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‘Stranger Things 2’ is a Completely Different Experience Than Season 1 Because of Everything Off-Screen

This Friday, in a release opposite the original, the world will immediately devour "Stranger Things 2." Good luck.

Stranger Things 2 Season 2 Netflix Millie Bobby Brown

Courtesy of Netflix

It also means fans will be watching closely. The references made to ’80s movies, music, and culture alone require an ever-attentive eye and ear to what’s going on, but how people respond to plot twists, new characters, and the ending can color other viewers’ opinions — especially if they consider any of those opinions to be spoilers.

It’s easy to see one tweet get a lot of love online and accept that opinion as the popular vote. And if you read that tweet before you experience it yourself, it can affect how you interpret the scene. So if you know you’re someone who can’t avoid checking Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr for more than a few hours, that habit alone could dictate how you need to watch “Stranger Things 2.”

Even if you avoid social media, you’re likely not safe anywhere. Online, opinions and analysis will be flying hard and fast. (Just about every site will find one way or another to cover the new season.) Offline, friends will be talking about what they just saw. (A text bomb could hit at any moment, or maybe you’re stuck on the bus with two loud talkers who finished yesterday.)

Stranger Things 2 Season 2 Netflix

It’s Not Just About Spoilers — It’s About Perception

Perhaps the better analogy for Season 1 vs. Season 2 isn’t movies, but music. Think of “Stranger Things 2” not as an indie film vs. a blockbuster follow-up, but an indie band who hit it big. Suddenly, the widespread popularity dwarfs the personal connection you’d established with your band. Sharing them is hard, especially if new groupies misinterpret their meaning or toss around ideas you don’t like.

TV as a personal experience is rare, but a personal experience with mass appeal is even rarer. People connected with Season 1 in a unique way. Families could watch together, relating to various plot lines and characters but sharing in the adventure all the way through. Cinephiles could dig through for formal and thematic treasures, while casual viewers could connect with an outsider’s coming-of-age story. Discovering this experience is always something special, and recreating it is incredibly difficult.

“Stranger Things 2” is the same brand, despite the slightly altered title. (Seriously, that “2” still feels weird to type.) The new season mostly avoids the pitfalls of catering to a wider fanbase, even if its expansion leads to a slow start and a few missteps along the way. Early reviews are strong, so those privileged enough to see it before it’s been swallowed up by a million voices liked what they saw.

However possible, viewers should do the same for their own experience. Whether you’re a purist who’s walking through this week with blinders on or an avid engager with the culture, searching for new articles as often as you seek out your friends’ thoughts, think back to how you heard about and watched Season 1, then do your best to replicate that experience.

For more thoughts on “Stranger Things” and its effect on TV culture, check out this week’s episode of the Very Good Television Podcast above. IndieWire TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller and TV Critic Ben Travers remember the rollout of the original series and make a few predictions as to what people will think of Season 2.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Very Good Television Podcast via Soundcloud or iTunes, and follow IndieWire on Twitter and Facebook for all your pertinent TV news. Check out Liz and Ben’s Twitter feeds for lots more. Plus, don’t forget to listen to IndieWire’s other podcastsScreen Talk with Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson, as well as Michael Schneider’s new podcast, Turn It On, which spotlights the most important TV of each week.

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