Moderated by: Chief Couch Potato Kylie
Who: “13 Reasons Why” is a drama-mystery web television series based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and is a Netflix original series, always available on Netflix.
What: “13 Reasons Why,” adapted by Brian Yorkey for Netflix, revolves around a high school student, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), and his friend, Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), who committed suicide after suffering a series of demoralizing circumstances, brought on by select individuals at her school. A box of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah before her suicide details thirteen reasons why she ended her life.
Clay Jensen (Minnette) returns home from school to find a mysterious box lying on his porch. Inside, he discovers seven double-sided cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker (Langford), his classmate and unrequited love, who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah unfolds an emotional audio diary, detailing the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. The series explores the fallout from the revelations on Hannah’s tapes.
When: Season 2 was released in its entirety to the Netflix streaming library on May 18, 2018, with a total of thirteen episodes.
Where: The action takes place in an unnamed, presumably Californian town (the series was shot in California) at fictional Liberty High School.
Why: To find out why individual podcast panelists started watching this show, listen to the podcast episode via the link below.
How – as in How Was It? – THOUGHTS
CPU! has covered 13 Reasons Why since the series’ beginning. To listen to our Season 1 review, listen via the embedded link below or via our audio feed at Apple/iTunes, Stitcher Radio, and Google Play:
When 13 Reasons Why premiered on Netflix, so many CPU! core panelists advocated for a 13 Reasons Why panel, the Chief CP had to oblige and to subsequently draw lots, since we had more volunteers than actual room on the panel. Since that time, at least one panelist – Jenn – has jumped the shark after watching only a few episodes of the second season, though the rest of the panel, CPU! regulars Kristen, Andrew, Amie, Emily, and Jeremy, all returned to attempt to process Season 2 via what could only be described as a mixed bag of reactions. In this episode, our remaining conscientious five, along with yours truly, the main moderator, parse through the thirteen new courtroom-based testimonies and three Polaroids of Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why and also delve into the continuing, ensuing controversies that this unflinching and graphic portrayal of social issues confronting today’s teens have wrought.
In the episode linked below, this panel spends considerable time with and meditates upon each of the deeply flawed characters motivating the story within 13 Reasons Why. The panel also reacts to the continued debates and controversies arising from critical and popular reception of the series: is the show responsible social commentary or irresponsible revenge fantasy? Does the show glorify suicide, or does it provide a stark and necessary depiction of it in order to provoke needed conversation around signs and triggers? Does the streaming network provide enough trigger warnings? Does the series attempt to tackle too many social issues at once, but only at a surface level, giving none of them a true exploration of said issues due to the sheer number of them, or is the show daring to tread roads where other series fear to go? Our eager and vocal panel participants may not have all the answers, but as with the world at large, some continued strong reactions are voiced during this longer-than-usual discussion.
For those who find it difficult to listen to discussion about sexual assault (rape), suicide, and the other heady topics bridged by this program, please note that we do discuss much of it directly and, in some instances, quite personally. Listener discretion is advised.
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Remember, new episodes and blog posts are published weekly! Next Wednesday, our A Series of Unfortunate Events panel returns – for the last time – to the Water Cooler to discuss the final season of the quirky Netflix dark comedy (allegedly) made for children, i.e. Season 3. In our upcoming episode, we will also Look Back at the entirety of this popular adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s novels, which we have covered on the podcast since the show’s beginning, and we will examine its relative success (or lack thereof) as an overall series as well as say goodbye, both to the series and to each other (for now). Stay tuned!
Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations
1) We presume that Tyler Down (Devin Druid) will be the focal subject of Season 3, given the ending scene of Season 2, in which Tyler (SPOILER) brings a gun to school with the intention of unloading it during the Spring Fling dance and following Monty’s brutal act toward Tyler in the Season 2 finale. How appropriate is it for the show to switch gears from a narrative largely about Hannah and sexual assault/mental health issues/suicide to Tyler and the theme of school shootings/violence? Will the show be able to handle this transition sensitively and to broach this issue with care and responsibility? Should the show even be going down this road?
2) Given Chloe’s Season 2 finale admission to Jessica (Alisha Boe) that she is pregnant, a result of non-consensual sex with Bryce (Justin Prentice), the panelists fear that the show might additionally try to tackle the subject of abortion at a time when such a fraught topic might be timely from a sociological and political perspective, even as the vehicle, 13 Reasons Why the series, might not be an appropriate vessel for such a divisive subject. Our panel is especially concerned, as the show originally, again, focused on Hannah as the central character, and as the series has not handled the topics originally depicted by the source novel as sensitively as it could have in these socially aware times. Will the show broach the subject of abortion? Should it?
