Now that it’s out in the world and I finished binging it this week, I have some comments about the second season of 13 Reasons Why. I know you have all be anxiously awaiting my thoughts (lol, right), so here they are, live and in stereo.
Get it? Yeah, I thought not.
Anyway, when I watched the first season, I had a lot of thoughts about it. Mostly good ones, I didn’t really mention anything I didn’t like about it other than saying the suicide scene was risky. I stand by it being a bold move, but the producers were very clear about the gravity of the shows content and how graphic this scene was specifically. They did the same, if not more, for this second season.
I was content with the first run of the show. I love the idea of a dozen episode series based on a book because it tells so much more than a stand-alone movie can and there isn’t the opportunity to completely take on new storylines as a multiple-season series can (@ Pretty Little Liars–even though I was loyal all seven years the show ran). So when it was announced that 13 Reasons Why was getting a second season, I was uneasy–I would almost say I was displeased. I wondered why they couldn’t just let a good thing be. This is also how I felt when a Big Little Lies second season was announced, but you can bet your ass I’m going to watch that too.
So I was walking into this season with caution. Hannah’s story was over, so I wondered what would happen for the next round of episodes, and what kind of issues they were going to deal with. Since they had fleshed out the other characters so much, I knew there would be more of their stories and the fallout of the tapes. I can honestly say that what happened this season was not what I expected. Prepare for spoilers.
If I hadn’t read the book, and been so connected to it, I would have really enjoyed this season. Not that I didn’t enjoy it regardless, but I wouldn’t have had the critiques of it that I do now.
I applaud the show for wanting to deal with so many different issues over these thirteen episodes. It delved deeper into the topics of rape, complicity, bullying, addiction, violence, etc that the first season touched on. For the most part, these things were handled well. There were just a few things that I felt needed commenting on.
The biggest thing I tried to figure out was Tyler’s character. His testimony was first, and I thought it showed good insight to his side of his tape. He told his truth, which showed a positive side of Hannah, which the prosecution was trying to hide. I really felt sympathy for his character in the first season, and this season even more so, because he was really the only one (save Bryce and Mr. Porter) who didn’t find solace in the group of people on the tapes. They still ostracized him and pushed him out of importance. The exception is Alex, which I really appreciated, but still no one fought for him.
I was excited when he befriended Cyrus and Mackenzie because it seemed they were helping him deal with feeling outcasted by the others on the tapes. I could see from the beginning that Tyler wasn’t going to have a happy ending this season, partly because of the kinds of ideas Cyrus inadvertently put in his head, and that was rough to watch since I was rooting for him. While the other characters (in the first season, really) had tried to deny the things Hannah said about them and invalidate her reasons, I felt that he took some responsibility. He really changed because of what happened, and he tried to be better. Which ended up with him targeting the school and the system that hurt him.
I understand that his character was the easy target for his kind of development in the season, what with his mental health, the bullying, and his inability to healthily deal with those things. And I know that the producers were setting up something for a potential third season, but I still feel like I can’t get on board with the decision for a school shooting. Tyler had made so much progress when he went away, and I was proud of that. And I understand that Montgomery is one of the worse bullies, but his graphic and disgusting assault of Tyler in the bathroom didn’t feel right to me. I know its purpose: to provoke Tyler and to show just how bad bullying can get, that some people have no remorse. But it didn’t make sense that Tyler would be Montgomery’s target after his conversation with Bryce. Those things don’t add up to me.
That plot device didn’t sit well.
Another thing I didn’t think was the best idea was the constant presence of Hannah to Clay. Yes, I think it’s totally logical for him, who cared about and loved her so much, who still doesn’t know how to process her death, would “see” her. He would talk to her. He would ask her questions. But the strength of her presence and how she would respond to everything as if she was still alive was what I didn’t love. Because she’s not alive anymore, so she can’t give him anything he doesn’t already have. The occasional glimpse, a cryptic answer, sure, but she had more screen time than other characters of whom I think we could have seen more.
Usually, having a “ghost” character can be a great plot device to help another character get over their death or to deal with grief, but in this case I think it just went a tad too far. In the end, it ended up being Skye who gave Clay the tools to move forward, as heard in Clay’s eulogy. Instead of Hannah (though I love Katherine Langford, and thought she was an awesome Hannah), I think we as an audience could have benefited from Skye’s character having a larger presence.
The last thing I had a slight problem with was in the final episode where Jessica and Justin act on their feelings for each other. I think it’s wonderful that Jessica can finally feel comfortable in her body and that she is strong–I love that, I do. I just wish they hadn’t already set up her and Alex as rekindling a relationship. Call me a monogamist (because that’s not incorrect) but I’m all about fidelity in relationships, so I just didn’t like that she validated Alex at the reception at Monet’s, went to dance with him, and then ended up with Justin without even seemingly thinking about Alex. It rubbed me the wrong way a bit. But again, proud of Jessica’s character for taking that part of her back.
Other than those things, I did like the show. I thought it handled so many of the subjects accurately and well. I loved Chlöe’s character and how frustrating she was because I saw truth in it. Jessica’s process of coping with her rape was strong and well portrayed. Miles Heizer played Alex’s intense and heartbreaking pain beautifully. Mr. Porter’s one-eighty was wonderful to watch: his attempt to right wrongs and his admittance of his fault.
Watching the season, I was uneasy about it, about whether or not I liked it. To be completely honest, throughout my binge, I was bordering on displeased. But after finishing it and reflecting on it, I did actually enjoy it for the most part. I had bigger issues with this season than the one prior, and I’m not totally stoked on the fact that there will probably be another season, but I do think it was well done. I think the writers and producers worked hard to create a cohesive set of story strands and it was a success.
As for those commenting on the glorification of these topics, I have to disagree to an extent. Yes it was graphic, yes it was intense, yes it was triggering, but I stand by the idea that you cannot tell an accurate story without being unapologetically honest. Without being graphic. Because then it’s not the truth–or as close to the truth as a TV show can get. It’s how I felt watching To the Bone, which showed some very triggering scenes. If you really want to start a conversation and bring these darker subjects to light, you can’t sugarcoat them.
If it is going to trigger you, then do not watch it–I promise you, the creators and producers will not take offense.
And that’s all I have to say about that, I guess. For now.