More Than 13 Reasons Why (Season 2 Review)
By: Caroline Merck
The first season of “13 Reasons Why” shocked the world; by bringing attention to high school drug use, sexual assault, and suicide, viewers had mixed emotions. Concerned parents questioned Netflix and the producers, while teenagers questioned their peers and their own actions. But, it was not until now, with the release of the second season, that the writers and producers of “13 Reasons Why” were able to share their motives for writing such an explicit series.
This season started off five months later from where they left off last season. The main focus this season is not around the tapes that were left behind by Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), but rather a trial between her parents, Olivia Baker (Kate Walsh), and Andy Baker (Brian d'Arcy James), against Liberty High School for knowingly dismissing Hannah when she came to them with her problems that led to her suicide.
Everyone from last season is alive and returning to school, even Alex Standall (Miles Heizer), who shot himself in the head at the end of last season, and Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe), who was raped by Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice), who still has not come forward to anyone except those listed on the tapes from last season.
Throughout the episodes, many of Hannah’s friends and those mentioned on her tapes are called to the stand to testify about Hannah’s life and actions for varying sides of the case, including Tyler Down (Devin Druid), Courtney Crimsen (Michele Selene Ang), Jessica, Marcus Cole (Steven Silver), Ryan Shaver (Tommy Dorfman), Zach Dempsey (Ross Butler), Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), Mr. Baker, Mrs. Baker, Mr. Kevin Porter (Derek Luke), Sarah Carlin (Makenzie Vega), Tony Padilla (Christian Navarro), Bryce, Chloe Rice (Anne Winters), and Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn).
As the various characters are called to testify, the school remains as busy as ever with the men’s baseball team looking for a championship season, Clay’s new girlfriend, Skye Miller (Sosie Bacon), and the remainder of the student body are on edge about the trial. There is just as much drama in the school as out.
When the plot unwound, the creators of the show tried to include some deeper messages in the season, which appears to be the show’s response to widespread public backlash. Examples of this in the show include the baseball team’s talk about sexual consent, Mr. Porter explaining that another girl is out there and he “doesn’t want the next one to die,” Mrs. Baker walking out of court saying, “I don´t know a single woman who has not faced rape, abuse, sexual assault or worse in some way. Not one. And many survive, but my daughter didn’t,” and later telling Tony, “No matter how many reasons why, there are always more why not.” The writers made sure that their messages would be more clear the second time around.
While the show’s plot had some twists and turns, there was never really anything out of the ordinary for a show like this. However, the most controversial scenes were in the finale which takes place one month after the end of the aforementioned trial, in another courtroom. This time, Bryce is accused of sexually assaulting Jessica, and Justin is accused of knowingly letting it happen. Although Bryce gets off with three months probation, Justin ends up with six and was kept in jail longer. But, the madness did not stop there. Tyler, having vandalized the school’s baseball field earlier as an attempt to get back at his and Hannah’s bullies, was sent to a behavioral camp. Upon his return, he was sexually assaulted by Montgomery de la Cruz (Timothy Granaderos), a jock and friend of Bryce, in the school bathroom. Left there to cry and bleed, he had a realization that he needed to fight back. When asked to comment on the scene in “Beyond the Reasons Why,” a Netflix series that automatically plays after the show, Druid said, "As an actor, I felt a lot of responsibility to accurately portray the pain and humiliation that one can go through when they're assaulted in this way, especially with the stigma around sexual assault with men.” This illustrates that the show is trying to start a conversation through its hard-to-watch scenes and educate the viewers.
But the show’s message did not stop with assault. Following the attack, Tyler planned to kill the students at Liberty High with the guns he had been stockpiling since season one. However, as he shows up to the school, Clay convinces him to stop. The viewers are left with the image of Tyler being driven away by Tony as Clay is left holding the machine gun and police sirens can be heard in the distance. Moreover, no one but the parties involved knew about Tyler’s assault in the bathroom.
While a few Northsiders were fans of the drama, most were not satisfied. Genevieve Kosciolek, Adv. 910, noted, “Unfortunately, rather than using its platform to spread awareness for the issues it addresses, ‘13 Reasons Why' season 2 ultimately continues to glorify Hannah’s suicide to an even more extreme level than last season, and uses scenes of male rape to drive the plot further, rather than actually addressing the issues it brought up earlier. Despite some exciting moments, season 2 is disappointing once again.” Stefania Betti, Adv. 902, felt even stronger about the series, “It’s baffling how ignorant the creators of the show are to the criticisms of season one, and to come back with a season two that is even worse is offensive to pretty much everyone.”
On a similar note, some Northsiders choose not to watch it at all. Faith Zehfuss, Adv. 904, said, “I chose not to watch this show because I believe it is a misrepresentation of suicide, mental health and loss.” Many agree with her, and this is one of the main reasons why the show has poor reviews.
Overall, the new season has as much, if not more controversy than the first season, as well as new characters and new plot lines for the viewers to follow. With the debate over whether there will be a third season, fans and critics of the show can catch up on the new episodes on a rainy day this summer or for a finals week study break.