Matthew Modine Knows Where He Wants Eleven's Stranger Things Story To Go

Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) is dead for real. At least, the mad scientist who just keeps coming back seems to be really, fully dead by the end of "Stranger Things" season 4, when Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) escapes his clutches yet again. The often-villainous "Papa" might be gone, but that doesn't mean the actor who plays him isn't still invested in the future of Netflix's biggest series. Modine, it turns out, has a theory about Eleven's powers that actually makes a lot of sense.

In an interview with Hollywood Life, the actor explained that he sees Dr. Brenner as "a profound, philosophical person" who was chosen to lead the Hawkins experiments for a reason. "Why was Dr. Brenner chosen to be the person who led those experiments?" he asked. "What gifts did he have?" The answer, as he sees it, is pretty simple: "I think what Brenner knows most is that love is more powerful than hate."

What Brenner knew

This is a pretty generous read on the doctor, who is a character that the series has never quite seemed to know what to do with. Early on, he was coded as a cruel bad guy who only ingratiated himself to Eleven via what amounts to Stockholm Syndrome: he called the experiments his "children," but he also took part in a process that involved kidnapping them, deceiving them about their pasts, and torturing them for the sake of scientific experiments. He is, by all accounts, not a good dude, yet the series seemed hell-bent on giving him a redemption arc in season 4, even letting Eleven say a heartfelt goodbye before he died.

At any rate, Modine's theory about love's impact goes beyond what Dr. Brenner did or didn't know, to the core of the series itself: Eleven's powers. "Think of Eleven: whenever she uses her powers, she has to go from a foundation of anger and hatred. That's when she's most powerful, when she's experiencing those emotions," Modine says. But the actor thinks that, through her interactions with Dr. Brenner, she learned "that love is more powerful than hate." It's true that by season's end, she's come to terms with the fact that she's not a monster, and that she can draw upon the power of love to find strength — like when Mike (Finn Wolfhard) gives her the encouragement needed to help Max (Sadie Sink).

Could love save Hawkins?

Modine thinks that this message is especially vital right now, adding, "As a message to the world at this juncture, as we're closing in on 2023 — I don't think that there's a more powerful message that a network or a streaming service like Netflix could share with the world, then [sic] a message of love." And while many of the actors involved in the series have asserted that they don't know how it'll end, Modine has a simple guess: "I think that love can be the thing that saves Hawkins."

This is a nice thought, but it also seems pretty likely given the arc the series took in its most recent season. The introduction of Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower) proved that the Upside Down villain preys on shame, sadness, and anxiety, so it would make sense that the best way to fight his power is with the exact opposite. It already worked at least once, when Eleven was able to pull Max back from the brink of death through the power of her love — which was fueled by Mike's love, which was fueled by Will's (Noach Schnapp) love. 

While love as an answer may seem a bit antithetical to the show's increasingly horror-influenced aesthetic, it's also exactly the kind of classic, Spielberg-meets-King solution that seems perfect for the nostalgic series.