A little over a year ago, I published a blog with my initial reactions to Netflix’s controversial show “13 Reasons Why,” so when Season 2 came out, I immediately knew I’d probably be sitting here, typing out a similar blog. When I asked my Instagram followers if they would also interested in my reaction to the second installment of the series, they were all eager for one, so here I am. I must warn you, though, there are spoilers ahead.
Overall, I was incredibly impressed with this season and how it was presented to its audience. Season 1 had its flaws, and those were addressed in Season 2 (more on that later), but I also appreciated how much this season focused on other important social issues outside of suicide and depression. If you didn’t like Season 1, I’d really suggest checking out Season 2. I believe the producers and writers heard the concern many people had over the first season and chose to both address those and ensure not to repeat them in this season.
Season 2, also known as “The Season We Hate Clay Jensen” really highlighted how most of society perceives issues like depression, suicide, rape, and gun violence. Clay’s character is painfully ignorant and whiny in every single episode, and it gets annoying very quickly, but there’s a reason behind it. Clay all but embodies the ignorance most people have regarding serious problems like the ones addressed in the show. Between his questions and his disturbing statements, viewers are left aghast at some of the things Clay says and believes, but it’s a serious eye-opener, giving light into how the majority of Americans deal with issues like rape and mental illness.
Though it was heavily focused on Hannah Bakers’ family’s case against the school, this season was primarily centered around Jess’ sexual assault from Season 1 and the stigmas placed on women who have been raped. We watched as Jess struggled with her own identity throughout the season and faced many obstacles in order to try and overcome her trauma. A central cause of concern in this season is Clay’s pressure for Jess to “tell her story” about her sexual assault in order to help convict her rapist (also, Hannah Baker’s rapist) and help the Baker’s case against the school. Jess struggles with trying to decide whether or not she will stand trial against this person, but ultimately confronts Clay telling him, “What the fuck gives you the right to decide what needs to come out?” in Episode Eight. Her story in this season doesn’t just show the constant psychological and emotional struggles a woman faces after being raped, but it emphasizes the fact that a woman’s assault is her own goddamn business and she is the sole person who gets to choose what she wants people to know (or not know) about her experience.
Gun violence and school shootings are also key points focused on in this season, and that I believe will also have a big influence on Season 3. The show highlighted how school shootings and gun violence are so much more than tragic events that are happening at an increased rate nationwide. This storyline focuses on Tyler, who has experienced aggressive bullying since the first season. By the end of Season 2, he arrives at prom with an automatic rifle, ready to kill the people he believes are responsible for his unhappiness. Season 2 continues harping on the point that Season 1 began: school bullying is not just aggressive and potentially violent, but it’s dangerous and relatively unregulated.
When I announced that I was going to begin watching the new season, I had more than one person warn me about the violent scene in the final episode involving Tyler. Many people believed this scene to be too violent and unnecessary. I disagree. Though it is unbearably hard to watch (especially when Tyler’s pants are pulled down and a mop handle is literally stuck up his ass), but had it not been that violent and disturbing, it wouldn’t have struck the cord that it did in so many viewers. Here’s what I mean: most of us are completely desensitized to violence on television, so if it had just been another bullying scene like we’ve seen throughout the last two seasons (or on any other movie or TV show), we wouldn’t have thought much of it, making Tyler’s actions at the end of Season 2 seem out-of-the-ordinary and villainizing him entirely. Since his assault scene (because, let’s call it what it really was) was so violent that it literally made me squirm in my seat and get woozy, it suddenly made me empathize with his character’s anger. Of course, I rationally know that it’s not okay to openly shoot-up a high school, but it made me realize where most of the “outcasts” and heavily bullied students are coming from when they have decided to resort to acts of violence. It forces you to realize that it’s so much more than a kid with a gun… it’s so, so much more.
What may have impressed me the most was how Season 2 addressed the audience’s concerns with Season 1, and how it subtly did so in a way that was integrated into the plot. In Episode 9, there’s a really great line delivered by Principal Bolan (perhaps the only good line delivered by his character) in which he says: “Suicide contagion is a real thing, and we’ve got to take measures to protect you kids.” Though, in context, this line isn’t all that great, I believe it’s a good reference to one of the many issues raised by audiences about Season 1: the glorification of suicide. Season 1 was blamed for glorifying suicide and portraying Hannah Baker as a selfish brat who only killed herself to get back at her peers, and those two beliefs were shut down by Season 2. In fact, in Episode 7, Hannah explains to Clay exactly why she left the tapes and how she never meant ill-will towards anyone because of them. All of those feelings are somewhat cleared up in Season 2.
The thing that stuck with me the most about this season was how well characters like Alex and Jess were portrayed in struggling with mental illness and self-harm. As someone who has struggled with both of those things for the last ten-or-so years of my life, I appreciated how well these emotions were put on screen. In Alex’s example, particularly in Episode 1, he isn’t portrayed as mentally weak or shying away from his attempted suicide; rather, he wants to confront it and talk about it with people, though he still struggles with accepting himself throughout the entire season. Jess shows what it’s like to want to overcome trauma, but how hard that can be, and how she’s not any less of a person because of it. Season 2 just did a damn good job at portraying both people with mental illnesses and the ignorance that, sadly, the majority of society has regarding people with mental illness.
Looking at the bigger picture, I think Season 2 did a much better job at portraying social problems we have in our society and then addressing them in an up-front, un-apologetic way. This season was more mature and broad than the previous, and I have a very positive outlook for Season 3.
What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter @MiaReneeCole.
Until next time,
Photo Courtesy of: Netflix