By episode four of season two, I’d already had enough of 13 Reasons Why. But, willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, I continued watching.
Fortunately it does get better, with an ending that differs to the one you’ve already concocted in your mind, but it’s still riddled with plot holes.
The problem isn’t with its direction, cast (who are incredible) or script – it’s the story. Issues with the narrative distract from the controversial and important topics of sexual, domestic and substance abuse detailed throughout.
Here are 13 Reasons Why season 2 missed the mark:
1. Hannah’s dad
The circumstances of Hannah’s death and the court case that follows proves too much for the Baker’s marriage – we find out early on they’re separating.
Although this is a shame, Olivia is more concerned about bringing her daughter’s rapist (and the school that allowed it to happen) to justice. Olivia is a pillar of strength throughout the case, hearing harrowing details of her daughter’s traumatic last few weeks.
However, Andy doesn’t share his wife’s determination for justice and finds attending court too much to deal with – he turns up twice and ‘can’t handle it’.
Again, everyone is different, but it feels as though Andy leaves Olivia to pick up the pieces (she’s now the only one working/owning the pharmacy).
And, as if he didn’t already look pathetic, we find out he’s been seeing another woman – before Hannah’s death. It’s even more painful for Olivia as the new woman has a young daughter, (not much younger than Hannah was) so it feels as if Andy’s trying to start all over again and forget about Hannah.
2. Hannah’s ghost
A figment of Clay’s imagination or a nod to his declining mental health? Either way, it’s a tad cliché.
I can’t help but feel not seeing Hannah, but still watching Clay seemingly talk to himself would have been better.
The flashback scenes of Hannah work well, but this alongside the ‘in limbo’ Hannah throughout each episode makes for a Hannah-overload.
So much so, it’s easy to forget that’s she’s actually dead – making it difficult to relate to the emptiness and sadness each character is feeling because of her death.
3. Storylines are too convenient
Flipping from past to present (while dealing with a deceased character) is pretty difficult.
But I’m totally on the same page as Stephen King’s Annie Wilkes when it comes to shoving in a storyline just to make things work:
“This isn’t what happened last week! Have you all got amnesia? They just cheated us! This isn’t fair! – Annie Wilkes, Misery
The term for this is Retroactive continuity (retcon for short). It refers to when facts already established previously are altered or ignored, disrupting continuity with the former.
A lot of season two’s story is based around the summer before Hannah’s death. Throughout the episodes we find out LOADS of stuff that didn’t even get a mention in season one, even though there are multiple flashbacks to the same time:
• Hannah and Zach’s relationship
It’s cute, but surely Hannah would have mentioned this in her tape to him? This is explained by Hannah the ghost (hello unreliable narrator) as wanting what they had to be a private thing and only ‘their story’. Hmm.
• Hannah and Bryce’s first encounter
Bryce is an ugly, awful, manipulating character. This backstory tries to explain where this ugliness might stem from, which is pretty difficult when we’ve already made up our minds. And, although Hannah explains she ‘just wants to be friends’ (which is a really brave thing to say to someone about to cross that boundary), would she then hang around with him throughout the summer? And not tell anyone about it? Or include it on his tape? Hmm.
• Hannah, Jess and Alex’s kiss
Everyone ‘experiments’. But are we suppose to believe Alex and Jess (two thirds of an inseparable friendship group) decided that after one silly kiss they were in love with each other?
And if we’re talking about unbelievable things, in this day and age, there aren’t many 17 year olds who haven’t kissed another person. And even so, would your two friends kiss you to put this right? This was the kind of scene that adults think happen in the lives of young people – it doesn’t. Unless my teen years were drastically different to everyone else’s?
4. 90% of the cast are supposed to be 17
Ok I get it, it’s America – guns, drugs and booze are easy to get hold of, if you’re an adult. But America is pretty tight on age restrictions.
You have to be 21 to buy a gun or alcohol. The only thing an 18 year old would be able to buy is a AR-15 rifle. And Tyler had significantly more than just a rifle in his stash of weapons.
These kids seem to be able to get their hands on anything they want, no trouble. In one scene, Bryce drinks neat (!) whisky from a tumbler. Yes his parents are rich, but still, would a 17 year old do this?
Similarly, when Jess has a party, there’s alcohol and drugs involved – her parents are pretty strict. How did she get so much alchohol so easily?
5. Tyler’s girlfriend is middle aged
Sorry, another age-related point.
HOW OLD IS MACKENZIE?
Let me take this opportunity to say, Chelsea Alden, the actress who plays Mackenzie does not look ‘old’ in anyway.
