In anticipation of the May 18 release of 13 Reasons Why season 2, Netflix has shared the first nine episodes with ScreenRealm to give us a taste of what’s next for the students of Liberty High.
It’s hard to believe it has been a whole year since we left Hannah Baker and the kids at Liberty High, live and in stereo. When it premiered last March, the first season of 13 Reasons Why was met with a mixture of critical acclaim and controversy over its dark subject matter. Ahead of its second season, mental health professionals and school districts are already warning parents and viewers of potentially confronting upcoming storylines. The end of Season 1 seemed to bring Hannah’s story to a sad and devastating close, offering regret for most and closure for very few, the way most tragedies do. Having heard all 13 tapes, the very question that our beloved Clay asked in the closing minutes of the first season looms large over Season 2: what happens next?
At this point, the answer to the question is more complicated than it first appears. Having used Hannah’s tapes to tell her story in the first season, the show’s focus has shifted in its sophomore season to telling the story of everyone else, specifically those individuals who Hannah named and shamed on her tapes. Picking up a few months after the events of Season 1, we reunite with our Liberty High students as they prepare to testify in Hannah’s parents’ lawsuit against the school. As the students prepare themselves to be witnesses, the students find themselves still being haunted by Hannah (and in Clay’s case, the haunting is both figurative and literal) and struggling to reconcile who Hannah was with how they would like to remember her. As we move further through the season, Clay’s determination to understand Hannah evolves the story and sees him delve deeper into the mysteries and culture of Liberty High, with interesting results. 9 episodes in, it is still not quite clear where Clay’s investigation is going to take us; a prospect that is both engaging and exciting as a viewer.
Recapturing that magic from Season 1, 13 Reasons has done a stellar job of maintaining its high-level production values, writing and direction. The narrative structure established in Season 1 – focusing on a particular character per episode – has been retained here, but re-tooled to have the story told from that character’s perspective rather than Hannah’s. It’s a potentially risky move as the device of internal monologue can become tired and overused, but while it takes a couple of episodes to adjust, the show settles into a nice rhythm. Internal monologue is effectively used as a way to reveal new and surprising information, much like it did with Hannah in its first season.
Virtually all our regular Liberty players return here in Season 2, though with a few episodes still to go, it remains to be seen just how much of a role they will all play. The show’s writers expand the narrative by giving various season 1 characters the chance to present their side of the story, creating further depth and dimension for these individuals as well as the elusive Hannah Baker, whose story it seems was really only just beginning in Season 1. Of particular note is the somewhat underrated Brandon Flynn, who returns as the now even more broken Justin Foley. His return to Liberty brings lots of baggage for a few characters and helps set in motion some of the bigger ongoing arcs the season establishes. Likewise, Tyler Down’s character has been expanded in Season 2 and we spend significantly more time with Devin Druid’s troubled young teen, who, worryingly, seems to be foreshadowing some bigger events in the final four episodes.
As for Hannah and Clay, Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford are still in very fine form in Season 2. As the trailers have foreshadowed, Hannah is still a large weight on the shoulders of our students, particularly Clay’s. A lot of Hannah’s scenes are with Clay this time around and the pair’s chemistry and promise of unfulfilled love & youth still oozes on the screen. No stranger to complex, emotional acting, Minnette really pushes the limits with Clay here. The change in the character after listening to the tapes is visible and noticeable, a testament to Minnette’s craft as an actor. The interactions between Clay and Hannah are still some of the highlights in the series and their scenes showcase some of the best performances by young adults on television.
The first season of 13 Reasons was a confronting, compelling and refreshingly different take on the adolescent experience that left a mark on the television landscape. Moving into Season 2, there’s a clear understanding that in order to continue in strong form, the series needs to evolve and expand its story whilst retaining the engrossing elements that made the first chapter a hit.
The first 9 episodes do just that, keeping tension high with a wonderfully tight and suspenseful narrative. And perhaps even more impressively, it appears that this story is only just beginning, offering the possibility of an incredible back 4 episodes that will tie all these threads together. If that is the case, 13 Reasons is shaping up to be one of the most cleverly constructed and fascinating shows on television.
Be sure to come back and check out our full review of 13 Reasons Why Season 2 following its release later this week.
’13 Reasons Why’ season 2 will be streaming on Netflix from May 18.