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Sunday, 3 June 2018

Thoughts on '13 Reasons Why' Season 2


So the other night I watched the last five episodes of Season 2 of '13 Reasons Why' in one go. Didn't go to sleep till four in the morning. I have so many after-thoughts about the season, including the finale, so this post is just going to discuss that. Long post; will contain spoilers.


In the first season, the only characters I really liked were Clay and Tony. They were still my favs in season 2 (especially Clay; love him), but I also grew a lot of empathy towards Justin, Zach, Mr Porter, Alex and Jessica. I couldn't stand Courtney in the first season, but in the second season in the episode where she testified in court I developed a newfound sense of respect for her. She was able to come to terms with her sexuality and admit that she'd had feelings for Hannah and been embarrassed about it, which lead to her spreading awful rumours about Hannah.
Clay was having grief hallucinations of Hannah.
I think Justin had the best character development; his arc reminded me of Steve from Stranger Things. Like Steve, Justin isn't that likeable in the first season, particularly around the start. But by the end of the second season I was rooting for him. We learn more about Justin's awful past; his junkie mother and her horrible dealer boyfriend, and Justin's co-dependent friendship with Bryce. It sheds some light onto why Justin feared Bryce so much, hence not being able to do much when his best friend raped his girlfriend.

We also see Justin develop a heroin habit; I'm really glad that by the end of the season Justin was still taking H because it shows the realism of addiction. Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs out there, and Justin clearly still had a lot of demons he felt he couldn't yet face despite finally being welcomed into a real family and a real friendship with Clay. I also loved seeing the unlikely friendship between the two develop; Clay is quite a stoic person but he's loving and good-hearted, and really cared for Justin in a way that Bryce never really did.
Adopted brothers!
Oh, Bryce. I almost feel like writing an entire blog post on him because his character fascinates me so. I find Bryce to be such an unusual villain because at face value he appears really likeable. Most villains, even the ones that seem likeable, are disliked by those around them. Regina George in Mean Girls is the most popular girl in school, but everyone really hates her and knows that she's a bitch and her snare of friendship is fake. Even she knows that she's a bitch.

But Bryce is so good at seeming like a nice person. He exudes charm and charisma by making everyone around him feel special. Even after the trial he is still 'nice' to Justin and Clay, clapping them on the shoulder and calling them brothers. The actor who played him did a wonderful job bringing some depth to him, rather than just making him a blatant nasty guy like Montgomery. Bryce was able to charm Hannah, Chloe, and pretty much all of his male friends into believing he's this good, honest guy. Even he thinks he's a nice guy!
Bryce intimidated Chloe in the court room.
Naturally, this makes his character more alarming and horrific - he's a manipulative sociopath who cares for no one but himself, and creates an illusion of being 'everyone's friend' and 'the perfect boyfriend.' He's a controlling bully and also incredibly smart. I sort of admire his character - I hate him of course, but I love the fact that his character has a a great level of depth and intelligence to him. There is no way Bryce would send threats to those on the tapes - as Hannah's mum said, Bryce is too smart and well-off to do that. He gets people to do his dirty work for him by manipulating them under the guise of friendship and brotherhood. Even in his internal monologue, he talks about his sports team as brother and 'eleven men playing as one.' You want to believe he really does care for them, as opposed to just seeing them as part of his 'image' as this perfect guy who has it all.

The relationship between Zach and Hannah threw me off a bit. I think in the first or second season we should have seen more romance between Clay and Hannah as it's a bit confusing - most of their relationship was a close friendship, and they were never girlfriend and boyfriend, so I personally found it hard to see them as lovers. I think the writers should have made it clearer - were they close friends or were they romantically involved?

Hence the Zach-and-Hannah thing seemed a bit out of place to me as what about Clay? But I thought it was sweet, and great that Hannah got to experience a healthy sexual relationship (as far as the audience were concerned in the first season, her first sexual experience was being raped by Bryce). I guess it also explained why Hannah was so hurt by Zach; they'd spend a wonderful summer together as lovers, but then he drifted off back to his friends and his world and seemingly ignored her.

Then, the big one: Tyler. Tyler's story arc was fucking horrible; besides Jessica (and Hannah), he definitely suffered the most. We know that Tyler was bullied a lot in school, and used photography as an artistic outlet. Him spying on Hannah was undoubtedly creepy and strange; according to his court testimony he was just trying to get a 'better view' of her through his lens, and probably pressed the shutters by mistake. No one in this story is a reliable narrator (which makes it more realistic as in real life we paint our own interpretations), so we don't know if Hannah really was 'sexting' or if she was simply looking at pictures of herself on her phone and Tyler misinterpreted it.

But the final episode with his rape really fucked with my head. Being beaten up by Montgomery and the jocks was horrible enough, and not something he was new to. But what happened with the broom was beyond disgusting. Some people criticized the show for going too far but I disagree; I'm glad it showed a male rape scene because men do get raped as well, and its important to show that yes, stuff like this can and does happen to people. A lot was brought up in the second season about female sexual assault, so I'm glad this showcased that men go through horrible stuff too.

I was VERY DISAPPOINTED that Tyler didn't end up shooting down the school. That scene annoyed me for several reasons, but the main one was it was VERY UNREALISTIC. If someone is standing in front of you with a gun, you DON'T try and talk them out of it. In real life, Tyler would have shot Clay when he came out trying to speak to him.

If someone is holding a gun at your face, trying to talk them out of it with sentimentality is extremely dangerous. What Clay should have done is call the police; I get that he is the hero of the show and is constantly trying to do what's right, but for a show that was able to realistically portray many other elements, this was a let down. Also, of course after everything Tyler went through I wanted to see him shoot down the school - I understand that the writers probably didn't want to justify mass shootings, but those are the kind of things that tip people over the edge. Just like what happened to Hannah explained what lead to her feeling so hopeless, Tyler reached a breaking point and I think it should have been expressed to show 'yes, troubled kids can react like such.'

Also, mass shootings are a horrific problem in America, and showing it in the show would have forced viewers to look at it and go 'this is really happening, maybe we need to do something about gun control.' Tyler is only 17/18, and he'd had those guns for what appears to be quite some time - the fact that a teenager can access guns so easily should be frightening to people, especially considering that could be your own kid.

So this was very long, but there was a lot of content I wanted to cover. Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on 13 Reasons Why? Did you like the second season? Do you think its a terrible show that glorifies suicide? Do you think its a good show? Let me know!

Related posts:

https://www.thezarinamachablog.co.uk/2018/05/discussing-characters-on-13-reasons-why.html

https://www.thezarinamachablog.co.uk/2017/06/reviewing-13-reasons-why.html

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