Netflix is keeping audiences guessing about the second series of the popular showYoutube/Netflix

“You see a very different Hannah in season two.” I groan; reading these words, the sliver of hope I had for the second season of 13 Reasons Why miserably dissolves. There are many, many things wrong with this controversial Netflix hit - from what we currently know about season two, matters only stand to get worse.

Season one of 13 Reasons Why follows angsty boy next door Clay as he pieces together the reasons his friend (and ‘one true love’) Hannah decided to take her life through a series of tapes she left behind – 13, to be exact. The story moves back and forth between flashbacks to Hannah’s ‘reasons’ and the aftermath of her suicide. Through her death, Hannah finally makes her peers see her for who she truly was. Alarmed? You should be.

Framing her suicide as the only way she could make people hear her, the show quietly feeds into the most attractive elements of a suicide fantasy – seeing it as the cause of the victim’s long overdue justice, and of punishing those that hurt them. Indeed, the narrative bend of the series irresponsibly romanticises suicide, as Hannah’s character arc continues to develop after she dies, in step with the revelations found in her tapes.

Hannah’s suicide, then, doesn’t really end her life: within the parameters of the show, she continues to live and breathe, and those who ‘wronged’ her are tormented by her tragic death. Suicide, according to 13 Reasons Why, isn’t an ending, but a retributive beginning.

This is what I find incredibly jarring about the show’s depiction of its subject matter, and what brings a particularly bitter taste to my mouth with regards to the second season airing this Friday. I had hoped that Katherine Langford, Hannah’s Golden Globe nominated actress, would not return for season two; that Hannah’s story and the show’s message, as claimed by Netflix in the face of severe backlash, was fully explored in its first season.

13 Reasons Why fails yet again to see the danger in its refusal to leave Hannah out of the narrative

In the run up to this week’s new season, however, I was disappointed (but not surprised). Langford, stating that “as sad as it is, there is life after Hannah”, goes on to comment that we see “a very different Hannah in season two.” Old habits die hard, it seems, and 13 Reasons Why fails yet again to see the danger in its refusal to leave Hannah out of the narrative. These claims to a new Hannah in season two indicate that the show will further force the narrative to remain painfully in the past. Why? Because keeping her involved makes Clay’s mission to ‘get justice for her’, as he proclaims in the latest trailer, all the more romantic for the show’s target audience.

Take, for instance, the teaser trailer released some weeks back. Initially, I was pleasantly surprised by its promised focus upon the first season’s secondary characters and their own stories. Progress! I was momentarily thrilled. However, the final image inevitably returned to Clay and Hannah: half of his face ‘completed’ by a polaroid picture of half of hers. It doesn’t take a genius to unpack that one.

Trailer for 13 Reasons Why: Season 2YouTube/Netflix


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Season two, then, looks set to further exploit a romanticised, sensationalised portrayal of suicide in an amoral abandoning of concern for the consequences. This has already been proven deadly. The show – its viewing figures, its longevity, its revenue – cannot be prioritised over a truthful and responsible depiction of an issue so currently endemic to the show’s target audience. Those behind 13 Reasons Why need to stop claiming success in opening up ‘tough conversations’, and instead realise the damage they’re really doing.

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