3) The show seeded a narrative/theme for a supporting character, the Class President Marcus, an African-American male, in Season 2, in which he was blackmailed by Tyler and his new friend Cyrus into labeling Bryce a “rapist” at a public event. The audience is given a glimpse into Marcus’ home life, in which his father praises his hard work and intelligence, particularly in light of the fact that he and his family expect to experience hardship due to race; yet, the show explored this issue, in the panel’s estimation, rather superficially in Season 2. Will the show revisit this theme in Season 3, since we saw Marcus experience no consequences for his actions against Hannah, his on-the-stand perjury (or obfuscation of the whole truth) during the trial, and his wavering sense of morality in light of his behavior and choices?
4) The panel strongly reacted to the show’s handling of Clay’s individual mental health issues, given his profound grief over Hannah’s death, his full-fledged conversations with her “ghost,” and his coping mechanisms related to his pursuit of his private investigation of the revelations around Hannah discussed during the trial, to his reactions and relationship to Skye, and to his dynamic as well as his care and support of Justin (Brandon Flynn) during Justin’s rounds of heroin detox. Will the show more meaningfully revisit Clay’s own mental health journey? Will we be given a better explanation for the Hannah manifestation? Or, were Clay’s reactions and apparent state of mind only dependent upon his obsession with Hannah, in life and in death, and will they be forgotten now that Hannah and, therefore, Clay has “moved on?”
5) Will the show explain or explore how the school district’s defense attorney came to know so many personal details about the various witnesses called to testify in the trial? We can assume or presume that Bryce provided some information, but where did much of the intimate information come from, and how was it vetted, if at all? The trial felt like the consummate courtroom melodrama and, in some ways, represented some of the sloppiest storytelling of Season 2, as far as our panel is concerned.
6) How will Clay’s parents’ decision to adopt Justin play out in Season 3? Will they be as oblivious to Justin’s ongoing addiction as they are to their son’s mental health state?
7) Is there more of a history between Tyler and Monty than what we have already seen, and, if so, what is it? Will we learn more in Season 3?
8) Will the show use another “device” to tell the story, like the cassettes or the Polaroids, in Season 3? What will it be?
9) With Chloe’s pronouncement to Jessica that she is pregnant, and with Bryce’s announcement to Zach (Ross Butler) that he is transferring to a different school, will Bryce be forced to cancel those plans? Will he remain at Liberty? Or, will his parents try to pay Chloe off or otherwise keep her quiet?
10) Will our panel fully return to discuss Season 3? Much doubt was expressed about the idea of extending this series even further beyond its source material than previously accomplished via the second season, and the panelists, mostly, feel trepidation about the idea of the coming third season. Listen to the podcast episode for details.
Universally, the CPU! 13 Reasons Why panelists feel that Season 2 of this controversial series is not as well executed as the first season. Without the reliable support of the source material, as the first season wholly adapted the one novel on which the series is based, the series’ second season struck our panelists as “forced,” “contrived,” superficial in its revisit of the issues that rendered the show such a water cooler TV topic in 2017, scattered in its attempt to tackle even more social issues than those originally addressed without being able to deeply or genuinely delve into them, “manipulative,” and, in some ways, more sensationalized in its depiction of sensitive issues, considering the strong negative response to the perceived sensationalism of the show’s first season. The panelists struggled most with the writing and narrative structure of Season 2, finding many of the plot choices and revelations about Hannah to be contradictory to what was learned in Season 1, which was based on the actual book, and in a way that did not add to her story. Panelists also panned some performances, particularly by some of the actors and actresses playing the parents, with the notable exceptions of the fabulous Kate Walsh and Brian d’Arcy James as Olivia and Andy Baker, Hannah’s parents, respectively. To that end, some of the episode direction suffered as a result, with choppy pacing and framing that felt as manipulative as the story being peddled in the series’ sophomore season, at least in our panel’s particular regard.
As a result, the panel no longer universally recommends 13 Reasons Why, at least beyond Season 1, as what many of the panelists enjoyed and lauded about the first season, especially the program’s ability to push the conversation about teen suicide, sexual assault, bullying, and other serious issues affecting today’s youth to the forefront, seemed watered down and worryingly “surface-level” in the second season. In addition, the risky decision to renew an already shaky story structure for a third season leaves the panel with uneasy feelings, particularly as the show moves away from Hannah as a main focus and attempts to re-position the drama around problematic character Tyler and, presumably, the subject of school shootings as well as, quite possibly, teen pregnancy (and related issues), given Chloe’s circumstances. Thus, for anyone who has not watched this series, particularly Season 2, and is considering it, take this mixed-message recommendation for what it is: watch, and judge for yourself, but watch with caution all the same.
13 Reasons Why was renewed for a third season, which is expected to drop later in 2019, though a tentative release date has not yet been announced by Netflix as of the date of this publication. As always, CPU! will keep you informed of all 13 Reasons Why coverage, and this panel will, as such, hopefully return some time after the release of Season 3 to recap the new season. Until then!