*Warning: This article contains major spoilers for Stranger Things season 4*
Max Mayfield had a rough time of it in Stranger Things 4. First, she had a scary run-in with the villainous Vecna, before Kate Bush and her pals saved her, then technically died during her second confrontation with the big bad. In episode 9, the character was left potentially blind and in a coma, with several broken bones – but according to fans, her current situation may be even worse than it seems.
One viewer recently took to TikTok to highlight the theory, which suggests that Max's soul is trapped inside Vecna's mind. "This is probably the best Stranger Things theory I've heard yet," they begin. "When Eleven looks into Max's mind, it's blank... nothing... but Max isn't truly gone.
"When [Vecna/One/Henry] killed all the kids at the lab, he literally said, 'They aren't gone Eleven, they're still with me in here'," the content creator recalls, playing a clip that sees Jamie Campbell Bower's human-like Vecna tapping on his temple.
"Martin Brenner also backed this up by saying, 'When One kills, he doesn't simply kill, he consumes. He takes everything from his victims. Everything they are, and everything they ever will be. Their memories, their abilities'. Now if this theory is true, then Vecna really is the Master of Puppets... of Billy, the Mind Flayer, and now Max."
@hapi_117 ♬ original sound - Hapi
There's another moment in Stranger Things season 4, Volume 1 that somewhat supports the idea, too. In episode 5, 'The Nina Project', Nancy (Natalia Dyer) asks Max to recall what her first stand-off with Vecna was like. "There was this red fog everywhere, it was like a dream. A nightmare. When I made it here," she replies, gesturing to the drawings she'd done of the alternate dimension. "I don't know, something was different. He seemed surprised, almost. Like he didn't want me there."
"Maybe you infiltrated his mind," Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) chimes in. "He invaded your mind, right? Is it that big of a leap to suggest you somehow wound up in his? Like Freddie Krueger's boiler room!"
Unfortunately, we won't know what's in store for Max and the others until Stranger Things season 5 rolls around, which isn't likely to land on Netflix before late 2023 at the earliest. If you're looking for more Hawkins-related content to devour in the meantime, though, be sure to check out our breakdown of the Stranger Things season 4 ending, our roundup of fun '80s Easter Eggs, and our list of Volume 2 deaths.