13 Reasons Why season 1 adapted Jay Asher's book of the same name, depicting the events that lead up to the suicide of Hannah Baker. Upon her death, Hannah left behind 13 retro cassette tapes, each listing 'reasons why' she took her own life. More specifically, these 'reasons' were actually people whose actions had contributed to her decision. 13 Reasons Why was a huge hit, despite much controversy surrounding the show and criticism from parenting groups who said it glorified suicide.
If anything, 13 Reasons Why actually delivered a stronger anti-suicide message than its source material; mainly because they made many alterations from the book, including having Hannah slit her wrists rather than take an overdose. This was a deliberate decision from showrunner Brian Yorkey, who wanted to show that suicide was not an easy choice. Throughout the course of season one, Hannah appeared both as the narrator of the tapes and also in flashback as the viewers traveled through the last few months of her life. Hannah's story was a tragic tale, and equally as heartbreaking was the effect it had on her parents, who ultimately decided to sue the school for negligence. As season one drew to a close, Hannah's peers who had been the subjects of the tapes, were subpoenaed to testify in the case.
13 Reasons Why ran out of source material at the end of season one, but Netflix quickly renewed it for season 2 due to its strong reception. The questions everyone had were 'why' and 'how?' Why was a show, which was perfectly contained in one outstanding season, renewed for another when it had served its purpose and could stand alone? How would the show return, now that we'd heard the tale of its main protagonist?
- This Page: The Court Case and Hanna's Ghost
- Page 2: What it Should Have Been About
The Court Case Was The Link Between Seasons One And Two
The court case that the Baker's brought against the school turned out to be the event that leads us into season two, but it wasn't ever going to be enough to sustain our interest. We learn that Olivia and Andy Baker have split up and that he's moved in with another woman. Olivia is far from over Hannah's death - not that you ever really would be - but because of the court case she's finding it even harder to move on with life. We hear from each of the tapes subjects in turn, and, frustratingly, the bulk of almost all the episodes in season 2 revolve around the person in the dock telling Hannah's story from their own perspective.
The problem is, we already know it. There are a few revelations, such as Hannah and Zach's summer fling, and her recreational drug use with Clay, but there is nothing in this retelling that we needed to know as a viewer. If anything, it makes Hannah's fate have less of an impact since we learn she had major flaws; it's like her story is being watered down and we begin to care less. The court case drags; season two had no reason at all to be 13 episodes long and as a consequence, there's a lot of slow moments. At the end of season 2, Olivia Baker looks set to move to New York. It would have been far better if this had happened at the end of season one; we could have picked up season 2 with the court case having already taken place, and 13 Reasons Why could have moved on.
Having Hannah Baker As A Ghost Was Ridiculous
13 Reasons Why has given us many outstanding performances, and Katherine Langford was certainly one. During season 1, she played Hannah with a sweet but troubled vulnerability which made us feel so desperately sad about her fate, and her scenes with Clay (Dylan Minnette) were wonderful. It's easy enough to see why Yorkey didn't want to dispense with one of his most popular pairings, especially when you consider 13 Reasons Why's fervent teenage fanbase, and in particular Clay and Hannah's fans.
All good things must come to an end, though, and there was no need at all to bring Hannah back as a ghost who not only lingers ominously in nearly all of Clay's scenes, but now walks, talks, and interacts with him too. Ultimately, all this does is reduce 13 Reasons Why from an intense, uncomfortable but realistic portrayal of teenagers lives, to nothing more than a melodrama. Minnette is a strong enough actor; he didn't need Hannah's ghost to talk to for us to know he was working through some major issues. We wouldn't have expected him to be over Hannah's death, but this could have been showcased in so many other ways, not least by his conversations with his parents, teachers, and peers. Hannah's return made a mockery of the seriousness of the show, and it's no wonder critics were so mixed in their reviews. Not only was the continuing court case unnecessary, so was Hannah's presence, especially when there was so many other storylines building that were far more compelling.
Page 2: What it Should Have Been About
What 13 Reasons Why Should Have Focused On Instead
Because 13 Reasons Why season 2 spent so long taking a retrospective look at what we'd already covered, Tyler, Jessica, and Justin's stories were not given the adequate time and attention they deserved. Justin's descent into heroin addiction as a result of parental neglect needed more exploration. Brandon Flynn plays the role perfectly, but it's hard to care for Justin's plight as much as we should, because there's not enough depth given to his backstory. Hopefully, with Hannah and the Baker's now surely out of the picture for season 3, we'll get to pick up with him as he becomes part of the Jensen family.
For Jessica, finding the courage to speak out against Bryce Walker and seeing him finally convicted of rape was a monumental moment. The fact that Bryce only got a 3-month probation order while Justin was heading to juvie because his mom wouldn't claim him was reflective of our society which so often favors the powerful white man from a privileged upbringing. Still, Jessica felt stronger and able to start rebuilding her life, which was surely a good thing. She went to the spring dance with Alex, and they shared a kiss....but then suddenly she's hooking up with Justin? Again, it felt rushed, and it didn't need to be.
Once Crucial Storyline Wasn't Given Enough Time
Finally, 13 Reasons Why never needed to return to Hannah Baker's storyline because they had Tyler's story to tell. At the end of season one, he was heading into school with guns in his backpack. That moment was simply never revisited. Instead, Tyler was first on the witness stand in season 2, and we ended up empathizing with the lonely outcast who was relentlessly bullied by Montgomery- a fellow student who was enduring an abusive home. Tyler's story built gradually, but far too slowly, and we learned very little about Montgomery. As a result, when Montgomery assaults Tyler, we are horrified, but there's not really any time for us to know much about it- from either side- because it's the 13 Reasons Why season finale and it needs to end in a big way - with Tyler looking certain to carry out a school shooting before being talked out of it by Clay. As Tyler makes his escape, aided by Tony, Clay is left holding a semi-automatic weapon, with Jessica and Justin by his side.
It's the mother of all cliffhangers, setting up the inevitable season 3, but given the current climate; given that the day of 13 Reasons Why's release another school shooting took place.... would it not have been more sensible, more engaging and more powerful to have concentrated the whole season on how and why Tyler came to take such awful actions, and for us to have seen what happens next? It could have encouraged more discourse on gun control and prompted an important discussion on bullying and abuse. Instead, we wasted so much time revisiting a story that had already been told, and hearing from a character that was already done, that 13 Reasons Why's most powerful storyline was relegated to the sidelines.
13 Reasons Why season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.Source:gamerant.com