Netflix’s obsession with churning out original content has seen a lot of hits and misses over the past few years since it debuted in India. Films produced by Netflix have gathered a reputation of being consistently underwhelming despite their aggressive social media marketing. Without the big-screen releases that movies from run-of-the-mill production can have to their credit, it becomes rather difficult for a streaming website to rope in good directors and writers. However, as much flak as their movies have received, the story is vastly different for their original series.
Check out this great Quora answer for an insight into this: Why Netflix films are not as great as their shows
Adapted from Jay Asher’s book by the same name, 13 Reasons Why was the breakout hit of 2017 due to the compelling performances of the characters with a bold, gripping premise that brought a sensitive social issue to the fore. Presented as a narrative through the voice of Hannah Baker (played by Katherine Langford), each episode centered around one of the 13 tapes that Hannah had recorded for various individuals in Liberty High before she took her own life. We get to know about the contents of the tapes from Hannah’s friend Clay Jensen’s eyes and ears as he finds himself spiraling down into untold secrets about people in the school who had let Hannah down leading up to her decision. With the first season, 13 Reasons Why clearly established that this was not going to be another high-school teenage drama. Instead, the show intended to approach a lesser talked about subject from the perspective of high-schoolers.
Season 2 opens into the middle of a trial between Liberty High and the Bakers. Hannah’s suicide has left everyone devastated except for the alleged culprit Bryce Walker, and his family. Featuring in the final of the 13 tapes, Hannah had named Bryce Walker as the individual who had sexually violated her, sending Clay on his path in the first season. Even though Clay had gotten a recorded confession out of him which had been presented to the authorities, no action had been taken thank to the affluence of the Walkers and their crafty lawyers. It is one thing to know who the perpetrator was and another thing to bring them to justice.
Consistent with the format of the first season, the sequel is also a narrative albeit, this time through the eyes of the individuals who had received the tapes and had been subpoenaed to testify in court – Tyler Down, the consummate photographer; Courtney Crimsen, whom Hannah helped ‘come out’; Jessica Davis, Hannah’s estranged best-friend; Marcus Cole, the student body president who was one the first people who had taken advantage of her character; Ryan Shaver, the suave poetry enthusiast who had struck a chord with Hannah in poetry class; Zach Dempsey, one of the good jocks who was Hannah’s crush and a friend; Clay Jensen, who was the central character in season 1 tasked to piece together Hannah’s story through the tapes; Tony Padilla, who was the first guardian of Hannah’s tapes; Bryce Walker, the lecherous Liberty High Sports team captain; and Justin Foley, Bryce’s long-time friend. Besides students from Liberty High, the narrative is also told through Hannah’s parents – Olivia and Andy Baker, Liberty High’s student counsellor Kevin Porter, all of whom feel irrepressible guilt that they had failed to understand what Hannah had been going through.
The narrative also focuses on the acute problem of bullying and shaming in high-schools in America where individuality and uniqueness is often outcast and labelled. Even though the school administration is aware of the problem in a majority of the cases, they choose not to address it or accept it, lest it maligns the reputation of their culture. And the problem continues to gather victims and ruin lives.
Unlike the fast-paced first season, Season 2 takes its time to portray how Hannah’s death had affected the characters. Jessica, who had gone through a similar ordeal as Hannah, struggles to overcome the trauma of her sexual assault. Despite being surrounded by friends, she is extremely aware of her own body feeling the moments when she had been violated again and again, and finds it very difficult to talk about it. The narrative also focuses on the acute problem of bullying and shaming in high-schools in America where individuality and uniqueness is often outcast and labelled. Even though the school administration is aware of the problem in a majority of the cases, they choose not to address it or accept it, lest it maligns the reputation of their culture. And the problem continues to gather victims and ruin lives.
Some of the best performances of Season 2 come from Hannah Baker’s mother Olivia Baker, played by the incredibly talented Kate Walsh who has broken down after her beloved daughter’s death and her ongoing divorce with her husband. She holds onto her dear memory and lives her life through the testimonies in court, somehow holding her courage to fight it through to justice. Clay Jensen, played by Dylan Minette, retains his usual brooding visage and gives a compelling act as he is plagued by Hannah’s visions everywhere, questioning himself if he really did know her as well as he thought. Tyler Down, played by Devin Druid, was a surprising new character who suddenly became a central thread between Hannah’s stories. Despite his lanky and meek nature, Devin’s character becomes a secret rebel going after the perpetrators with some help of his punk friend.
13 Reasons Why Season 2 is darker than the first season and yet seems like a logical addition to the story-line. Even though it takes some time to get the story rolling towards the climax, it promises a closure that had not been there before. And that is what makes Hannah’s death a beacon for other sexual assault victims who go through some of the same ordeals that she went through, helping them find the courage to stand up and speak out.