But after doing a quick Google, she is 30. And even though Chelsea looks fab, she doesn’t look 17.
Although this isn’t a huge deal, it’s really distracting.
6. Cyrus is so 2004
Would a 17 year old student in 2018 still be using Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong as a style icon?
We learn that Cyrus is a plastic punk, but does he not have any other reference points? The Clash, Ramones, Sex Pistols?
7. Baseball, basketball, football?
This is probably an America high school thing, but at the start of the series the jocks are playing baseball and are referred to as the ‘baseball team’.
Then a few episodes later they’re playing football?
Maybe this makes perfect sense to an American audience, but as a UK viewer, it’s a bit confusing. Especially when so much emphasis is put on the baseball team.
8. Still so many secrets
After the events of last season, why are characters still keeping secrets from each other?
Most of the time, these secrets aren’t life changing, but would make other characters feel significantly better:
• Justin doesn’t tell Clay about his relationship with Hannah, even though it would put Clay’s mind at rest.
• Hannah’s dad doesn’t tell Olivia (or the barrister) that Hannah knew about his affair. Telling both Olivia and the barrister before taking the stand would have saved SO MUCH drama.
• Clay and Tony don’t tell anyone about Justin being back. And then try and rehabilitate him on their own. Why not seek the help he needs?
9. Every decision is a bad decision
If I had a pound for every shitty choice… Here’s another set of bullet points:
• Cyrus and Tyler are caught using guns. To punish them, their parents take them shooting.
• Clay decides to leave the box of crucial polaroids that could bring Bryce to justice, on the backseat of his car. Genius.
• Alex decides he should be the one to go with Monty to retrieve the polaroids. Alone. While still recovering from the side effects of being shot in the head. Nobody challenges this. Obviously, this plan fails abysmally.
10. Alex and Jess?
Is it just me, or do they not look or act like a couple?
Alex’s interests, style and mannerisms (albeit very stereotypical of me) suggest he’s more of a gay best friend to Jessica? Of course, he could also be totally comfortable with his sexuality and not feel the need to act like the rest of the boys at school.
But, when he’s feeling frustrated about being ‘numb down there’ he fights semi-naked with Zach and gets an erection. It’s supposed to be a funny coincidence – his sheer anger about not being able to experience anything helps him do just that.
But what if there’s more to it?
It seems Justin and Jess should be together – they make more sense. But maybe that’s the point. And after all that’s happened between Justin and Jess, would it still make sense?
11. Everyone is an asshole
Tyler and Cyrus were right.
Literally every character is insufferable. After all that’s happened, no one seems to have learnt anything – they’re still lying, cheating and keeping secrets.
Plus, they’re all acting remorseful in court but are quite happy to mentally and physically abuse Tyler Down. With each episode it becomes clear why Hannah did what she did and why Tyler is pushed to do what he (almost) does.
12. What’s happened to Tony?
Tony is a whirlwind of anger from the off, but we don’t find out why until near the end of the series.
And when we eventually find out what he’s been hiding, it’s totally unbelievable. Beating a randomer to within an inch of his life? Attacking a drug dealer in a group? It’s not the Tony we know (and love).
It’s a stark contrast from the helpful, caring, persistent Tony in season one, who stops at nothing to make sure everyone listens to Hannah’s tapes.
13. Clay is the most irritating of them all
Apart from pulling the same frowning face throughout, Clay tries to keep up the ‘good guy’ rep – but he’s actually really damaging to the people around him:
• He releases Hannah’s tapes against everyone’s (especially Jessica’s) wishes and knows that they could negatively impact the court case.
• Repeatedly forces characters to do things they don’t want to do (even if he’s got good intentions). He asks Jessica multiple times to testify against Bryce, thinking that this would be a simple thing for her to do.
• Gets angry at Justin for being a drug addict and only goes to find him for his own selfish reasons (wanting to prove Hannah was the girl he really knew). Why did he not attempt to find and help Justin before?
• Victim blames Hannah when he finds out she had a secret relationship with Zach, invited Justin into her room and had a kiss with Alex. Nice, Clay.
• Is basically a very jealous, bitter person – he wanted Hannah and kicks himself that he wasn’t brave enough to tell her.
But there is one redeeming act. Of course, he temporarily stops Tyler from shooting the entire school, which he’s able to do by realising how close he came to doing the same to Bryce.
Yet, this character development is too late in the game for me – 12 episodes of being super annoying can have that effect.
And that’s just about it.
Do you agree? Are there more obvious things I’ve missed? Let’s talk about it.