I finally gave in and finished season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, against my better judgment. I was quite unimpressed with the first season and in no hurry to delve into the second one, and in the end, my misgivings were not without merit.
Was it completely awful? Well, no.
If it helped raise awareness about serious issues like suicide, bullying, sexual assault and consent, then of course I count that among the positives. But as a viewing experience, it was largely annoying and not even slightly entertaining. Plus, it had lost whatever novelty the first season had to offer, so what we were left with were grieving loved ones, angsty kids, mental illness and addiction, narration that obviously went for poignant but fell flat and felt incredibly contrived, dead girl apparitions that only managed to remind me how much I disliked Hannah in the first place, and SO MANY PLOT POINTS that were suddenly introduced without feeling earned.
I would award it a few extra points for the “controversial” open-ended finale not being a cliche happy ending where the bad guy gets his comeuppance and the good guys are vindicated, if it didn’t appear as yet another plot point to push into a third (and unnecessary, and hopefully final) season.
Still, there are so many points to subtract for everything else that is wrong with this show. Did we need 13 episodes filled with an increasingly aggravating Clay being sad and pissed off at Hannah? Nope, just like we didn’t need as many last year. I don’t care about Clay moping around, I care even less about Hannah’s ghost acting all cryptic, and I care even less about a lawsuit against the school when there are so many other people at fault for whatever happened, including Hannah herself. I care more about Justin, to be honest, but the show apparently couldn’t decide if he was going to be a junkie or have an actual redemption arc. Most of all, I don’t care AT ALL about vindicating a dumbass who couldn’t decide who she liked, had a crush on, slept with or wanted to sleep with, sat there while her friend was getting raped but somehow blamed everyone else but herself, then managed to get raped herself after getting into a hot tub with the douchiest rapist in the whole school and only said no when it was too late.
I’m not saying that what happened was not a tragedy. I’m saying that all these issues raised in the show can never simply be black or white. But 13 Reasons ultimately failed to highlight those shades of grey, because the main focus was the poor girl who killed herself.
Aside from how aggravating just about every single character is, I have another issue with the entire premise. I was a teenage girl myself once. And we didn’t have cell phones or the internet but slutshaming was still a thing then – even more so, considering that even being sexually active was almost taboo at my school. And bullying was a thing then just as it is now, we just didn’t really have a name for it. Sometimes it got really bad – for some kids unbearable, even. But no one killed themselves, thank God. If you didn’t want to be slutshamed, you didn’t start serial-dating every popular kid in school. If you were put on weird lists or talked about in derogatory terms, you sucked it up and life went on.
Some kids had a pretty hard time of it, others simply coasted. And if something was wrong, you could bet the parents knew about it. And did something about it. And if push came to shove, the school did something about it. If you’ve got kids getting a free pass for whatever shitty thing they do, if they can drink and do drugs and sleep around, then it’s their parents’ fault more so than it is theirs, and the school is a distant third on the blame list in my book. Obviously I’d never support the sexist idea that any girl who gets raped was ‘asking for it’, but there are definitely things a young girl can do to shield herself from such situations, and even to protect her reputation before things escalate.
Taking a stance against victim blaming is one thing; expecting kids to act semi-responsibly is another. And when kids acts like idiots and get themselves in trouble, as is the case with just about everyone on this show, then I can’t reserve as much sympathy for them as the show demands me to. And when parents are completely oblivious to everything going on in their kids’ lives, then I can’t really sympathize with them, either.
So what I’m basically left with is a bunch of annoying teenagers (and a couple absolutely awful human beings), and no one to root for, very few people to empathize with, and 13 wasted hours of my time.