13 Reasons Why, Season 2
Woosh, that was a lot to take in. I finished watched 13 Reasons Why (season 2) last night, having watched the whole season over two days.
**SPOILERS and potential trigger warning**
Like many people watching new Netflix shows, I blitzed it. After watching I felt so exhausted, but also on a high. Given the mixed things said about this show I decided to wait a day, let everything settle before writing anything. Plus I needed to process some of it myself.
One of the things I have seen written/ said about this show is that it covered topics and storylines that it shouldn't. Personally (please take all of this as personal views otherwise I'll be writing that a lot), I disagree. I think it is important to talk about and promote discussion of topics like: mental health, self harm, rape, consent and gun crime.
Is this hard to watch? Generally, yes. In places, very! Does that mean the show shouldn't be made? No.
It is important to remember this is one story, it is never going to cover everything, or show every different possibility, danger, potential outcome or all the different ways someone could be effected and it isn't going to have every character in the same situation just to show how each character would react or for some kind of box ticking diversity. You have to keep in mind this is a show. The only difference is this show focuses on difficult topics and things (arguably I guess) that we really need to talk about. Most other shows rarely touch on these topics and when they do, its only for a couple of episodes. For me, this is highly important to keep in mind. The show is actively talking about difficult topics, arguably as much to provoke it as to encourage it.
My initial take aways from the show were that I noticed many more warnings about the scenes, the content and topics covered. This was so important and I think showed that the show runners took on board the feedback from the first season where this was not as prevalent. Having the season start with the actors talking about the topics and support available along with every episode being bookended with signposting was good to see (https://13reasonswhy.info). Additionally there were clearer warnings regarding the potentially triggering scenes in the episode at the start of each one.
I found Clay's holutanations of Hannah really interesting, particularly when he started to struggle with something (I forget what, I think the relationship with Bryce?) and she reverted to just speaking her tapes dialog. To me that felt more in tune with what my version of Clay would experience. I wasn't sure a couple of times Hannah seemed to prompt Clay, which I'm not sold on. Isn't she his version of Hannah, who can't tell him anymore than he already knows? So theres a couple of discussions I wasn't as keen on.
I did really like the couple of occasions when Clay fired back at Hannah (Hannah replied to Clay a couple times too), "but your dead". I think this was a powerful message. I heard many say that season one glorified suicide. The 'but your dead' lines really hit home, Hannah isn't here. She isn't the one affected by these things now, its the people that are alive.
That message grew through the season for me. The focus moved from what happened to Hannah to what was happening to those still alive.
Justin's story was good too, until the hook up at the end (I didn't like that). I liked the progress, but continued struggle route they took the character in. He isn't 'cured' he is still struggling and still using drugs. It showed its not easy, there isn't a quick and easy way to fix a drug addiction. His character was there for Clay and helped to save Clay's life, yet his own self worth is still low, and the addition is still present.
Zach's story was ace. I loved the Hannah relationship his involvement added a lot to Hannah's life and to his motivations. It also highlighted how intense Clay's relationship has become with Hannah since her death. Zach is struggling and trying to find his way and to help Clay find out more about what is going on at the school. I particularly liked the scene in the Clubhouse where Zach in his baseball gear says he is weak and a coward, and Clay is the strong brave one. Is was a powerful moment, showing physical strength is not the only way to be strong.
Tony's story for me was good. I was worried he was going to be given a horrific backstory, but his crime of passion made sense and I accepted that he had regret about what he had done, but not sorrow for the person he attacked. His portal of a strong latino man was enjoyable to see in a gay character, when too often a gay character is written in as being overtly camp.
Mr Porter, man, this dude. Such a change from season one. He showed we all make mistakes, he owned up to his mistake and tried to better himself and provide better support for the students he was around. Not for self gain, he knew he was on the way out. But because he wanted to help.
Tyler and Jess, for me were the focus of this season behind the Clay-Hannah storyline. Both seem to be the focus of negative reactions by many. While they were not perfect, heres why I actually think that they where good.
