CONTENT WARNING: 13 Reasons Why deals with triggering content such as suicide, sexual assault, self-harm, and more. These recaps will discuss and give detailed accounts of how the series portrays these issues. Hate will not be tolerated, so please help in keeping the comments section a safe space. Please be advised.
When it was announced that Netflix gave the go-ahead for a second season of the controversial 13 Reasons Why, I was overwhelmed with a flurry of mixed emotions. Concern. Anxiousness. Hope. The first season was triggering, to say the least, for many people. And both the streaming platform and the show itself could have done more to warn viewers of the graphic nature of the content. That being said, the show also started a very important conversation about suicide, mental health, consent, and more. And though I often hear this series talked about with contempt and anger, I think it’s important to acknowledge the good that it achieved as well. And I’m speaking as someone who was directly affected by the series. Someone who has an anxiety disorder and struggles with depression. Someone who used to be suicidal. But being triggered by the first season of the show ended up majorly influencing my decision to start undergoing therapy. I think the only way to look at a show like this is objectively; meaning we have to acknowledge both the help and harm it has done.
So, that was Season 1. Following the story of Hannah Baker, with her tapes, her note, as our narrator. With all thirteen tapes heard, the announcement of a second season begged one, simple question. Why? Many thought it was a money-grab. And of course, that was, and still is, a worry of mine. But I had hope, too. Perhaps Season 2 would focus on more than just the aftermath, but the recovery. A second season had the potential to show something a little more hopeful. But based on the premiere, it looks like this season will be anything but bright. Whether or not it will be harmful remains to be seen. But again, we’re only talking about the first episode. So, without further ado, let’s break down the premiere.
Season 2 does not begin as one might expect. It’s been five months since Hannah committed suicide, and the Baker trial has finally begun. Many of our characters doubted if it would ever take place, but at the last minute, the Bakers rejected the school board’s final offer, and things moved quickly from there. Many students from Liberty High have been called as witnesses, either by Hannah’s parents or the school itself. But not on the list, surprisingly, is Clay Jenson. And no one knows why. Also surprising is our opening shot. It isn’t of the school or the courthouse. Of Clay or of Hannah. Or anyone relatively likable, for that matter. No, this season opens with a shot of Tyler Down of all people. He is the first to testify, and, in a way, is our narrator for Episode 1. And honestly…it stirs some conflicting feelings.
Tyler was easily one of the antagonists of the first season. Stalking and taking non-consensual pictures of Hannah Baker, how couldn’t he be? But this season seems to be shedding a new light on Tyler. In fact, he may be the biggest target for bullying at Liberty High, and he isn’t afraid to speak up about it. Though Mrs. Baker wants to go up against Bryce for raping Hannah, there isn’t enough proof to make it stick. Even the tapes can’t be heard in court unless Tape 9 girl, AKA Jessica, is willing to come forward. So, the Bakers are building their case against the school directly, claiming they knew exactly what was going on and did nothing to change the abusive environment. And though there’s definitely more to it than that, the Bakers are right. This trial is about more than just Hannah. It’s about all students who are bullied, it’s about setting precedent. This trial could stop future tragedies. But it’s not going to be an easy fight.
Olivia: “This is what it’s gonna be like, isn’t it? They’re gonna paint this picture of some girl that I don’t even recognize?”
Jackie: “Yes. But you’re going to have to stay strong. You know who Hannah was.”
The school’s (disgusting) defense is that Hannah wasn’t a victim, but that through her actions and choices, she brought bullying on herself. In other words, they’re going to do some good, old-fashioned victim-blaming. Classy, right? But luckily, Olivia isn’t alone. Presumably through the case, she’s made a new friend, Jackie, who’s daughter also committed suicide. Her daughter was also bullied. Jackie is there to support Olivia, and remind her that even though the trial is going to be tough, it’ll be worth it in the end.
But as we learned this episode, Season 1 didn’t give us the whole story. In fact, it looks like there’s a lot we don’t know. For example, that Tyler and Hannah became friends on the first day of school. Or that Hannah did a photoshoot with Tyler. Or that one of the first times Tyler took pictures of Hannah without her consent, he took a picture of her as she was, presumably, sexting with someone. And you can bet the school board’s lawyer is milking this. Painting a picture of a girl who was asking for attention. Who liked having pictures taken of her, even when they were taken by a stalker in the bushes.
Like I said, this season’s going to be angering as all hell. But I think it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to make the audience furious, and remember that even though nothing is as black and white as it seems, there is most definitely a clear line between right and wrong.
So, where does that leave us with Tyler Down? Well, we’re definitely not ready to forgive him for what he did to Hannah. But, like I said, nothing is black and white. Tyler’s still testifying and admitting to what he did wrong, despite the fact that he received an anonymous threat in the darkroom that claims, “You Ain’t Seen Shit“. And, believe it or not, he’s been a good friend to Alex Standall, visiting him and sneaking him junk food as he’s been in recovery.
