Eleven’s sacrifice at the end of Stranger Things season 1 was going to be definitive, as the series was originally pitched as a limited one. Netflix’s hit sci-fi series Stranger Things is back with its second season, providing answers to a lot of questions that arose after season 1 and exploring the backstory of characters such as Eleven.
At the end of season 1, Eleven sacrificed herself to save Mike, Lucas, and Dustin from the Demogorgon, while Hopper and Joyce saved Will from the Upside Down. The season ended with Will coughing up a slug-like creature, provoking a vision of the world as the Upside Down. This moment - along with Eleven’s disappearance - served as a hook for season 2, but it was not the original plan... as the Duffer brothers had a different idea for the series that would have ended with Eleven never coming back.
During an appearance at a Master Class Q&A session at Chapman University (via Cinemablend) the Duffer brothers revealed they originally pitched Stranger Things as a limited series, thus ending after season 1, with Eleven’s sacrifice being permanent. Ross Duffer explained:
"Maybe I shouldn’t say this because I like to pretend that it was all planned out, but it was originally pitched as a limited series. So it was like, Eleven was gonna sacrifice herself and save the world and then that was gonna be it, because there was a moment where limited series were a big deal."
While that ending, although tragic, would have worked well as a conclusion to the series, there would have been a lot of questions left unanswered - especially about Eleven. Her origin has been one of the main mysteries to uncover, with season 1 briefly mentioning her mother, Terry Ives, and season 2 going deeper into the story of both Terry and Eleven. What made this change of plans possible was the business side of TV, as Ross Duffer explained:
“This is where the business side comes in. When we started pitching it it was like ‘We don’t make money off of limited series’. And I remember when we went into Netflix and we pitched this they were like ‘well, we like this but how could it keep going?’ and you’re just sort of riffing in the moment and we were like ‘Well, Will’s back from this other dimension and he’s not doing very well’. And they were like ‘great!’"
The addition of Will’s vision of the Upside Down on the real world helped shape the plot for season 2, which deals with the aftermath of his return from the other dimension, Eleven’s disappearance, and how Hawkins Lab has been trying to cover the chaos they unleashed.
Eleven has become a beloved character among fans, so it’s hard to imagine her sacrifice being permanent and not going back to Hawkins to see what has been going on after the events in season 1. Stranger Things is currently planned to last for four seasons (maybe more), so Eleven’s backstory will hopefully continue to be a main focus, as there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered.
Stranger Things seasons 1 & 2 are now available for streaming through Netflix.