Following on from the events of the first season, the trajectory of the second season of Netflix’s High School drama series charts a disappointingly similar course to its predecessor, with a sprinkling of new ingredients that neither improve nor detract from what’s come before.
We have a few new students to focus on who mostly support the dynamic of the previous season’s central characters. Firstly, there’s Chloe Rice (Anne Winters), Bryce’s naive girlfriend who comes across as equal parts infuriating and unbelievable based upon her beau’s past and the allegations against him. Exactly how he manages to pull off keeping her throughout the process is beyond me. More interesting, on the other hand, is Cyrus (Bryce Cass) who becomes Tyler Down’s sidekick and provides an emotional spark for the finale that will no doubt lead into season 3.
The main arc of the season deals with the conclusion of Hannah Baker’s story from season one with the lawsuit brought against Liberty High by Hannah’s parents who have overcome the loss in their own way: her mother by buying a frankly terrible wig and her father taking up with another woman. Neither character demonstrates the emotional resonance that allowed us to sympathise with them so easily before.
Most of the thirteen laborious episodes deal with each character’s place in the cause of Hannah’s death and whether they are ready to accept responsibility. Unfortunately, this strongly detracts from the point that the show is trying to make and at times feels whiny and fills the viewer with a sense of déjà vu as each of the witnesses covers the ground already trodden through in the previous season.
To help pad things out there’s also a #MeToo spin with the revelation that Hannah and Jessica weren’t the only ones who were taken advantage of. Unfortunately, all this merely does is undermine the intensity of the main story and forces the audience to view Hannah’s choice to end her life against the less forgiving backdrop of other victims who found other ways to cope with their experience.
You can’t really talk about Season Two of “13 Reasons Why” without mentioning the season finale, which encompasses not only one but two very controversial subjects. You could argue that tackling school shootings, especially in the current climate in America, is at best a controversial choice and at worst blatantly insensitive then again you could argue that to not tackle it would be cowardly and grossly negligent. There’s more than a whiff of ‘Second Album syndrome’ around season two and if the inclusion of one of America’s hottest hot-button issues was just a sensationalist attention-grab, then it was completely unnecessary. If the showrunners believe they must deal with what is one of the most vexing, divisive and sensitive public debates in a volatile modern-day America, then they need to show in Season Three that they have something trenchant to add to the debate so that its inclusion here doesn’t feel exploitative.
Watch this if you liked: “13 Reasons Why Season 1”, “A Few Good Men”