Season 1 left us wondering if we’d seen the last of Alex. He attempted suicide, but luckily, the gun he used was different than he had ever shot before, heavier than he expected, and he flinched. That flinch saved his life, and his recovery has been quite miraculous. He now walks with a cane and has no memories of up to a month before he attempted, which includes the tapes. He knows of them and what was said on them, but can’t remember actually listening to them. And his missing memories has him incredibly confused when he reads the suicide note he left his parents, something he also can’t remember writing. In the note, Alex says that he could’ve stopped it, but he has no idea what ‘it’ is. Clay thinks he’s talking about Hannah, but Alex has a feeling there’s more to it than that. No doubt all will reveal itself in time.
Jessica also took time off of school after the events of Season 1, and since then, she and Alex have been talking frequently again. Neither of them are quite sure how to deal with walking the halls of Liberty High, so they take comfort in each other by walking in together, claiming everyone is staring at the other. And as Zach rushes over and helps Alex with his backpack, even walking him to class, things look like they might be okay. Until we see Bryce Walker.
This is torturous to watch. Jessica tries to keep it together as she sees Bryce, as he asks her how she’s been. As he asks how she’s been holding up, and if she wants to get a drink sometime. And that’s not all. While Jessica was out of school, Bryce saw his opportunity to twist the story, and took it. He spread word that Jessica cheated on Justin with Bryce, that she wanted it. When she goes into a bathroom stall to hideout, she sees her name written all over it, with insults like “drunk slut” and “bitch”. And her name isn’t the only one. There are countless insults on the door about countless girls. For every story we hear, there are hundreds we don’t. And that may very well be the theme of this season.
Jessica is going through hell, but she has a guardian angel that she doesn’t know about: Mr. Porter. He’s listened to all of the tapes, knows exactly what Bryce did to both Jessica and Hannah. And he’s stepping up. He corners Bryce in the bathroom and pushes him against the wall, lifting him up and choking him.
“Listen, you little shit. I know everything that I need to know about you. You go near the girl, you look in her direction, and I will fuck up your life.”
And Porter isn’t just looking out for Jessica, but for Tyler, too. His eyes are opened, and based on this episode, he may shape up to be a fan favourite of the season.
So, that’s what’s been going on at Liberty. But what about Clay? Well, since the Season 1 finale, he’s reconnected with Skye. The two are dating, and the episode opens with him on the back of her motorcycle, on his way to get his first tattoo. A semi-colon on his wrist, in honor of Hannah. He ends up passing out halfway through, in true Clay fashion, but Skye assures him it’s the thought that counts.
Clay is clearly still haunted by what happened, but overall, he’s proving to be pretty great boyfriend material. He’s playing a big part of Skye’s recovery process, and when he feels recent cuts on her legs, he offers to help her meditate, go on a mindfulness walk, lists multiple therapy techniques. He won’t budge, and insists she calls whenever she feels the urge. It’s a tender, intimate moment. Almost heart-breaking, in a way. And it also shows how far Clay has come since Season 1, when he threw Skye’s cutting in her face. Now, he’s helping her recover. But by the end of the episode, things turn darker for our protagonist.
The Season 2 premiere ends with four events that certainly set the tone for the upcoming episodes. The first is a Polaroid, and as teased in the trailer, Clay finds it in his locker. In the picture are an unknown boy and girl, and on the back it says, “Hannah wasn’t the only one“. Who the Polaroid is from is unclear, though Clay suspects it might be Scott Reed, but that’s solely based on a look he gives him. It seems the Polaroids might act in place of the tapes and propel the story forward this season, but we won’t know for sure until Episode 2.
Shortly after, Clay starts seeing hallucinations of Hannah, and at the very end of the episode, she begins to talk to him. The premiere ends on this cliffhanger, but quite honestly, the hallucinations of Hannah seem like they could become very unnecessary. It’s already obvious that Clay is haunted, these images almost seem just for dramatic effect. Hopefully this will prove not to be true, but only time will tell.
The other two events to take note of is, one, just how much Jessica is being slut-shamed. She hears someone outside of her house and sees a blowup doll hanging from her porch, a noose around her neck, and “slut” written largely across it. We can only hope things will get better for Jessica, and quickly.
And finally, we come to Tony. The mystery man, the man who seemed to be innocent, but may be far from it. He’s hiding something, something he did or didn’t to Hannah that could implicate him in the trial. Halfway through the episode, Ryan visits him and gives him papers, saying it’s everything Hannah ever wrote about what happened. And later, we see Tony burning Hannah’s note that she left to him with the tapes, and on it, it says, “You owe me“. Owe her for what, we’re not sure. But what we do know is that no one is as innocent as they seem.
And that’s the Season 2 premiere! Stay tuned for more recaps and news on 13 Reasons Why, and please remember to keep the comments section a safe space.
13 Reasons Why Season 2 Is Currently Streaming On Netflix.