Deputy Editor Kat Smith reviews Vox Media's Explained and praises its short, snappy episodes for educating viewers on complex topicsWritten by Kat Smith on 24th September 2018
Review: 13 Reasons Why Season 2
Deputy Editor Kat Smith voices her opinions on the controversial second season of 13 Reasons Why
About a year ago, I wrote a review praising the authenticity of 13 Reasons Why. A year later, my opinion of the show has been transformed.
There are two definitive camps when it comes to this Netflix original, one that states it tackles real-world issues in a bold and unapologetic way, and the other slams it for indulging and invalidating mental health and trauma. While season 2 aims to remedy some of the issues identified after season 1, it still bounces between being helpful and harmful.
The idea of there even having to be thirteen reasons why a girl committed suicide doesn’t sit very well with me. Mental illness itself was never explicitly discussed in the first season, meaning one of the standout quotes of season 2 coming from Skye’s mother, saying to Clay ‘She’s not upset, she’s ill’. The acknowledgement that mental health is not always tied to events or circumstance is a relief. Skye is a reminder that chemical make-up of our brains or the darkness and control of our own thoughts can have a momentous impact on our health, we don’t need to endure the hardships that Hannah did.
“The focus of the show is a little confused
The story itself fails to be as captivating as the first season, with the story relying on shock rather than relatability to keep viewers hooked. It covers too many bases, with drugs and homelessness coming into the spotlight also – while the reality of teenage life is vast and complicated, 13 Reasons becomes a slight caricature of it. And Hannah as a ghost/figment of Clay’s imagination is all a bit much. It left me feeling unable to invest in the case, or Skye and Clay’s relationship or whether Alex would remember things. Yet the first season had me hooked.
“While it misses the mark in some respects, it’s spot on in other cases
My biggest praise goes to Jessica’s story. Jessica’s experience of rape and the subsequent victim-blaming and recovery she experiences is all too realistic, with her abuser being the one most people want to believe. At a time where #MeToo is prevalent, it’s a heart-breaking reminder how easy it can be for something so terrible to remain overlooked. In all fairness, there is quite a lot that is right in this show and it mainly lies in the characters.
“In its choice to be bold in its depiction of rape and suicide, it prevents itself from being appropriate for survivors of sexual assault, or suicidal individuals
Overall, 13 Reasons Why is a frustrating mix of problematic and accurate. It’s baffling how many things it gets right about teenage life while still portraying mental health in an invalidating way and indulging it. With the door being ajar for a third season, I hope that the screenwriters get more right next time.