13 Reasons Why has made its debut on Netflix, fast becoming a big hit for the streaming service. Based on the Young Adult novel of the same name, by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why is a compelling, hard-hitting and often extremely upsetting drama. The central focus of the show is Hannah Baker, who has committed suicide and left behind tapes she recorded with ’13 reasons why’ she killed herself. Each of the 13 sides of the cassettes pertain to one person in her life who hurt her in some way.
Audiences follow the tapes as they are listened to by Clay Jensen, who befriended Hannah and worked with her. It’s a sad state of affairs throughout; not least because every one of Hannah’s thirteen reasons could have been dealt with if only people had listened, and if only people had all been a little kinder to one another. There is no one person to blame; not her parents, friends, or even enemies are solely responsible for Hannah’s death; ultimately it was a decision she made as she couldn’t see a way out.
The popularity of the show, as well as the quality of acting, writing and direction, now raises the possibility of a second season. At the time of writing, nothing has been confirmed by Netflix, but the cast are willing, Asher has said he wants to see it happen, and many fans want to return to such a popular group of characters. But should there actually be a second season of 13 Reasons Why?
13 Reasons Why was left open-ended, though Asher says that was deliberate and not just so that the show is ready for a second season pick-up. The source material reads as a self-contained story, and though Asher says he always thought of a sequel, he also says that he’s not going to write it. The book exists to tell Hannah’s story, and it achieves that goal.
The same can be said of the TV series, and arguably, Hannah’s story actually gets more closure than it does in the book, since Clay adds his 14th side to the tapes; Bryce’s confession of rape, before passing the tapes along to Mr. Porter, the guidance counselor, who will, most likely turn them over to the police in an effort to make up for the way he failed Hannah while she was alive. Tony has also passed the tapes to Hannah’s parents.
Setting Hannah’s story aside for a moment, though, there are many other characters whose own personal stories were left unfinished, not least, Alex. In the finale, we are informed that Alex was the unidentified male with a gunshot wound to his head. The school principal calls it a suicide attempt and says he’s critical; does he live or die, and, of course, why did he decide to try and take his own life after everything that happened with Hannah?
There’s also Tyler, who is undoubtedly suffering from mental health problems, further exacerbated by the bullying he has suffered all his life at school. In fact, the worst of the bullying he suffers throughout the show comes from the subjects of Hannah’s tapes. Though he is one of them, the rest of the group won’t allow him to take part in their discussions, thereby not giving him any chance to discuss his feelings, and further alienating him. By the final episode of 13 Reasons Why, we see that Tyler has a trunk loaded with weapons and ammo. He then takes this into school, hinting towards his murderous intentions.
Then there’s Bryce. Will he face justice for his crimes? Will Jessica manage to talk to her dad about her rape ordeal? Where has Justin gone, leaving town with a bag full of clothes and a gun? Will Courtney ever find compassion for others? Will the Bakers win their lawsuit against the school? Those are all just some of the questions left unanswered, so undoubtedly there is more than enough material for a second season, but that’s not to say that it should be made.
The major problem with all of the potential scenarios set up at the end of 13 Reasons Why, is that all of those instances are unlikely to happen within one school; one suicide, at least one more attempted suicide, a school shooting, a lawsuit, a rapist, and potentially another murder if Justin goes after Bryce as he said he would. It’s a lot.
So then, there’s the potential for some of those to be averted; maybe Tyler is stopped, Alex gets the help he needs, Bryce is arrested, and so on, but then where does the show go? There could, feasibly, be the potential to have Hannah continue as the narrator of the show, but that starts to make the show unrealistic; the reason she narrated season one was because she left the tapes; she can’t narrate current events since she’s not alive. Even so, it’s a Desperate Housewives-style twist that could happen; certainly, the show already worked well with a narration to distinguish between the past and present.
That honor could fall to Clay, though, since Dylan Minnette more than proved himself as a viable leading man during season one. A second season could possibly be told through Clay’s eyes as those around him try to regroup and carry on in light of all the tapes had revealed. Tony is another possibility to take on this role. That seems a bit of a lame concept, though - almost as if the show is only returning to give the fans more of the cast on screen together.
In theory, then, a second season of 13 Reasons Why could explore these open-ended storylines, and bring closure, which is something that audiences like to have. But, with this show, in particular, do we need endings to these character’s storylines? Isn’t it better to hope for what could have been?
Part of 13 Reasons Why’s charm, as it were, is that it forces questions upon us, and makes us examine who we are and how we treat other people. In the book, Hannah ends her life by taking an overdose of pills. In the show, she slits her wrists and bleeds out in the bathtub, in a scene that is emotionally painful and disturbing to watch. This was intentional, as creator Bryan Yorkey wanted to make a powerful statement about how hard suicide is, and that it is absolutely not a glamorous option. After watching Hannah’s final few weeks unfold on screen, viewer’s hearts break when her mom walks into the bathroom and finds her daughter.
Each scenario we are faced with makes us think about something. It’s important to talk about rape, and consent, and for victims to feel as though they will be believed if they come forward. It’s important that girls feel comfortable enough to be themselves, and that guys don’t perceive them as sluts because of how they dress or behave. It makes us realize how important it is to have vital conversations with teenagers about social media, the power of the written word, the impact that one line, typed in anger or frustration, could have on a person’s life. How we treat each other, be it online or face to face, has an effect. Our actions or intentions are not always interpreted how we intend, and we as viewers are made painfully aware of all these things and more.
Maybe, instead of 13 Reasons Why showing us how much or how little the characters have learned from Hannah’s suicide in season 2, it’s better to take the points raised by the show and use them to answer those questions and remedy those situations by ourselves, instead.
13 Reasons Why is now streaming on Netflix