Amanda Gabriela Beltran
A year after “13 Reasons Why” became Netflix’s buzziest show for its ability to not shy away from tough subject matter, we return to Liberty High school where the school’s climate is still in turmoil five months after the suicide of Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford).
The first season of “13 Reasons Why,” which was adapted from the novel by Jay Asher, follows the aftermath of Baker’s suicide and her decision to leave behind cassette tapes to explain the 13 reasons why she ended her life.
The tapes were passed around through her peers who she felt played a part in her suicide and were a way to justify the thought process behind it.
Season one follows protagonist and close friend of Hannah, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), as he listens to the cassette tapes.
The show alternates between flashbacks, which show what happened to Hannah, and present day, which shows what happens to Jensen and the other characters.
The season ends with Hannah’s last tape and controversial suicide.
Season two picks up five months later as the trial begins from the civil suit Hannah’s parents filed against Liberty High School.
The ongoing trial serves as a structure for the 13 episode season, with each episode showing one of Hannah’s peers taking the stand.
Most of the characters featured on the cassette tapes take the stand this season and, through flashbacks from when Hannah was alive, are able to expand on their histories with her.
The expanded storylines do offer a new perspective on last season’s events. However, in the end, it almost feels played out and repetitive.
The show introduces a romantic relationship between Hannah and one of her classmates, which the two had kept secret.
However, this completely undermines these characters’ interactions shown during the first season.
The relationship is way out of left field and almost diminishes one of Hannah’s reasons for killing herself in the first season.
The flashbacks offered in this season served as a way to feature Langford, whose performance in the first season was heartbreaking and dynamic.
Hannah appears both in flashbacks and as a ghost who haunts Clay throughout the episodes.
The writers’ use of this plot device was unnecessary and cheapens the show’s overall approach, which is usually grounded.
This season also pulled a complete 360 on the characterization of Clay, the show’s protagonist, by showing him to be much more self-centered than before.
Throughout the first season, Clay was relatable and sympathetic to the audience, and in his interactions with Hannah, he was caring to the core.
However, in this season, Clay’s character arc was written in a boring and unlikeable manner, making him come across as whiny and annoying.
At one point, Clay judged Hannah for losing her virginity to another classmate.
Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn), another character who mentioned on the tapes, calls Clay out for his harsh judgment of Hannah.
He says, “Hannah, she sleeps with one guy, she has a crush on another guy, being me, and she kissed a third, being you, and whatever, it’s all fine, right? All of the sudden, she’s classified as being a slut?”
Luckily, other characters had more interesting arcs, as revealed by this season’s other central focus.
While the first season centered on 13 tapes, this season focuses on the anonymous arrival of Polaroids, which claim that Hannah was just one of Bryce Walker’s (Justin Prentice) victims.
In the first season, we learn from the 12th tape that Hannah was raped by Bryce at one of his parties in the hot tub.
The Polaroids in a way serve as this season’s cassette tapes, but fail to have the intended impact or mystery to them.
The big reveal as to where the Polaroids came from was not nearly as satisfying as it should have been.
A major strong point in this season was the storyline of Jessica Davis’ (Alisha Boe) road to recovery after being raped by Bryce last season.
The writers handled the storyline and her recovery with awareness and sensitivity to the subject matter.
Jessica’s recovery storyline was vital and necessary and Boe’s performance was honest and truly spectacular.
Last season, Alex Standall attempted to kill himself by shooting himself in the head.
This season, his journey involves recovering from his attempted suicide.
His physical and mental recovery from this attempt is another strong point of the season.
Watching Alex recover his memory from the attempted suicide and grasp with the fact that he did try to kill himself is heart wrenching and not often represented on television.
One of the major problems with this season is the amount of storylines that the writers attempt to explore.
From Justin’s homelessness and heroin addiction to Tony Padilla’s (Christian Navarro) anger problems, wrestle with the law, and probation, the season tried to take on too much.
Through Tyler Down’s (Devin Druid) storyline, the writers’ attempt to take on sensitive subject matter in an untimely fashion.
The ending of the season is sure to cause another stir of controversy surrounding the show and ultimately prompts the question as to why we needed a second season in the first place.
Amanda Gabriela Beltran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.