El and Kali should be reunited in Stranger Things
We’re celebrating Eleven Day as part of Stranger Things Week at Netflix Life. And, we can’t talk about Eleven without talking about her “family.”
Stranger Things season 2 opens with a thrilling car chase through the streets of Pittsburgh as a group of characters we’ve never met work to shake off the police tailing them. During the pursuit, we learn that one member of the group is named Kali and not only does she have powers, but the tattooed “008” on her wrist suggests she’s like Eleven or rather the soon to be minted Jane Hopper.
It takes until episode seven, “The Lost Sister,” for us to officially meet this ragtag team of misfit vigilantes, and when we do, it’s contained within a bottle episode separate from the goings-on in the rest of the season. After that, we don’t see Kali again outside of flashbacks, not in the rest of season 2 or in season 2.
As a fan who was immediately drawn into the potential of Kali’s place in the Stranger Things universe, I was disappointed. The focus on her in the opening of season 2 suggested that her entrance into the story would be important and, while I would argue it is, her connection to El is treated as a footnote. An interesting bit of history, a side adventure that could be dropped and nearly forgotten once the next season came ’round.
It shouldn’t be that way considering El immediately sees Kali as her sister. She has no memories of the time they spent together in the rainbow room but their connection is cemented the moment she realizes the gravity of their shared experience as children who were experimented on by Brenner. It’s what leads her to find Kali at her mother’s behest.
That this mysterious girl is important enough to search for and be thought of as necessary to El’s life seems crucial and yet it isn’t treated as such outside of “The Lost Sister” and, arguably, episode nine, “The Gate.”
The similarities and differences between El and Kali
Kali and El aren’t dissimilar. They both have an inherent sense of protectiveness and desire for justice. They both gravitate toward the creation of a community, a want for family. Kali, however, is less trusting and more prone to walling the world off, but she doesn’t want to see it burn. She channels her fury over what was done to her through calculated executions of those involved.
As such, without considering her position, how much older she is than El, and the likelihood that she remembers being taken from her family, Kali can be perceived as cold. But, she isn’t. She’s actually quite warm and takes to El as soon as she sees the “011” tattoo on her arm.
Kali sees El as her sister, too. She goes as far as to call her home and repeatedly says that they belong together. It’s obvious that there’s been something missing in Kali’s life, and it’s her belief that it was El. So, yes, she pushes her and tries to catch El up to speed on what she’s learned in her years alone, but it’s based on a desire not to see El make the same mistakes she did.
You can tell that while El is still trying to figure the world out, Kali has defined it for herself. El wants to believe in the good in people but largely operates on a moral compass with stark black and white lines that are subject to change based on her own personal feelings. It’s why her desire to murder in an act of avenging her mother can shift at the drop of a dime if the person involved is also a father. It’s not that she finds killing immoral, it’s that the reminder that murder inflicts loss on someone else stays her hand.
Kali sees life as a series of choices. Most likely, to her there is no such thing as having no choice. It’s why she gives those not directly involved in her vendetta the opportunity to make choices that best fit their needs. That doesn’t mean she won’t try to influence someone’s decision but, ultimately, she believes the one thing we all have is a choice, and she will never take someone’s choice from them.
Her mindset is incredibly different from the other characters in the series. There’s an independence to it that feels settled. It’s a point of view that El might not entirely agree with but feels like it should be essential to her eventual growth as a young woman and a being with powers.
While I get that Kali’s city grit may not mix well with the homespun suburban quaintness that makes up Hawkins, Indiana and our main crew, she adds a certain spice that the show could use by virtue of having a different world view.
Not to mention, it’s the thought of Kali and the loss of her that helps boost El’s strength to close the gate. Losing her sister hurt her, the same way it hurt Kali. These two sisters deserve to be reunited and, as fans, we deserve a continuation of the bond the writers forged in the span of an episode.
I’m not talking about in comics that expand the Stranger Things universe but aren’t show canon or on the radar of casual fans. I’m talking about real, honest to goodness, significant time with the two of them that’s integral to the overall story and what’s happening.
What we’d like to see with the sisters
Hopefully, we’ll see the return of Kali in Stranger Things season 4. It would be interesting to see how she and El are around each other considering how they left things mid-shootout. El chose her family in Hawkins over Kali, and while it was a decision born from the immediate danger about to befall them, it’s still a choice that didn’t include her sister. One that separated them just a day after Kali said they belonged together.
There should be conflict there, perhaps even judgment if Kali finds El’s family to be lacking or maybe even not worth staying out of a fight she wholeheartedly believes El should be a part of. Kali doesn’t believe hiding in the hopes that you won’t be found is an effective way of ensuring your survival. She thinks the only way to make sure you’re safe is to exterminate the problem and in doing so, heal the wounds they inflicted.
I’d love to see how well that goes down with the Hawkins crew considering for the past three seasons, the men in El’s life have attempted to control her. While Hopper and Mike aren’t Brenner, the idea that their love for her and desire to keep her safe trumped her autonomy and agency in their minds was irksome. The narrative doesn’t agree with them, but I’m tired of seeing it.
Choice is crucial. The idea that you have a choice and no one should be allowed to take it from you is important. It’s something that needs to be deeply instilled into El as a character and a narrative point that the show keeps returning to for her. El’s whole journey is about what she chooses to do and how she eventually defies those who try to take choices away from her.
This is why we need more scenes with her and Kali because they’re on parallel tracks. They’re each making decisions based on the circumstances that have shaped them into who they are. Kali may be a reflection of El’s future, she may not be. But whatever the case is, I hope their paths converge again. There’s so much more story to be told with these sisters. So much more.