finale that was so gruesome, I had to look away from the screen.
Mentally, Eleven ends up traumatized from journeying deep, deep into Billy's psyche. She witnesses him torturing his coworker, Heather, under the influence of the Mind Flayer, and then takes a walk through his brain down memory lane and into his childhood. She sees him as a happy kid in California, growing up with a pretty mother who clearly loved him. Eleven also witnesses the extremes of Billy's father's physical and verbal abuse, which he hurled at both his wife and son. Her vision into Billy's past reveals that his mother decides to leave to save herself, but she doesn't take her son with her. This destroys him, and it's not hard to connect the dots and see why he grows up to be such a violent, abusive man himself.
All of this is to say that by the end of things, when the Mind Flayer reaches the Starcourt Mall for an epic final showdown, Eleven is running on empty. This manifests physically when she attempts to flip a car over with her powers, but nothing happens; she can't even dent a can of Coca-Cola.
After the Mind Flayer is (seemingly) defeated, the show jumps forward in time three months. Eleven is moving to a new town with Joyce, Will, and Jonathan now that Hopper appears to be dead. As she packs, she sees a teddy bear in a closet that's too high up to reach. Eleven tries to use her powers to bring it down, but to no avail — she's still powerless. So, will Eleven's powers ever return? Here are some theories:
1. Eleven's Powers Come Back Naturally
When we last check in with Elle, it's only been three months since she lost both Hop and her powers. And now she's moving in with a brand new family in a brand new town! That's a lot of change and grief for a teenager to endure. Perhaps Elle's powers will return when she's once again in a good place mentally and has had time to properly rest.
The problem with this theory is that Eleven grew up in a sadistic lab full of stress and despair at the hands of Dr. Martin Brenner — why didn't her powers forsake her then? I could argue that she didn't know anything else at that point in her sheltered, confined life; that was merely the norm.
Either way, Eleven was born with her powers because of the experiments Brenner and his scientists performed on her mother. I have to assume that they won't just disappear.
2. Eleven's "Sister" Returns and Helps Her Reawaken Her Powers
Remember Eleven's "sister"? From that
terrible interesting season two bottle episode set in Chicago? She's Hawkins Lab experiment #008, and she calls herself Kali. Kali displays an entirely different set of abilities from Eleven. Instead of having telekinetic powers that allow her to move things with her mind, she's an illusionist — she can trick the mind into seeing things that are not there. When she and Elle link up, Kali is able to help her sister focus and really hone her powers.
We later find out that Kali's mission is to track down those who are currently (or were formerly) involved with the Hawkins Lab experiments. Basically, Kali finds them and kills them. Eleven isn't down with all the violence and she bounces back to Hawkins, but what if she and Kali link back up in season four? Kali has to come back, right? Why else would the Duffers have introduced her?
If she does come back into the picture next season — and she better — she might be the key to helping Eleven get her powers back. Perhaps Kali and other Hawkins Lab experiments will unite to reawaken their sister's powers and defeat any lingering traces of the Upside Down.
3. A Moment of Extreme Emotion or Stress (Like the Reappearance of Hopper) Brings Them Back
Is Hopper actually dead? Given the Russian soldier's mention of "the American" in the postcredits scene in season three's finale, I'm not betting on it. So, it stands to reason that he and Eleven will reunite in season four in epic fashion. What if she has to travel to Russia to save him, and that's what finally pushes her powers back to the surface? Or, what if he comes to visit her in her new town, and simply just seeing him at the door is enough to heal Elle and restore her to her normal, telekinetic self?
As with all things Stranger Things, this is one hell of a mystery, and we can't wait to figure it out.