Many doubted the decision by Netflix to release the series, “13 Reasons Why.” Based on the book of the same name, the first season chronicles the events preceding high school student Hannah Baker committing suicide. After the finale, the book’s plot was complete. Even so, Netflix released the second season on May 18.
Although the first season received mixed reviews, even those in support of the series believed that a second season was unnecessary. However, the second season of “13 Reasons Why” speaks to many more social issues than the first season was able to address.
Power dynamics was a central theme in the second season. Throughout the 13 episodes, viewers witness whose story is told and heard, as well as who controls the narrative.
One of the most notable stories belongs to Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe). Davis deals with judgmental peers when returning to Lincoln High School after learning that she was sexually assaulted by classmate and star athlete Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice).
During Davis’ absence, Walker and other students spin the narrative that Davis came onto him and “called rape” because she “regretted cheating” on her then boyfriend Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn). As the season progresses, Davis feels that she is not only not ready to “tell her truth,” but also that she is unable to do so.
After all, she claims, Baker accused Walker of raping her on tapes that she left behind explaining the reasons for her suicide. Even with evidence, still no one made efforts to prosecute Walker.
How could Davis, who argues that she is not the “perfect victim” since she is black and Baker is white, expect any better results?
The writers of the second season touch upon the important reality that women are judged and often ridiculed when they identify their attackers. More so, women of color are disproportionately less believed than white women, especially given the historical and racist sexualization of black women.
While power and who possesses it in the public arena is a constant theme, another overarching theme is gun violence. Liberty High students are shown possessing firearms at different points in the series.
At the conclusion of the first season, Alex Standall (Miles Heizer) attempts suicide by shooting himself in the head. While his attempt is unsuccessful, his access to a firearm is discussed in the context of his father who is a police officer. The latter notes his own guilt for Standall being capable of getting a firearm.
Additionally, the first season shows Tyler Down (Devin Druid) purchasing a firearm on the streets, presumably to protect himself from school bullies. However, the timeliness of the show discussing access to firearms and gun violence is most notable in the second season’s finale.
After being sexually assaulted, Down is later seen preparing his firearms and getting into his car to go to the school dance. While there is no justification for Down’s intended actions, the entire season is yet another parallel to our current culture of mass school shootings. Additionally, the show reveals the apathy from those with the legislative power to enact change and instead only offer “thoughts and prayers.”
It is also worth noting that throughout the season, Down fits the demographic for how mass shooters are described — the white, “academic, quiet loner.” He was marked by the former guidance counselor as someone to watch and the warning signs were present.
However, these realities are overlooked and the second season of “13 Reasons Why” reveals how it was almost too late.
Personally, I believe that many of those who are opposed to the second season of “13 Reasons Why” missed the point of the first season. There are so many prevalent issues that we refuse to discuss because they are considered too delicate or controversial. However, we only perpetuate these issues when we ignore them.
Yes, Hannah Baker’s story technically ended after the first season of “13 Reasons Why.” Even so, if you watched the series, then you know that her story and others like it are much bigger than one person.