Note: This article contains spoilers for season one of 13 Reasons Why.
At the end of season one of 13 Reasons Why, the main mystery of the series has been resolved. Clay listened to all thirteen tapes and has passed them on to Mr. Porter. We as an audience have learned the titular 13 reasons why Hannah killed herself. Why would we even need a season two? The novel the series was based on never had a sequel and there are no plans for one.
Sure there are a few dangling plot threads but isn’t that just life? Not everything gets wrapped up in a nice and neat bow. The actual writing of the series, according to novel author Jay Asher, wasn’t done with an eye towards the hope of a sequel. So even with season two of 13 Reasons Why confirmed, some may question why we even need it.
Simply put, the final episode blows open the storytelling potential for season two. Yes, it wouldn’t be focused on Hannah anymore. That’s okay; most of the first season was centered on her story. Instead season two of 13 Reasons Why could be focused on the fallout of all the characters trying to own up to or avoid responsibility for their actions.
Look at Bryce. Don’t you want to see that guy taken down? The process wouldn’t be easy of course. Even if Clay got a confession out of him it could be ruled as inadmissible in court and they certainly don’t have any physical evidence. Will Hannah’s tapes be enough? This type of plot would strongly parallel the struggles rape survivors go through in bringing their abuser’s to trial. Would it be messy and maybe ultimately futile? Perhaps, but the chance of seeing Bryce go down and him trying to deny any culpability would be worth it.
On the flipside, we could see Jessica trying to move on from being raped. At the end of season one she opened up to her father about it but let’s follow that story thread. Let’s see a character struggle with that trauma and, hopefully, learn to deal with it. As the behind the scenes feature of season one demonstrated, the producers wanted the show to spark some discussion and ultimately help people going through the same things as what Hannah did. Following Jessica in her recovery could do the same.
What about Hannah’s parents learning about the tapes? We saw them just start to listen, but what do they do when they’ve gone all the way through? Do they try to bring everyone down, including Mr. Porter? If you thought Clay got pissed at these people, imagine Hannah’s parents. It’s one thing for a teen to judge a fellow teen, but what about an adult to a teen? There will no sympathy, no cover-ups, no simple passing on of the tapes. Hannah’s rules will be thrown out the window. Her parents will be out for blood and everyone on the tapes are the perfect way to get it.
Hannah’s father especially can question if this crusade against the people on the tapes is what Hannah would have wanted. Perhaps her mother can feel even more guilt for not realizing all of these things were going on. Even if kids don’t really talk to their parents about these things, she could still feel the weight of that responsibility.
By pitting Hannah’s parents not just against the school board but these teens as well, the show can open up a question it only briefly touched on in season one. Are teens responsible for their actions? Further more, at what age can we hold them totally accountable?
Look at Justin. Was he horrific sending that photo of Hannah out and allowing his girlfriend to be raped by Bryce? Yes, without a doubt. However, the show does try to give some reasons why he might have done it. He had a rough upbringing and is repeatedly assaulted by his mother’s boyfriends. Is that kind of environment enough to excuse Justin for what he did?
What’s the line between “I didn’t know any better” and “I was totally aware of what I did and don’t care”, especially for a teenager? At one end of that spectrum might be Ryan. Yeah, he’s kind of a dick but he really didn’t think publishing Hannah’s poem would cause that big of a problem. Obviously it did but I can believe the guy not feeling as responsible as say Marcus.
On the other end you have Bryce, someone who clearly knew what he was doing and didn’t care. He might not have perceived what he did as rape, but all of his actions show he could have cared less about Hannah’s feelings. His actions were motivated purely by self interest although I’m sure if it came to trial a lawyer could argue no one ever taught Bryce to ask a girl for consent.
These kinds of moral questions without easy answers are perfect for a second season. Along with that you’ve also got the dangling plot threads that could be picked up.
Tyler with all the guns, for starters. Yeah, he just revealed the existence of the tapes but he’s clearly got a lot more going on in his head. The guy was bullied throughout the first season and at first it seemed justified. He was a creep. He stalked Hannah. He drove Courtney to turn on Hannah. Clearly he deserves some payback aimed his way, right?
But when does that go too far? When do you, even if you feel justified, eventually become a bully yourself? Is Tyler just incapable of forgiveness? Is he never allowed to make up for what he’s done? If the others had allowed Tyler into their inner circle would he have a stash of guns? How long ago did he start buying those anyway?
If Tyler shoots up the school, who’s to blame? Is it the other people on the tapes who treated him like dirt? Is it just the jocks of the school? Is it Clay for sending around that photo of Tyler? Is it Hannah for exposing Tyler on the tapes? So many questions with so many different routes to go.
Note, I’m not trying to justify what Tyler did or cast Hannah as some kind of monster for simply revealing Tyler stalked her. What I’m trying to say is that other characters could call Hannah’s actions into question and that could provide some riveting drama.
There’s also some of the teenagers giving conflicting reports about the existence of the tapes. Jessica denies the tapes exist after Tyler brings them out into the open. Obviously Hannah’s parents know they exist now so how will Jessica or someone like Zach try to cover up their lies about the tapes? Hell, how will everyone who listened to the tapes defend themselves for not immediately turning Bryce in for raping Jessica and Hannah?
We’ve also got Skye and her depression/self harm. Is Clay going to try and pull her out of that? Can he? Should he?
How about those who try to move on? Will characters like Sheri, who’ve accepted responsibility, still be shackled by guilt for the rest of their lives? Should they be allowed to feel happy again? How can you allow yourself to feel happy when you contributed to someone’s suicide?
What about Alex? That’s a whole new can of worms they’d need to unravel. Are the other teens responsible for what happened to him? Was what he did because of his guilt for being on the tapes? Is it another case where Hannah could be blamed?
If Alex dies, the school will have to deal with another teen suicide, one where a parent of the teen involved is on the police force. Things are going to turn even uglier and fast.
That could be the power of season two of 13 Reasons Why. It’ll no longer about be about Hannah’s reasons why she killed herself, but more what happens to the people who have to live with the fact they were one of those reasons. Alex was the first major casualty of the tapes. Who or what is next?
While the title of the show is 13 Reasons Why, it would be a mistake to just follow another character and learn their thirteen reasons why they did something (such as Tyler shooting up the school or Alex killing himself.) That would trap the series in a format that would quickly grow stale.
They’ve got to broaden the scope of the series and prove that Hannah’s suicide has long lasting repercussions. It’s again proving, as season one was clear to convey, suicide isn’t glamorous.
Most series that tackle suicide only do so in a quick “very special episode” or maybe an arc of a few episodes. 13 Reasons Why has the chance to really focus on the long lasting effects of suicide and tackle some deeper questions about how responsible teenagers are for their actions. We’re excited to see how season two tackles it.
Shamus Kelley really wanted to title this article 13 Reasons Why We Need Season Two Of 13 Reasons Why So We Can Furthur Explore The 13 Reasons Why. Follow him on Twitter!