“It has to get worse before it can get better”. That is the honest irony of Hannah Baker’s (Katherine Langford) tapes, and Clay Jensen’s (Dylan Minette) search for justice in season two of 13 Reasons Why. Although it takes a long time to finish because of how emotionally heavy it is, it is one of those series that must be finished.
The controversial series caused a ruckus and uproar in its vivid representation of touchy themes in season one, but with two deaths by suicide in the public eye within one single week, now is, if not apparent before, the time to encourage discussion. The series brings several scenarios into the light – stripping them, showing them raw, in hopes that it will ease the shame felt by people carrying around their pain.
Essentially, the development of the storyline delves deeper into the stories of the other characters, and how everyone’s injustices affected another. The newest season dealt with so many real and daunting societal issues, including addiction, abuse, rape, violence, sexual assault, gun violence, and hate crimes.
The scenarios in season two drew it terrifyingly close to reality, making clear references to Brock Turner, and school shooter Nikolas Cruz. The end of each chapter advertised the show’s own crisis resources, because a very important message from directors was to make resources more accessible, and to create outreach to students, due to a tendency of victims to feel ashamed and alone.
By seeing the viewpoints of characters who were on the tapes, and/or on the polaroids, Hannah’s truth is challenged. The trial tests each person’s conscience, and contests our trust in Hannah when we discover secrets about her past. It is evident that everyone at school has their own demons to fight, some worsened by Hannah’s death and Clay’s persistent, and at time annoying pursuits – but most of the characters end up uniting in agreement that there are problems at Liberty High, whilst most of the antagonists are punished.
The main focus in storyline of season two seems to be on sexual assault, and not only Hannah’s, through the course of the trial against Liberty High School. In the same fashion as the first season, Clay acts as a catalyst for all the issues being presented. He begins an investigation based on each of Hannah’s tapes, and he bases this one on a series of polaroids, which is given to Clay anonymously, meant to fuel him up, as they corroborate sexual assault(s). The most pressing and strongest issues are the cases of Bryce Walker, and strangely, Tyler Down (Devin Druid).
Clay and Tyler have close encounters with guns, and this problem is one that is likely to be discussed in season three. Jessica (Alisha Ilhaan Bø) fights to deal with her PTSD since the rape, and coming to terms with testifying in the trial, despite her fears of simply being labelled another “Drunk Slut” – the title of her episode. We even see a bit from the counsellor, Mr. Porter (Derek Luke), who gives a teary apology for dismissing Hannah’s report of sexual assault, testifying against the school, and leading by example with selflessness and moral correctness.
Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn, Sam Smith’s beau) was an accessory to the rape of his now ex-girlfriend Jessica in season one, and he is paying the price to his conscience, his peers, and the law in this season. He is found as a homeless runaway heroin addict, but he has a huge moral turning point when he decides to testify against Bryce and the school. Despite Justin being an accessory to her rape, Jessica still loves him back, although she is getting cozy with Alex. It is predictable that their love triangle is something less dark that we will see more of in season three.
Tyler Down is constantly a target of bullying, and the series focuses a lot on how outcast he feels. He is sexually and violently assaulted towards the end with, spoiler alert, a broomstick, which if you search online, you’ll find there are quite a few actual cases about. It causes him to erupt with aggression at the students, raging about a “f*cked system”, and nearly making a huge mistake – seem familiar?
It relates to Nikolas Cruz, who shot and killed 17 teenagers at his local high school last Valentine’s Day. Tyler’s social media activity, aggression, and even his buzzcut held resemblances to Cruz. Through his story, it is shown that guns are a tool that appeal to the emotionally unstable, increasing the risk of mass shootings. It is the presence and the access to guns which provide these people with incentive to do damage, a mistake on constitutional level, as well as personal.
In what seems like the finale of Hannah’s chapter, season two ends with a rather unmemorable, long memorial service where Clay finally lets Hannah go. Hannah’s case against the school is disappointingly closed, Bryce is tried for rape, getting off the hook on bare minimum penalty, whilst Justin gets more time because of his drug abuse, and home situation.
Yet again, we see an allusion to reality, within rape culture. The unsatisfactory result of the case against Bryce matches the verdict of the case against Brock Turner – a resemblance in name as well as in crime. Turner raped an unconscious girl, and was given only six months by the judge due to his so-called bright future as a swimmer. This says something about the failures and injustices of the legal systems in representing the prestigious over the vulnerable, especially regarding female violation.
Alex (Miles Heizer) is in recovery from his attempted suicide from guilt of being present when Hannah was being raped. He spends most of the season trying to recall his reason why, contrary to Hannah, who seemed to know very well. Through hearing her talk in Clay’s memories, we learn that her suicide was likely caused by infinite paths, choices, and interactions, and that blame could not be placed on a single event or person.
Although the ending was slightly long and disappointing, and I felt myself missing a punishment for Marcus Cole (Stephen Silver), it seemed drawn from reality, and therefore was not unimaginable. In the end, we are reminded that justice is also found through forgiveness and living on. The characters come to the religious conclusion that everybody, yet nobody, is to blame for someone’s choice to leave this world. You might say that cleaning up the mess brought everyone together, and reminded them, as Olivia Baker closes the series with, that ‘there are always more reasons why not, than reasons why’.
Can Tyler be saved from himself? Can Justin be saved from his fate? I certainly hope we never see Bryce again. As we know there will be a third season already, we hope for #justice4hannah, and for all the characters.
As they say at the end of every episode in season two: “For help finding crisis resources, visit 13reasonswhy.info”.
Talk about it, be brave or don’t be, take your time to heal, and keep living. If you ever want to submit your stories to help someone else through it, feel free to send them to us.