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13 Reasons Why- Losing Sight of its Original Intent?
TRIGGER WARNING: This article may discuss topics such as suicide, self-harm, and sexual assault and harassment.
Here's a thought: 13 Reasons Why would have had a more of a meaningful impact as a standalone season. Let’s discuss this in the following 13 points.
The series’ second season still deals with the aftermath of Hannah’s death with Olivia Baker suing the school district and continues its vital discussion on uncomfortable topics. No one is safe from persecution, oh, just like in reality. Alex is okay, Hannah is a-haunting, Clay tries in vain to move on, Tony’s dealing with his anger, Jessica grapples with her experience, Bryce gets only a fraction of what he deserves, Justin may or not be following in the footsteps of his mother, and Tyler is pushed to the breaking point. Good stuff. Enough content for maybe 6 episodes. But 13?
13 Reasons continues to discuss difficult and important topics, topics that media and television tend to veer away from because how uncomfortable and controversial they are. These topics include suicide, self-harm, PTSD (what Clay appears to be struggling with), sexual assault and harassment and bullying. These topics must be discussed and we must normalize the discussion of them and I am glad that 13 Reasons has decided to undertake the enormous task of tackling them.
However this is still a television show, made for consumers. Although 13 reasons raises awareness, it is still primarily meant to entertain and to produce good numbers (not sure what those numbers would look like for Netflix). It’s still a teen drama series with cringey moments or even unsettling ones. But these unsettling moments are bordering on gratuitous, which is fine, but its not impacting people in the same way.
When I watched the first season, I was feeling everything our protagonist Hannah was feeling. I felt her injustice, I felt her humiliation, her fear of speaking out, her embarrassment of her harrowing experiences, I felt every emotion that eventually drove her to slit her wrists. I felt Olivia’s pain when she found Hannah in the bathtub of blood. I felt Clay’s confusion as he traces through Hannah’s story. I felt the guilt and the frustration from the people in Hannah’s life, guilt that they treated her in a certain way and frustration that they couldn’t go back and fix it. But with the second season, I felt like an outsider which is normal for a television viewer. But I didn’t feel emotionally connected to anyone, I didn’t have vested interest in how this continuation of the story would unfold. Not bored necessarily because it was a fairly entertaining season, but more, indifferent, uninterested. 13 Reasons’ second season lacked a certain sincerity or emotional tug. And that’s what the first season executed so well, the story would pull you in by your heartstrings and would demand that you stay there to see how it would turn out.
The beauty of first season of 13 Reasons why is that it was mysterious. The series was a mystery and those mysteries unraveled in a complex and unpredictable way. It was expertly crafted and the storylines seamlessly interwove with one another, an impressive feat with the size of the cast and the brevity of the source material. I just failed to see that same complexity with the second season. It seemed disorganized, chaotic even, but perhaps that is what we were meant to feel. For me, nothing in the second season replaced or even measured up to the mystery and the mood of the original season.
Artistically speaking, the show is still produced decently. Generally, the way the episodes were filmed using flashbacks (somewhat unnecessary ones at that) and the use of different timelines with the revolving plots of many different characters juxtaposed with the overarching court case as a plot device, was the only thing that kept me from watching. It could have been better but it also could have been worse.
That being said, if you don’t like 13 Reasons Why, don’t watch it. Although I enjoyed the first season, I trudged through the second and I probably won’t watch the third season that it has been renewed for. People like to pretend that because they don’t like a show, then that show should not be aired and is not suitable for anyone to watch. I’m not saying that that this show shouldn’t have aired, I’m saying that it would have been stronger as one season instead of a weaker two seasons.
Unfortunately, 13 Reasons appears to be veering off from its original intent. It was originally discussing bullying and suicide albeit through a means of entertainment. I think it would be difficult for any studio or series to adequately pull off a series that tackles every single controversial or uncomfortable topic out there. It’s simply unrealistic. The result of biting off more than you can chew, is you’re left with a show that is less impactful and less special. It feels like just another tv show now.
It feels like a stretched out version of a good story. Like, there’s good stuff in there, there’s a good story to tell, it’s just so convoluted with other crap that you’re just finding yourself thinking, “okay, okay I get it. So and so is really sad...or really mad…” To be fair, that’s what real life feels like.
I think what I would have really liked to see was 13 Reasons’ second season tell a similar story with a completely different set of characters (instead of what feels like a superfluous continuation of Hannah’s story because it was a widely watched series). I would have liked to see a different individual (maybe a different gender?) in a different position (college, workplace?) with different struggles but it ended the same way. But this idea sort of brings us to the next point.
I think Tyler being driven to almost shoot up the school was an interesting development. Suddenly, it's not just Hannah anymore. Someone else was bullied and harassed and assaulted and humiliated to the point where they feel like they have no way out, and nothing to do besides hurt themselves or hurt someone else (of course there might be other factors as well. This is not a discussion on school shootings). It’s someone else’s story. Someone else’s story in a sea of many.
In the end, season two is a compelling and entertaining continuation of Hannah’s story (but honestly, Hannah had little business being in the second season except in superfluous flashbacks, but hey, a girl’s gotta haunt when a girl’s gotta haunt) and it does continue to normalize the discussion of difficult topics. 13 Reasons raises some awareness but the mediocre plot almost overshadows much of the positive effect of that awareness.
The opinions expressed in this article do not represent the opinions of this institution.