Matthew Modine as Dr. Martin Brenner and Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in STRANGER THINGS

The Actor Who Plays Papa On Stranger Things Has A WILD Theory

"Is there something more to Brenner than meets the eye?”

by Ani Bundel
Originally Published: 

With only one more season of Stranger Things to go, viewers assumed the body count might start to climb in Season 4, Volume 2, as the show preps for the ultimate showdown between Eleven and Vecna. And with a sprawling cast, it seemed even more likely there would be at least one significant death. Also, it would probably take down at least one of Eleven’s scientist mentors, Owens and Brenner. However, despite what happened in Vol. 2, actor Matthew Modine’s Stranger Things theory speculates his character, Eleven’s “Papa,” is still alive.

Warning: Spoilers for Stranger Things 4 follow. Stranger Things’ penultimate season reunited Eleven with the man who made her into a telekinetic wonder: Dr. Martin Brenner, the former head of the MKUltra experiment at Hawkins Lab, known as “Papa” to his subjects. Eleven was the last of the powered children when the show first introduced her, and viewers have wondered what happened to the others, and if Brenner’s focus was the Upside Down or an accident of fate.

Season 4, Volume 1 answered both questions, including how MKUltra started. Brenner’s original subject, Henry Creel, dubbed 001, was the DNA donor who created the rest of the children in the test group. Eleven had repressed the trauma of her original showdown with One, which accidentally made a tear in this reality between Hawkins and the Upside Down.

To help her to stop repressing her powers, Brenner brought those memories back. He wanted to then train her to fight One. However, Brenner was too late, as U.S. forces, led by General Sullivan, arrived to take Eleven away and put her down like a wild animal. Thankfully, Eleven escaped while Brenner was gunned down and, after saying goodbye, she left his body in the desert to continue her mission.


However, Modine is not convinced his character is gone — and he has good reason. Brenner nearly died multiple times on the show. First, when One escaped in 1979, second when Eleven ran away in 1983, and at the end of Season 1. From the get-go, theories have speculated reports of his demise were premature. This time, it seemed like the real deal; but Modine has an idea that viewers are being fooled again.

In a recent interview with Vulture, Modine was asked if he would agree his character was truly dead. “No, I wouldn’t,” Modine responded. “Because I wouldn’t want him to be dead.”

Modine went on to back up his reasoning for not believing Brenner is gone for good: “Three things are curious to me: How did he survive the Demogorgon? How did he survive One? And when Eleven tries to use her power against Dr. Brenner after blowing three guards in the air, he unflinchingly thwarts her and says, ‘You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you?’ She couldn’t get it to work on him. Is there something more to Brenner than meets the eye?”

So, does Brenner have some kind of superpowers? The Duffers have said there will be more answers about Brenner in the final season, so viewers will have to wait and see if Modine’s theory holds water when Stranger Things 5 arrives on Netflix.

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