Previously, on 13 Reasons Why
Jessica: The Dirty Slut
It’s Jessica’s turn on the stand and she talks powerfully about how boys get to define themselves, while girls live with the labels pushed on to them. Sitting up there with straightened hair (her mother’s suggestion), she talks about how even the boys who mean well want to tell you who you are. And we see that throughout the next few episodes, especially when it comes to Clay. When Jessica chooses not to bring up Bryce on the stand, Clay goes to find Justin, the only other living person who can testify to what Bryce did. Clay also tries to push Skye to stay with him even though she clearly needs help and her relationship with Clay amplifies her insecurities. Clay is the boy who means well, but makes all the wrong calls.
While Jessica’s despondent voice breaks on the stand, Alex remembers snippets of what she’s describing, especially how much of an asshole he was to Hannah. Alex wants Clay to give him the tapes, but everyone is afraid of how he will react. Maybe Alex deserves to know he was an asshole. Maybe he’ll stop being one. The school defense lawyer, Sonya, wants to paint the picture that Hannah was jealous of Alex and Jessica’s relationship, but the truth is that Alex felt guilty about shutting Hannah out of their friendship and he pushed the idea that Hannah liked him to absolve his guilt.
Jessica, ultimately, doesn’t talk about Bryce on the stand. Flashbacks of being interrogated by the police drive her silence, but she does defend Hannah fiercely. So far both girls who have testified have stated that Hannah was a good friend. It’s sad that Hannah had to die for them to realize it.
Marcus: The Betrayer
Slimy. Disgusting. Self-serving. Those are the words that describe Marcus. In most of the fleshing out of Hannah’s story, the audience can find moments to relate to the kids on the tapes, but Marcus is truly abhorrent. And it is a spectrum. If Bryce is Harvey Weinstein, Marcus is Aziz Ansari, patting himself on the back for never raping women but victimizing them nonetheless. He gets on the stand looking for any way to pass the buck. The school didn’t do enough to regulate the Dollar Valentines. He reached out to Hannah, but she rejected him when he tried to “hold her hand”, even though Bryce bet him $100 he couldn’t finger Hannah. And then the final betrayal: He says Hannah rejected him because she liked his friend better and that friend is … Bryce Walker. Marcus sets up that Hannah liked Bryce to protect him if it comes out that he raped Hannah. It’s despicable. And later when Tyler and his new friend, Cyrus, set up an embarrassing prank for him and Mr. Porter gives Marcus no support, it’s just a tiny silver of the justice Marcus deserves.
Justin is hooked on heroin so now Clay’s plan is to get him sober so he can testify. The problem is that Jessica doesn’t want Justin around. Justin being around reminds Jessica that he let Bryce rape her and everything is further compounded when she kisses Alex and that also reminds her of the rape. Of course, Alex takes it as personal rejection because again these boys only see the girls in their lives in relation to what they can get from them.
So, Clay persists with his plan and he needs people to help him. He bristles when Tony sends over Sheri to help. After confessing to being responsible for Jeff’s death, it seems like Sheri went to juvie and she’s been working hard to be a better person since, but Clay, as he is wont to do, has decided she’s damaged goods. Clay likes his women idealized and/or dead. Flaws won’t be tolerated. It’s understandable that Clay is angry. He turned over the tapes, he told the truth, and visibly nothing has changed, but Clay refuses to give quarter to these girls, like Sheri and Jessica, who are trying their best with obstacles he can’t even fathom.
Ryan: A Lonely Poem
We’re almost at the midway point so things are starting to unravel. While Ryan is taking the stand, Justin is getting clean but only because he thinks that’s what Jess wants and Tyler and Cyrus are pushing back at the bullies. Clay leaves Tony with Justin and after a heart-to-heart, Tony takes Justin on a walk even though he’s paranoid about them being found out. Tony is afraid because he was out being a bruiser with his brothers and he’s on probation so anything could land him in actual jail. Justin being back isn’t going to land him in jail, but the two of them are seen together and now Bryce is starting to feel the pressure.
Compounding that pressure is Mr. Porter. He put a bug in Mrs. Walker’s ear and now she’s watching her son more carefully. While mostly everyone seems to be under Bryce’s spell, his own mother is suspicious and that feels like a ray of hope. When Bryce brings his girlfriend home, she notices bruises on her arms and she’s asking questions about the trial. It took you awhile, but welcome to the Bryce Hater’s Club, Mama Walker.
