This article contains mild spoilers for the second season of 13 Reasons Why
As I write this, I've watched four episodes of Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why. I know, I know, I've had all weekend to binge-watch since the 13 new episodes dropped on Netflix on Friday. But a little something called the Royal Wedding got between me and the teen drama.
I'm relatively new to the series, having only watched all 13 episodes of Season 1 last week in preparation for the latest release, but I've been well aware of both the controversy surrounding the show and the devoted following it has inspired since its March 2017 debut. I fall into the camp that holds 13 Reasons Why in high regard, and you can hear all about what I think of the show in general in this week's episode of WHO's TV podcast, Binge List, on Thursday. But for now, as I work my way through Season 2, I have to get something off my chest: I'm not a fan of the way Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) has been incorporated into these new episodes.
Before you @ me, let me explain why I hate the fact that Hannah is appearing as a ghost or a figment of Clay's (Dylan Minnette) imagination/conscience or whatever it is she's supposed to be. In Season 1, Hannah's presence was necessary. Her voiceover detailed the awful things that had happened to her that built up to such an extent that she resorted to taking her own life. And seeing her in flashbacks gave those horrible moments the weight they deserved. Langford's performance as the troubled teen was incredibly affecting, especially, in later episodes, when Hannah's fragility and broken spirit took control, dimming the vibrancy we'd seen earlier in the season.
For those critics of 13 Reasons Why that claim it glamorises suicide, I would counter that Hannah's ordeal and the finality of her actions are sober reminders that she committed a desperate act due to being in a tortured state of mind. The tapes she left behind and the flashbacks serve to reinforce that point, and also remind viewers that Hannah is gone for good and these are the reasons why. Seeing Hannah's actual suicide in the final episode of Season 1, although incredibly confronting, was the culmination of everything that had come before. With the tapes played, Hannah's story was told.
And so, for me, to have Hannah pop up to interact with Clay undercuts all of that. That's especially the case when their conversations verge on banter. It undermines so much of what was so sensitively achieved in the first season. It almost feels flippant. Yes, it's clear that Hannah is dead, but she is now commenting on the present, when her point of view no longer exists. The finality of her death now doesn't seem so final.
I get that the Hannah we are seeing is not really Hannah, and that this is not actually Hannah talking from beyond the grave but Clay projecting. And from a dramatic point of view, I understand this device allows Clay to voice his thoughts out loud rather than having him explore those through endless voiceovers, especially when each episode is already being narrated by one of the other characters. I can appreciate why this creative decision was made, but I still don't like it.
I have no problem with Hannah continuing to appear in flashbacks, and since we are seeing a number of new flashbacks this season, her presence—in the past—feels right (and is quite substantial). It's useful to have her experience given more detail and to see this season's narrators' versions of those events. But as great an actress as Langford is, I feel like her role in Season 2 should've been limited to that.
If you or anyone you know has been struggling with depression or some of the issues raised by 13 Reasons Why, please contact Life Line on 13 11 14.
Subscribe now to Binge List, WHO magazine's TV podcast. In this week’s episode, Clare Rigden and Gavin Scott discuss your next true-crime docuseries obsession, Netflix's Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist. Plus, what's the verdict on Olivia: Hopelessly Devoted to You, Atlanta, Harrow, Young Sheldon and I'm Dying Up Here? Listen on iTunes: http://po.st/syE3JF or OMNY: http://po.st/3viNTh