Will 13 Reasons Why Get It Right In Season 2?

Photo from PenguinTeen

Last year Netflix held viewers captive with 13 Reasons Why. They watched in heart-wrenching suspense for Hannah Baker, the show’s lead character who has retraced the steps leading up to her suicide, letting her classmates know how much they caused it. The show, produced by Selena Gomez, tackled the issue of suicide with unbelievably transparent storytelling and gruesome scenes.

While on the surface fans were enthralled with the thought-provoking series, there was controversy surrounding how the team decided to approach the issue.

The idea of backtracking a suicide by recounting how everyone contributed to Hannah’s decision was sad, but drew in a massive audience. Because of the lure of Hannah’s story, many critics argued that the dramatic portrayal romanticized suicide for their audience.

For some viewers, that could be triggering. The target audience of the show is mostly teenagers, young adults in school who have the chance to hear a story like Hannah Baker’s and make sure it doesn’t happen in their school.

However, the raw storylines and realistic events that took place in the first season could lead a viewer who relates to the issue to make harsh decisions about how to handle their own situation after seeing how Hannah handled hers. The possibility of a viewer imitating what Hannah did was a main concern for many critics, and made the show very risky for some teenagers to watch.

But did the series do their due diligence to keep that risk to a minimum? It’s hard to say because there is no “correct” way to tackle such a heavy, pervasive issue.

One issue with the series is the shock factor they included in depicting suicide. Like many Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why set fire to social media when it first aired. The popular pressure to watch the show did not come with a warning.

So while viewers watched (and mostly binge-watched) with suspense and a sense of enthrallment as the season unfolded, they may not have been expecting to be hit with such grueling accounts of every character’s story.

For example, as expected, the actual scene of Hannah’s death was striking. They spared no hearts in showing what happens in that situation, but did so without thinking about how that could affect an at-risk viewer.

Maybe the biggest problem with taking on massive issues like suicide is that suicide is almost always not the only issue. While many suicide victims have a history of depression or other mental health issues, 13 Reasons Why hardly scratches the surface on those topics.

As the season progressed, an observant viewer could possibly see Alex Standall (played by Miles Heizer) spiral into a concerning place that eventually leads to him hurting himself. However, the opportunity to address his depression, a major contributor to suicide, was completely lost in his storyline because it was used as yet another shocking moment at the end of the season.

Alex’s storyline was very realistic because the point of it was to show how people can slip into the background in life as they decline into depression while no one notices, leading to their breaking point. However, many critics felt like his storyline could have been used to show the right way to handle a friend spiraling into that realm which was completely missing from the series.

As other characters began to notice Alex shutting himself out of the group, having family problems and acting out, it could have been the perfect opportunity to show how to spot the warning signs and address them. However, since that opportunity wasn’t seized, and there wasn’t any other example of how to correctly navigate situations like that, the first season seemed a lot more dramatic than practical.

Season 2 Expectations

Now going into the show’s long-awaited second season, set to start airing later this year, each episode will have a warning clip that has cast members explaining the content of the show and possible concern for viewers. They say that the serious tackles “tough, real-world issues,” which it does. On top of suicide, the serious also depicts problems like substance abuse and rape amongst the teenage characters.

“If you are struggling with these issues yourself,” Alisha Boe who plays Jessica Davis said, “this series may not be right for you, or you may want to watch it with a trusted adult.”

And while that warning is much needed, critics felt like it was too little too late for a show as impactful at 13 Reasons Why. Backed by a Hollywood-heavyweight, Gomez, and years in the making, many viewers felt like the warning should’ve been a no-brainer in season 1 given the extreme triggering situations.

While Gomez and the team behind the series have repeatedly said that the show was made with good intentions, many felt like that just wasn’t enough when dealing with such a difficult subject.

As fans wait to find out when the second season of the show will air, critics are hoping that these loose ends in the series are tied up. And now that the show is a bonafide Netflix classic, they don’t have a choice.

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