13 Reasons Why: Is There Any Reason To Watch?

When the second season of 13 Reasons Why was announced, it was met with a lot of criticisms. The first season told the story of Hannah Baker through thirteen different tapes for thirteen different people – at the end of the last tape, much of the audience assumed it was finished. If Hannah’s story was finished, what else was left to tell? This is one of the many problems that the second season faces.

The narration of Hannah Baker (played by Katherine Langford) is replaced by the voice of a new individual for each episode, applied when that character is testifying in court. The setting of the court case, and the visible changes between what was Hannah’s story to how other characters perceived it, slows the pace of the show down.

The first season left us with huge cliffhangers: did Alex die, why was Tyler looking at guns, and where did Justin go? Because of these huge, gaping questions, the first half season is dedicated to finding the answers, but because of this, it defeats any momentum that the first season built up.

The pace quickens towards the end of the first half and when the season suddenly does pick up pace, the series reaches new heights. As Hannah is replaced, new depths of characters are explored like Zach (Ross Butler) and Tony (Christian Navarro). This is where the series is at its best: the acting shown throughout the season is believable and thorough, selling whatever inane thing the writers are trying to pitch to us us (the romance between Alex and Jessica? Yeah, that wasn’t a good idea).

The space given to characters is proven to be one of the best decisions the second season makes, as the progression of Jessica’s rape experience is ultimately portrayed in a realistic and raw way that is usually ignored by many other programs.

But the attention that is made in handling Jessica’s story is ultimately undermined by the cheap, manipulative shots that 13 Reasons Why takes. There is an extremely graphic scene in the final episode, and the sudden introduction of another subject matter in the last twenty minutes comes off as cheap and a clear set up for another season. It becomes questionable what story the show actually wants to tell; is it just about Hannah Baker, or are we introducing a new controversial subject at the end of every season?

It doesn’t help that with every story arc, another character is introduced. It is also hard to care about these new people when they aren’t added subtly, and are just another prop to older character’s storylines. They are used mostly for story convenience, and are not given as much development or time as other characters. However the ones we do care about are given new depths: Hannah’s story, like we were told in Season One, is not the ‘true’ story.

The ‘true’ story that is told in season two is divided into four major threads: the first is Hannah’s court case and the illuminating details that come to light, the second is the hunt for justice against Bryce, the third is the internal developments of Jessica and Alex, and the last is Tyler’s ongoing friendship with the outcasts of the school. Some have varying success in telling these stories, but it does ensure that 13 Reasons Why, much like the first, has a clear message it wants to deliver.


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