In the video below, we try to work through what 13 Reasons Why gets right in the new episodes – and where, arguably, it goes wrong.
Do you agree with our reactions? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Warning – the video and article below contains season two spoilers.
What 13 Reasons Why season two got right
The trial Hannah’s tapes may no longer be driving the narrative, but by basing each episode around one character’s testimony in court, season two maintained the show’s gripping story structure.
Each character’s account of their actions forced viewers to reappraise what they thought they knew about the events of season one. Along with Clay, sometimes we learned some uncomfortable truths.
“You heard my story the way I wanted it to be told, but there’s always another side to every story,” Hannah’s ‘ghost’ tells Clay at one point. And it’s true: each layer of the story makes the series more complex and nuanced.
Jessica’s story Alisha Boe has been the standout star of season two, and her depiction of Jessica’s road to recovery has been utterly believable.
Justin’s narrative too, so inextricably linked with Jessica’s, made for captivating and important viewing, especially when we remember back to how he was introduced in season one as just another attractive jock.
It makes the ending, with Jessica and Justin united in their trial case against Bryce, all the more important.
A more responsible series? Apart from a certain scene in the season two finale which we discuss below, 13 Reasons Why does feel like it has successfully responded to some of the criticisms of its first run.
For one, more often than not the show finds a tactful way to depict what could otherwise be graphic scenes. When Alex asks Tyler to see the photos he took of him in hospital, for example, the camera focuses on Alex’s face rather than the photos themselves.
Characters at various points express the need to have a discussion rather than maintain silence, in what feels like a direct response to the season one critics.
What 13 Reasons Why season two got wrong
Tyler’s final scene Was the scene of male sexual assault in the final episode a powerful depiction of a story all too often covered up? Or did it feel gratuitous? Creator Brian Yorkey has said that by depicting the scene, even in difficult-to-watch detail, the show brings an often underreported crime out in the open.
However, as we discuss in the video above, if that is the case, why not give that crime more space in the story? By including Tyler’s assault right at the end of the episode and then speeding towards his final confrontation outside the school, we have no chance to process the horrific reality of his assault.
Hannah Baker’s ‘ghost’ Hannah’s presence as a vision in Clay’s head in the new episodes is problematic. Making her such a ‘live’ presence in the action, regularly conversing with Clay, is troubling because it arguably runs counter to the message that suicide is a final and irreversible act.
While it was important for the show’s writers to find a way to bring Clay out of himself, was having Hannah as a vision inside his head really the answer?
The Polaroid mystery As we discuss above, the trial is a powerful and effective way of organising the narrative of season two. But the mystery of the Polaroids, with Clay & co poring over photos and attempting to solve the conspiracy of ‘the clubhouse’, seems to draw attention away from the main action.
While it is important to understand how the school sports team ‘culture’ has caused untold harm in the school, was Zach’s trail of breadcrumbs really the right way to do it? And do we really buy that Zach would not be able to come forward when it really mattered?
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