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13 Reasons Why Season 2 Synopsis Sounds Surprisingly Not Awful

13 reasons

Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why was heavily criticized by viewers and suicide prevention groups alike for what many saw as glamorizing suicide. By the end of the first season (no spoilers), I honestly wasn’t sure if Hannah (the suicide victim) was supposed to be the villain. The entire series was devoted to giving her a platform to blame her peers for her death, in many cases for not being able to read her mind. Now, there are warning signs to look for when dealing with suicidal teens (or adults, or anyone). But this show never felt like it was trying to portray those accurately, in any way that could actually help suicidal teens or those around them.

Instead, the show didn’t seem to be fighting the pervasive message of “if you kill yourself, everyone will have to listen to you and they’ll finally be sorry.” It was troubling to watch.

And yet the show was incredibly popular with teenage audiences. So despite being based on a book with no sequel, a second season was announced last month. This left a lot of people wondering what exactly the new season would be about? Hannah’s story’s ending, after all, was pretty finite.

Now showrunner Brian Yorkey has a vague synopsis. He told Mashable that he gets asked all the time, “How can there be a Season 2 when the story’s over?” As he puts it though, no story is ever really over.

“Hannah told her version of events,” he says, “but there are at least 12 kids who have another version of those events that we actually haven’t really heard from yet. So I think there’s quite a bit more of Hannah’s story to tell.”

Yorkey went on, “I don’t think Hannah told any untruths on her tape but I think she told her story and she reclaimed her narrative which had really been taken from her. She reclaimed the narrative, ‘This is the story of my life and this is why it ends.’ But there are other people who might want to tell that story differently or who are players in that story who might have a different perspective on some of those events.”

So other characters will get to claim their own narrative then? That feels important. Some characters on the show did fight back against the one-sided portrayal of them that Hannah left. Some of them were clearly villains, but others were far more sympathetic (to many, including myself) than Hannah herself. I’d like to see more of them dealing with the tapes, but even more so, with Hannah while she was alive.

It’s impossible that Yorkey and the rest of the show’s team didn’t hear the criticism their portrayal of suicide received.

By retelling the same story, it’s possible they’ll use that opportunity to address those criticisms. The show clearly spoke to a lot of teenagers, and with a more refined message and a bit more care, season two has the potential to be what they need.

Even more encouraging (spoiler for season one ahead) is the tease for what to expect for the character of Jessica, who we learned in season one, was raped by Bryce. Yorkey says he’s had people say to him, “Well her story’s done, she told her dad.”

He explains why that’s BS. “This to me is one of the problems with what we’re conditioned to expect about stories about rape especially on television, is that they’re an arc that belongs to a character that covers three episodes or five episodes and then a little bit later in the season they’re on to the next thing with new love interests.”

He says, though, “Having spoken to many, many rape survivors and having many of them in my life very close to me, we know that it is a lifelong process. So Jessica’s story is very much just beginning.”

Ugh, 13 Reasons Why, I really wanted to be done with you. But you may have just convinced me to give season two a try.

(via Mashable, image: Netflix)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.