13 Reasons Why season 2 is not yet released, but it’s already courting controversy with the set-up for a school shooting storyline. The show was picked up for a second season almost immediately after season 1 had arrived on Netflix. The combination of a talented cast and an intense, realistic storyline tackling many issues including suicide, rape, and bullying, meant that viewers related to the show, especially young adults.
At present, the exact plot for 13 Reasons Why season 2 is not known, but showrunner Brian Yorkey has said we can expect to pick up just a few months after the events of season 1, when everyone is still trying to come to terms with Hannah’s death and her taped ‘reasons’ for why she killed herself. For some, this will be a healing process; Jessica (Alisha Boe) had summoned the courage to tell her dad that she’d been raped, while Clay (Dylan Minnette) was left hoping that he’d done the right thing by handing over the tapes to Hannah’s parents.
Others, however, were left angry, hurting, and alone – especially Tyler. Always an outcast, and deemed a ‘weirdo’ for taking so many photographs, Tyler was treated badly by most of the other characters, who refused to let him into their inner circle. Tyler had taken a picture of Hannah and Courtney sharing a kiss and spread it around school – an act that deeply affected Hannah and ended her friendship with Courtney. In revenge, after her death, Clay took a naked picture of Tyler and spread it around school. When the other tape subjects decided to stop Clay from revealing the cassette contents, they refused to allow Tyler to join in on the discussion. Ostracized by everyone, Tyler was last seen loading his backpack with guns and ammo, and heading into school. In his dark room, he had pictures hanging up of all the tape subjects. It’s very clear that Tyler is mentally unwell, but will 13 Reasons Why have him carry out a school shooting?
With no release date for season 2 given, rumors are circulating online that the show has needed re-edits to omit such scenes. In the wake of the Parkland shooting, and with the debate around gun control raging, that could very well be the case, but it could also be the case that Yorkey never meant for a shooting to be shown, but rather for one to be averted. Speaking to Insider, Yorkey said that season 2 will look more at Tyler’s isolation and bullying, and how, in the wake of Hannah’s suicide and Alex’s attempted suicide, the school community can avoid making the same mistakes. “Hopefully there will be a community that is able to support him in a way that maybe there wasn’t for Hannah,” he says.
In theory, that’s a good thing; it shows Hannah’s peers have learned from their mistakes, and that the school is being proactive in its treatment of students with mental health difficulties. But let’s think on that a moment. Hannah’s peers didn’t learn. At the end of 13 Reasons Why season 1, they were all still being completely vile to Tyler – so much so that viewers were inclined to feel sorry for him. None of them had noticed that Alex was dealing with suicidal thoughts, and the school was too wrapped up in the court case brought by Hannah’s parents.
So what’s changed? What’s made them all suddenly pull together to help Tyler? If a school shooting has been averted when we pick up with season 2, how truly awful is it that the Liberty High Students had to go through that ordeal? A far better turn would be for Tyler to arrive at this decision on his own, and for the viewer to then understand why he decided against it. Then he could be seen getting the help he needs.
One of the biggest criticisms of 13 Reasons Why so far has been that suicide was presented as the only option for Hannah – almost glorified because it was the only way out. Arguably, that’s how it is for anyone who does take their own life, but many feel that there should have been more of her thought process revolving around whether or not to do it. If season 2 now picks up with Tyler arriving at the decision to shoot his classmates, many can and will argue that it glorifies being a school shooter.
This has particular ramifications right now, with the Parkland survivors and their supporters campaigning long and hard for gun reform, while government seeks to appease all sides. That’s something Yorkey is highly aware of, and he hopes the show can tap into that and raise awareness:
“It’s been really remarkable to watch these incredible Parkland students take the conversation forward and carry it when no one else will. Our hope is that Tyler’s story in season two will be part of that ongoing conversation and will give more kids a chance to talk about things they’ve been feeling or things they might be seeing in classmates of theirs.”
13 Reasons Why has enough shocking and upsetting storylines to deal with; Jessica’s recovery; Bryce’s comeuppance; Justin’s safety and Alex’s suicide attempt. It doesn’t need to add a school shooting into all of that, especially in such a volatile political climate as we’re in right now. Hopefully, the producers and Netflix will have realized this, even if it does result in a delayed season 2 start.
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