It was recently announced that the Netflix teen drama, 13 REASONS WHY would return for a third season next year. Some think of it as completely unnecessary or don’t care at all, while others believe that its hard-hitting reflection of the evils of America’s high school culture needs to go on. I’m somewhere between those two, just as this show is always just somewhere in between being about thought-provoking storytelling and simply being a guilty pleasure.
The reason for this started with the tapes.
The basic problem with 13 REASONS WHY for me has always been the gimmick that its title is, and by unfortunate extension, the ultimate attention-seeking stunt that Hannah Baker’s suicide is portrayed as. Now I never read the book, but through the first season, it became clear to me that this was just a high school drama, albeit a little more hard-hitting and complex than something seen on The CW or FreeForm. None of the reasons seemed like they were strong enough for Hannah to kill herself. Yes, the rape could have been reason alone, but the problem was generally in the depiction of the reasons. As the gimmicky title and premise became the narrative’s worst enemy, the season failed to convince me of the depth of the impact that the 13 reasons had. Some of the reasons unfortunately came across as completely shallow and trivial even. If the reasons brought out some angst or unresolved depression from the past or anything of significance that was relevant, it needed to be shown. For instance, I don’t recall the bullying that Hannah did in her previous school being a part of season one. It came out of the blue in season two, when Olivia tries to convince some girl not to testify about Hannah being a bully.
Anyway, she killed herself, we got to know the people in the school, we liked some characters, we hated some, and we were invested in their lives, to some degree. The story could go on, even after the gimmicky reasons were revealed and done with. The second season unfortunately decided to continue to dwell in the past. Even if we could live with that, what could have been told in ten 40-minute episodes was dragged on for thirteen 50-to-70-minute episodes. The most annoying was Clay’s interaction with Hannah, and the only thing good to come out of it was him telling her that she did an evil thing. Yes, she was a selfish bitch to kill herself leaving behind such pain and devastation, and someone needed to say it. To make it worse was that she had in fact made a list of reasons why not to. Considering how good her parents were to her (a complete opposite of Justin’s mother) ‘mom and dad’ should have been reason enough. The fact that she did think about them and decided to kill herself anyway convinces me that no one should forgive her what she did. And no, none of the reasons convinced me that they were strong enough to make her too blind to see what her death would do to those who cared.
Anyway, moving on, it’s a relief that Hannah Baker’s story is finally over. Katherine Langford’s exit from the show, and Olivia Baker’s decision to move to New York more than indicate that. Maybe now we can finally just have this show for what it is—a high school drama—not about why someone killed herself and who was responsible. That being said, certain people were responsible for certain things.
[SPOILER ALERT: Read on only after finishing season two of 13 REASONS WHY]
Bryce Walker, painted as a complete asshole—almost unrealistic in this day and age when there are at least some grey areas shown—is allowed to go scot-free. I’ll admit I didn’t think that the Bakers would win the case, because if I was in that jury, I would vote in favor of the defendants too. In all fairness, the school could not be held entirely responsible for what Hannah went through, and she could have become a target and a victim even with stronger intervention on the school’s part. However, I was convinced that the justice the Bakers would get—as well as Jessica, and Bryce’s other victims—would be to see him pay for what he did in a bigger way than being watched more closely by the cops for just three months. He seemed to be done with his ways, when he tells Monty he doesn’t want to do anything to make Tyler and the others pay for the baseball season getting canceled, but I really don’t think there’s any redemption for that character. While season two disappointed in that area, maybe they’ll find a way to take him down in season three. Another extreme evil, Monty should, of course, be destroyed completely for the brutal and worse-than-beastly rape of Tyler. That was the most gruesome scene of the show yet, and one of the most difficult things to watch, from among any content I’ve ever seen.
Then there’s Tyler, who’s probably broken beyond repair. There’s Clay, who we last saw holding Tyler’s gun. There’s Jessica, torn between Alex and Justin, who’s still using heroin. There’s Tony, Zach, and there are others. There’s a lot to go on with. If we could all just move past Hannah, and let them tell us these characters’ stories without the Hannah factor, I could still find reasons to watch. And we’ll get to see if the annoying Clay has anything at all to offer as a character, without the Hannah factor in his life.
However, I really would like to see more restraint in the narrative. The over-indulgent subplots, extended scenes and conversations, and other downright dumb plot choices—such as having a crutch-using Alex as the only one to go with the villainous Monty to retrieve the lost Polaroids—could easily be done away with.