Heading into the end of season four, I suppose it is worth it to look at one character in particular.
See, Dr. Brenner dies in this episode, fittingly titled “Papa” since all the psychic kids called him that, and I figure it may be worth considering whether the character was redeemed in the end for his actions throughout the series. Season four has largely shown him in a new light, one where his actions were given a little context that arguably does not absolve him of his wrongdoing but at least explains them in a way that makes them seem more understandable. He knew there were psychic kids thanks to Henry Creel, and he figured training some of them to deal with the dangers of the world was not a bad idea, especially as Henry himself proved to be to so, let’s say, unhelpful.
So, really, Eleven might have been suspected of the murder of the other kids, but she wasn’t directly responsible and she knows that now. There’s some context for Brenner so he isn’t just some mustache-twirling bad guy, but Stranger Things rarely goes that route with human characters.
Then again, I say this in the same episode that has Nancy’s group going out to buy weapons at what I am guessing is some kind of Army/Navy surplus store or something. I know the show is set in Indiana, and even today Indiana has some pretty loose laws on gun purchasing, but it was still a bit disturbing to see Jason and his buddies there just loading up on guns and ammo. The scene is played seriously at a tense level, but there’s a part of me that really wonders if anyone is keeping an eye out on the high school basketball team stockpiling weapons to hunt at least one other human being, assuming they don’t see the other members of the roleplaying club as fair game.
Also, the Soviets have a lot of dead Demogorgons and a bit of the Mindflayer in a tube, but the US Military doesn’t come off looking too good this season either.
What was I saying about mustache-twirling villains? Oh yeah. Brenner isn’t one.
While I would not say Brenner is redeemed here, it helps that he tries to save Eleven’s life when the military comes gunning for her rather literally. Of course, there might have been less trouble there if he didn’t decide to try and hold onto her when Owens decided to listen when Eleven made it clear they had to leave to rescue Dustin, Nancy, Robin, Steve, Lucas, Erica, Eddie, and especially Max since they think just getting a bunch of guns and charging into the Upside Down’s version of Creel mansion, AKA 1313 Mockingbird Lane, is a good idea. The Vecna needs four portals to return to the human world. He told Nancy that. The others know Vecna creates a portal every time he kills someone, and he already has three victims. Max is the intended fourth. Max will be bait because Max doesn’t mess around.
But they’ll still need Eleven because I am pretty sure guns won’t stop anything bigger than a breadbasket in the Upside Down. Brenner isn’t inclined to let her, pulling some kind of Yoda to her Luke in Empire Strikes Back by saying she needs to complete her training. She may, but it doesn’t feel like the right answer. By the time Brenner is satisfied that Eleven has enough training, the Vecna will probably have taken over the world or something. They really are on a clock here.
And if love makes a psychic stronger, then by god, sending Eleven out to rescue loved ones is absolutely the right thing to do.
However, even though Eleven takes time to tell Brenner he wasn’t a good man for locking kids up, stealing them from parents, and torturing them to give them psychic powers even if it was for the greater good, he still tries to carry her away and gets shot to death for his efforts. And she does get mad enough to bring down an attack helicopter as a result, as well as staying by him long enough to watch him die, call him “Papa” one last time, and then take off in a pizza delivery van to get back to Hawkins as quickly as possible.
Man, Argyle is so fired from his pizza delivery job, isn’t he?