Previously on 13 Reasons Why
This season picks up a few months after Clay confronted Bryce and after stalled negotiations with the school, Mrs. Baker (Kate Walsh) is taking Liberty High School to trial alleging that their negligence and failure to protect Hannah from bullying resulted in her suicide. Each episode is narrated by the students they are calling to testify starting with Tyler.
Tyler kicks off the testimony by admitting that not much has changed since Hannah’s death and in fact, things might be worse. Tyler is still being bullied and even more so since he has decided to testify. Alex did try to kill himself, but he is still alive, though he is physically impaired and he doesn’t remember anything about the tapes. Zach has been helping Alex out of guilt and to avoid Bryce. Jessica hasn’t been back to school and she’s taking a page from Alex’s book and pretending she doesn’t know that Bryce raped her. Bryce has been living a consequence-free existence; he lied and said he slept with Jessica and she claimed rape because she felt bad about cheating on Justin (he is such a dick). And Clay has been happily not thinking about Hannah and dating Skye … until this trial begins.
The onset of the trial brings back Clay’s visions of Hannah and this time, she speaks. This is a neat narrative device. In the first season, Clay would see Hannah as he listened to her tapes. Since there are no more tapes, Hannah speaks directly to Clay. While Clay tries to act like he’s unaffected by the trial, he quickly starts to devolve into angry outbursts and pulling away from Skye. Tony is also trying to distance himself from the case, even going so far as to burn Hannah’s letters. While Clay’s anger is understandable (no one has done anything about Bryce since Jessica won’t come forward), Tony’s secrecy is a new element to the story and it seems like he’s afraid of something he did last year coming to light.
Everyone is still hiding and Tyler’s testimony proves that even Hannah has some secrets left to unearth. The school’s defense lawyer tries to assert that Hannah liked the attention the boys gave her, and Tyler does admit that when he was spying on her, he saw Hannah’s taking sexy selfies, presumably to send to a boy. But Tyler also unequivocally states that Hannah was mistreated and the school did nothing about it and that the abuse continues. And that point is further underscored by slut-shaming graffiti in the bathroom targeting Jessica and intimidating photos trying to get Tyler not to testify. Something is rotten at Liberty High and someone needs to tell the truth instead of covering their ass.
Speaking of covering your ass, Mr. Porter (Derek Luke) our favorite incompetent counselor, is trying to be better but failing miserably. EVERYONE is paying him dust. He approaches Jessica to offer help because he knows she’s Bryce’s other victim but she’s not interested. Then Sherry returns to school with a new bad girl, goth makeover and she tells him she’ll make sure to come back and see him if she gets raped. He wasn’t ready. And he probably won’t be until he takes some responsibility for the role he played in Hannah’s suicide.
Another person coming to terms with their role in Hannah’s death is her mother. Mrs. Baker is out for blood but listening to the testimony from Tyler and Courtney makes her realize that there was a lot about Hannah she didn’t know and how she reacted to Hannah’s attempts to open up might have contributed to that. Mrs. Baker also has a new can I speak to the manager ‘do and a BFF. Her new best friend is a mother whose child also died and she is rallying behind Mrs. Baker, but something is fishy. It feels too close, too soon and it’s hard to tell if this woman’s intentions are pure.
But back to the kids. While Bryce is living his life and putting up a calm demeanor, Zach and Jessica are scared to death of him. Zach is avoiding Bryce outside of baseball practice and Jessica is trying to return to cheerleading but the captain is Bryce’s new girlfriend. Bryce also has the unmitigated gall to ask Jessica if she wants to hang out and catch up. Despite all of this, neither Jessica nor Zach seems willing to tell the truth and both are dreading taking the stand in Hannah’s trial. The only one gung-ho about it is Alex because Jessica told him what Bryce did but since he doesn’t remember the tapes, Alex doesn’t realize that they all contributed to Hannah’s bullying.
Probably the only person exhibiting real bravery is Courtney. When she takes the stand, Courtney tries to downplay the kiss she and Hannah shared and focuses on how Hannah was bullied because of it. But when the school’s lawyer tries to twist the narrative and claim that maybe Hannah liked Courtney and started the rumors for attention after Courtney rejected her, Courtney outs herself and states without hesitation that she liked Hannah and that Hannah was a good friend who let her down gently. It’s wonderful to see Courtney finally take a step forward when everyone else feels so frustratingly stuck.
Finally, Clay and Skye come to an impasse. While Clay likes Skye, he is still hung up on Hannah and the trial is bringing back all his issues. And because Skye already has insecurities, as evidenced by her cutting last season, she takes Clay’s moodiness as a reaction to her personally. While Clay is trying to not push her too far for fear of her ending up like Hannah, she ultimately ends up harming herself. We close with a frustrated (and possibly mentally ill?) Clay screaming into Hannah’s face after Skye’s ambulance rolls away.
So much is packed into these first two episodes. While still focused on our core group, new characters — including a new student named Nina who seems curiously focused on Jessica, and Bryce’s new girlfriend — are being set up as major parts of this story. It is super frustrating, but also honest to see that nothing has happened to Bryce. This show doesn’t shy away from showing how unfair life can be for these teens. Another thing the show has added is a disclaimer at the beginning and a website to help teens, 13ReasonsWhy.info, as well as a Discussion Guide and discussion series. The show received a lot of criticism for potentially inciting copycat suicides, but providing these resources is a great move for the show.
13 Reasons Why S2E1/S2E2 Review Score
"The First Polaroid"/"Two Girls Kissing"
13 Reasons Why – S2E1/S2E2 – “The First Polaroid”/”Two Girls Kissing” | Starring: Dylan Minnette, Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, Miles Heizer, Kate Walsh. Derek Luke, Katherine Langford