13 Reasons Why (S1 & S2)

[Spoilers below (not major ones)]

This is a tough one, tough to watch and now tough to write about (this has taken me a long time to write, edit, re-edit etc.). Through a series of cassette tapes (the titular 13), season one reveals why Hannah Baker decides to take her own life.  This is a difficult watch by any standard but especially so as the completely avoidable becomes somewhat inevitable. Each episode focuses on one of the people in Hannah’s life who she feels has a part to play in her decision. It would be wrong to say that every one of the 13 are to blame as their actions vary from not malicious, to petty, to mean, to truly terrible but the effect each of them has on Hannah’s life is tangible in varying degrees.

This looks and feels, at first, like any other high school teen drama and there are some delightful, funny, touching moments but this is also, necessarily, a brutal watch. Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette have great chemistry as Hannah and Clay, they are both incredibly likeable, both flawed and both very complex characters. As the season continues, we begin to understand how complicated life has become.

It was an interesting decision to carry this on for a second season given that apart from a couple of loose ends, the story seemed to have been told and the important conversation had been started.  But as with many things, it’s more complicated than that.

For the first few episodes of season two, it felt like they were stretching the story somewhat and the narrative device of having Hannah appear as a ghost throughout seemed contrived but as it continued, it did make more sense.

I think season two enforced the awful finality of a decision, Hannah isn’t a romantic heroine, nor is she making a brave choice. It also shows, where the first season didn’t so much, how the actions of one person can ripple across and impact on so many others. It’s hammered home several times, that there is no future for Hannah, she isn’t coming back, there is no happy ending.

Whilst issues surrounding sexuality are addressed and race to a lesser extent, the focus here is on gender. Some of the different experiences and unique pressures that both young men and women can come under are dealt with and we are shown that either can be ‘bully’ or ‘victim’ and very often can be both.

Interestingly, a couple of the cast are shared with ‘Love, Simon’ (Katherine Langford & Miles Heizer) and with that plus the high school setting the themes of bullying, isolation, peer pressure are very similar. This feels like what could have been Simon’s fate had he not had an awesome family and great friends.

This show has come under a lot of flak and I can see that this is an extremely sensitive subject and of course parents especially want to protect their children but not talking about something doesn’t make it go away.

NetworkCBC / Netflix
CastDylan Minette, as Clay Jensen
Katherine Langford, as Hannah Baker
Christian Navarro, as Tony Padillo
Alisha Boe, as Jessica Davis
Miles Heizer, as Alex Standall
Justin Prentice, as Bryce Walker
SeasonS1 (2017): 13 episodes
S2 (2018): 13 episodes

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