Ryan’s testimony contains a huge bombshell. Hannah and Justin were still texting. This problematizes the case. If these boys humiliated Hannah, why would she still go out with Marcus? Communicate with Justin and write poems about him? Ryan tells them it’s because she was lonely and it’s true. It’s frustrating how the adults (and the audience of this show if early reviews are any indication) keep trying to draw straight lines between Hannah’s behavior and her suicide. There are no straight lines. All the lines are crooked. Hannah stayed in contact with Justin because she wanted to be liked by someone even someone who was bad for her. Jessica kissed Alex because she wanted to kiss a boy and not think about being raped in her own bed. They want to feel and be seen and be liked because society tells women they are nothing if they are not liked and loved.
Zach: The Lover
This episode came out of left field in many ways. Zach’s inclusion on the tapes and his reaction to Hannah’s death has always felt disproportionate to his relationship to Hannah. And now we know why. During the summer between sophomore and junior year, Zach’s father died and he took that note Hannah wrote him about stealing her compliments to heart. Zach reached out to Hannah that summer and they eventually started dating and having sex. But when the school year started again, Zach was too afraid to tell his friends and Hannah broke it off. It was another time Hannah reached out and it didn’t work for her. It’s sad and tragic, but since Hannah didn’t bring it up on her tapes, she probably still held some affection for Zach. She wanted to protect him.
Zach’s story is the perfect follow-up to Ryan’s. Zach is so lonely. It’s not just girls that want to be liked and when boys aren’t Bryces or Tylers, they become Zachs or Justins. Both Zach and Justin have tried to endear themselves to Bryce; Justin by putting up a front and Zach by not questioning or standing out. And when everything comes out and Zach tries to reach out to his mom, she shuts him down again blaming his “behavior” on Hannah’s influence. Of all the boys, Zach is the one I worry about the most. He is trying to be nice and make it through, but he has no one around him he can be honest with.
After Zach’s bombs on the stand, Clay is up next to testify but he feels betrayed by Hannah since she slept with Zach. Clay’s problem has always been that he only cares about Hannah when he thinks she’s perfect and a victim. The minute Hannah isn’t perfect, Clay’s interest wanes. Hannah, like all women young or otherwise, is complicated. She wants boys she shouldn’t, she makes decisions, some bad, and the world judges her for them. Justin is right when he calls Clay a dumbass. Hannah is still being judged because in death that’s all that’s left; the judgement.
Details in the Pictures
- Clay gave Alex the tapes and in addition to struggling with his assholishness on full display, he’s been dealing with erectile dysfunction post-coma. None of this is an excuse for his actions, but a traumatic brain injury and erectile dysfunction along with realizing you shot yourself because you were one of the bullies is probably very depressing.
- Mr. Baker returns to sit in court and present a united front with Mrs. Baker, but he’s secretly dating and has moved in with someone new and her daughter. If he thinks he can just start again with a new family, he’s trash.
- Clay received a second Polaroid and while he hasn’t identified Bryce’s other victim, he has a lead on a “clubhouse” the jocks party in where the assault might have occurred.
- Jessica finally goes to therapy and she runs into Nina. She was lurking because, as she tells Jessica, if the rumors about Bryce were true, she wanted her to see a friendly face when she decided to get help.
- Justin comes to Liberty to talk to Jessica and she tells him she wishes he were dead. Clay and Tony help him get out, but he’s not in a good place and someone (Montgomery?) broke into Clay’s house and took something from Justin’s bag.
- Tyler and Cyrus are giving me Columbine vibes and it’s not looking good. Also, when their parents find out about the guns, they send them to the gun range with Alex’s dad. You send your kids to learn how to shoot from the guy whose kid shot himself? What kind of mayo sapien logic?
- Let’s talk about my man, one hundred grand MR. PORTER! He has decided that he’s going to help the kids that need helping like Justin and Jessica and try and get a little justice while he can. He beats Justin’s mom’s drug dealing boyfriend up, pays Marcus dust when he gets pranked, and he pushes Jessica to go to group therapy since she wouldn’t talk to him. The best character growth ever.
Overall, the tone of this season is in keeping with the first. There are small intrigues and side-quests and I could do with more of Sheri and Tony’s stories. Seeing the story from other people’s perspectives problematizes Hannah as a victim in a way that’s uncomfortable, but also realistic. The audience is forced to grapple with whether they still sympathize with a girl who wanted the approval of her tormentors. While I do believe the story has focused a lot on the male perspectives and would love for all the boys in the story to stop trying to take away Jessica’s agency, that too is realistic. I’m still eager to see where this goes at least in regards to the girls getting some form of justice about Bryce.