Jess' survivor story showed how many women have been and are affected by rape and sexual assault. The causal way that this is far far too often dealt with and the different ways individuals experience that pain. It highlighted the injustice that can be in place, which I took as we need to keep talking and saying this is not ok. But I can understand some may have seen the 3 month sentience Bryce received as dismissive and unenpowering to those considering coming forward. Unfortunately I think this maybe an accurate representation of the outcomes, if cases even get to court.
I didn't like that at times this came across as all men are scum and sexually assault. I don't like that approach to this topic, equally I do not like the assumption that all women are victims. Men are raped and assaulted too, and women commit these crimes. Not as much as men, but they do commit them.
My personal preference is for the behaviour, attitude, actions to be challenged not the gender. I know Bloggers that talk proactively about awareness of sexual assault, but too often (for me) they revert to attacking a gender rather than the actions.
I am interested to see what happens with the Tyler storyline in season 3 regarding the sexual assault he was victim to. Will that be treated as sexual assault or just as bullying, in the same way as pushing someone into a locker. Parts of that scene where very graphic, I hope that leads to a storyline and was not just a graphic scene. I imagine it will be addressed.
I did like that Jess showed growth in forming new friendships, finding support and working out how it best worked for her. She probably grew the most in this season and her naming of Bryce felt like a big moment, highlighting some of the difficulties Jess was feeling when coming forward.
Tyler, ok, so this storyline seemed clear very early on in the season, but I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen. I do think its important to remember here, this is a tv show. Just like Eastenders, Corrie, Hollyoaks, CSI, Skins and all the rest. This is not a documentary or a reality show (though even those are scripted). Was he too easily talked down by Clay, probably. But importantly it showed that the small things can all add up, that talking is important, that even at the very last moment you can change your mind. Also that guns are far to easy to access and use in the United States.
But as a show, it was someone you wanted to see, you wanted to know what was going to happen.
Through the Tyler and Justin storylines the show highlights the importance of intervention really well and this is discussed more on the 'Beyond the Reasons' post season episode. That episode involves discussion of Clay's actions (walking out to stop Tyler at the dance) being very much something the show would not recommend. Their views were that Clay should have locked the doors, stayed inside and called the police. Again, for me showing that this is a tv show, not a recommended behaviour video.
Recovery is another topic the 'Beyond the Reasons' episode focuses on and here I think it is important to see how hard physically and emotionally it is for Alex to move on from his suicide attempt and Clay's struggle to process Hannah's suicide. Suicide is something that affects too many people, it shouldn't affect anyone, but it affects so many.
In the UK suicide is the biggest killer of men 18 - 45 and of all genders 18 - 35. That is not ok.
This show, helps to start discussions, even if that discussion is that you hate the show, or disagree with something in it. Its not perfect, but we need to talk.
There are lots of people talking about the things they didn't like, for me there wasn't too many. I think I feel less strongly about the negative things and more strongly about the positive things. So maybe it depends on your own situation, experiences and mindset as to how you will view this show.
There are some beautiful moments in this season: Clay and his dad taking about why teens don't talk to parents, most of Hannah and Zach's relationship, everyone supporting Jess outside her house, everyone hugging Clay at the dance, Mr Porter not letting Justin walk away, Jess' dad tucking her in, Tony's relationship with Caleb, Skye's discussion with Clay at the unit.
There are so many moments in this show that could affect you positively, but equally negatively.
I did struggle watching parts of the show, particularly the self harm and suicide. Not so much the imagery but the conversations and the contexts. Personally I am ok with that. I felt a connection to characters and scenes, I was invested in seeing what happened and I think I may have even learnt somethings.
Personally (again), I liked this season. What the show depicted was not always what we wanted to see, but it was what far too often happens. I believe more people will actively speak negatively of this show than will speak negatively about some of the bad actions shown in 13 Reasons Why. That for me is the greatest disappointment.
What did you think of season 2? Let me know @Mike_Douglas_
If you struggle at any time, please call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123.
*Images from Netflix.com and 13reasonswhy.wikia.com*