There are a number of Stranger Things cast members who gave standout performances in the show's fourth season — we see you, Sadie Sink — but it's possible none were better than the one given by Jamie Campbell Bower, who delivered a star-making turn as Vecna, the gnarly villain who was revealed to be the show's ultimate big bad. Although Bower was properly buried in latex as he played the Freddy Krueger-inspired threat, the real strength of the performance came from the flashback scenes. Bower's flashback scenes inside Eleven’s memory were where an unidentified, still-human Henry Creel (a.k.a. The One was an orderly at Hawkins National Laboratory. He gained Eleven's trust and tricked her into shortcircuiting his suppressed psychokinetic abilities. The climax of the season's seventh episode, where Bower gives a long, almost hypnotizing monologue that reveals not only the answers to the show's biggest mysteries but also the depths of Henry's malevolence, showed Stranger Things at its best — a series with the ability to terrify, mesmerize, and thrill the viewer all at the same time.
While Millie Bobby Brown does a great job as Eleven, the scene mostly works because of Bower's unhinged but precise performance. Sure, gross-looking Vecna is fine, but Bower in the flesh, blue eyes ablaze as he attempts to convert Eleven to his side before ultimately settling on trying to murder her — now that is a villain worthy of Stranger Things' massive audience. And that's why if the Duffer Brothers, the show's creators and showrunners, want to make its fifth and final season as strong as it can possibly be, they need to bring back not just Vecna — they need to bring back Bower as Henry as well.
You may be asking, "But how can that be possible?" you're asking. He's been turned and it is unlikely that there will be any more flashbacks. Then I respond: It's true. And I'm not even interested in more flashbacks. This is not a reality, folks. It's not impossible for the Duffers or the Stranger Things writers to come up with a plan to bring Henry/One back in human form within the primary timeline. This is a show about children with superpowers. One of the characters has shown an ability to see what's not real. Vecna could easily trick others into believing he is his former human self.
Maybe it's not even necessary to explain. Just as we saw an older Eleven playing a younger version of herself as she relived her memories in Season 4, maybe when Vecna and Eleven square off again in the final battle, the audience can see Vecna as Eleven might see him — as the man she once knew and inadvertently sent on a path of other-worldly destruction. Are they cheats? They are, of course! They are! But they can only be used when the show is intended to bring out its best. As any actor can attest, the best performances are not achieved when their face is covered in latex.
This is not to suggest that Vecna isn’t an impressive screen presence. Strangers' high-quality FX and design departments made sure that he is. It's also cool to see that Bower was actually playing Vecna with the prosthetics in Season 4. Other shows, not so concerned about character consistency, might just have used a stuntman or made the character fully computer-generated. It's not hard to argue that Bower can appear on screen as his own villain. It's only about a minute between Episode 6, when Bower is first seen onscreen, and Episode 7, when Eleven blasts Henry into The Upside Down. This permanently disables Henry, turning him into Vecna. But Bower enjoys every second of this time.
From the first time he appears, he is a captivating presence. He plays an empathetic orphan with special interests in Eleven. This probably led to more viewers suspecting that there was something else going on. His performance changes from being intriguing and intimidating to terrifying. When he finally tells Eleven the truth, he does it like a switch flips. He shows Eleven the "001" tattoo on her arm before using his newly freed powers and ripping through security guards to test subjects as he makes his way towards the Rainbow Room where there will be more bloodshed.
The monologue is the final part. Vecna does not do much monologuing during Season 4, which is a sad truth. His most memorable dialogue was probably calling Max out. "Maaaaxxxxxxxx.") But, oh my god, can Henry monologue. His speech at Episode 7 ends is an epic villain monologue. The speech starts quiet, introspective and with the smallest hint of malice. "I understand what it is like to feel different and alone in the world. The intensity builds with every new piece of revelatory dialog, and reaches a boiling rage by the halfway mark. ("Where others saw order, I saw a straightjacket — a cruel, impressive world dictated by made-up rules ... Each life a faded, lesser copy of the one before. Get up. Eat. Work. Sleep. Reproduce. And die!") Bower then dials it down and makes Eleven his last sales pitch. He is full of hate, malice, but also unbelievably sincere. "If you are willing to come along with me for the first-time in your entire life, I will give you freedom. Think about what you could accomplish together. Together, we could change the world. This scene was a total nightmare on paper. The Duffers knew they wouldn't be able to deliver their Vecna until someone else could.
I believe Bower has exceeded everyone's expectations. Now that we have seen him perform it, I think it's a crime not to watch him again in Stranger Things. Bower is a good Vecna. Bower is also a great actor as Henry Creel, a human still living. The former will be returning to the series for its final season, it's clear. Let's hope that the second makes an appearance.