For the love of Jeff, if this show wasn’t already polarising after season one, season two just took a even bigger broader swing at possibly pissing a lot of people off. Now to be clear, I really do love the first season of 13 Reasons Why, and I do for many reasons. This second season however is a really different story, in almost every way I could mean that. Season one was intense, and it was emotional, it was at times very hard to watch, but it did in my opinion, a lot more right, than it did wrong. Now I don’t say all that to say that the second season does more bad than good, because I still think what this show it trying to do is the right thing, where I think it fall downs in comparisons to season one, is in its execution.
Season one, more or less, had a singular focus. It set out a narrative about a girl who, like most young people, had a difficult go at life, and ended up taking her life, and leaving behind 13 tapes outlining the reasons why she did so. And boom, we have a full season of tv, and a lot we can learn and talk about. Season two however, starts to pull the camera back, it starts to give us a look at a bigger picture, and in trying to do that, it has to paint its narrative with a much wider brush, and that means a lot of the newest issues it raises, can’t be treated with the same fine detail as the first season. That being said, it also does allow them to do some good things also. For one, this show makes a point of really trying to give us complex characters, and then round of the edges on those characters, to try and keep them in areas of grey, and almost never in straight black or whites.
The focus of season one however, massively helped the writing, because they could be much more subtle when and where they needed to be, this season however, falls off most I’d say in the writing. So many times the dialogue we get here has to be really “on the nose” or “hitting the nail on the head” because they have to, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get to the end of this seasons story. Now this does help the show in its advocacy, but this isn’t a PSA, its a tv series, and the story telling still has to matter. It allows the show to have these stand out moments of “you’re never alone”, or “it will get better”, but takes away some of the dramatic impact those moments could have it they were allowed to exist as they would have in the first season. This season also is going to come under fire for what messages it is believed to be sending. And it should, these are tricky issues, and sometimes creating a discussion alone isn’t enough, and this show definitely does create some discussions it might not have planned to, or just ones that it handled poorly.
So what does this all mean for 13 Reasons Why (season 2)? Is it an important show, and is it any good at all? Well I think the answer for those questions is mostly yes, but with some definite caveats. This is an important show, because shining a light on the darker parts of life I think truly is an important thing, and I think some of the discussions its creates are very important. I do think however, that season two tries to reach beyond its grasp, and thats where the biggest let down of this season is. It feels like the show itself almost became self aware of what it created socially with its first season, and as such, felt like it had an obligation in season two, more to creating conversation and trying to raise awareness, than it had to story telling, and the actual entertainment side of things which is a massive reason it became so popular in the first place. This season also does end on a note that, while no one can ever predict the event of real life, is tragically close to recent real life tragedies. So is 13 reasons why important? Yes it is. Is it any good? It is, but its definitely not as good as season one, and I think only really people who have strong connection to that first season and those characters will really stick through all of the episodes in season two.