13 Questions We Have Before '13 Reasons Why' Season 2
Season two of “13 Reason’s Why” premieres on Friday, and here at The Mighty, we’re reviewing all 13 new episodes. “13 Reasons Why” was one of the most talked about shows of 2017. Within The Mighty community, we received dozens of stories from contributors about the show and even wrote a few pieces of our own.
It’s not often a show that addresses multiple mental health-related topics makes its way into mainstream media — which is why we are excited to have this opportunity to take a deeper dive. We have two Mighty staff editors reviewing season two — myself and Juliette Virzi, The Mighty’s associate mental health editor. Juliette watched season one when it first came out. I binge-watched it last week.
There were, as you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, quite a few issues with season one — from a lack of content warnings to graphic rape and suicide scenes that had the potential to be triggering for those affected by either topic. If you’d like to read more about our previous coverage of “13 Reasons Why,” you can do so here.
To prepare for season two, we gathered some questions we had following season one. For those of you looking to refresh your memory ahead of season two, we’ve highlighted some of the major plot points below. Warning: there are lots of spoilers for season one and a few for season two.
As season two approaches, we want to hear what you think! Let us know your predictions for season two and any lingering questions you may have in the comments below or you can tweet using the hashtag #WatchWithTheMighty. We’ve also included a character reference guide below to help you remember everyone.
Here are the 13 questions we have about season two of “13 Reasons Why.”
1. Does Jessica press charges against Bryce?
In season one, we learn that Bryce raped Jessica while she was drunk at her house party. Hannah was in the closet and witnessed the rape, which she shares on Justin’s second tape. Although Justin is not in the room at the time, he knows Bryce raped Jessica and does little to stop it. Because of Hannah’s tapes, Jessica finds out she was raped by Bryce. At first, when she asks Justin about it, he denies it happened. It’s unclear why Justin denies the rape, though he says it was to protect Bryce — the only person Justin felt cared about him growing up. Later in the season, Jessica finally learns the truth after Justin confronts Bryce about the rape.
Jordan: From trailers released for the second season, it looks like Jessica presses charges, but she could just be testifying in the lawsuit the Bakers initiated against Liberty High. I’m hoping season two brings Jessica some closure. I also hope the show limits the number of graphic flashbacks. In season one we saw Jessica’s rape from multiple perspectives, the graphic nature of which felt gratuitous. Was the repetition in that scene necessary or just harmful to viewers?
Juliette: Because of the importance of the #MeToo movement this year, I would not be surprised at all if the show was primarily concerned with Jessica’s sexual assault journey. Sexual assault can be a tricky topic to cover on a teen show. While you want to show that pressing charges can ultimately lead to the perpetrator being punished, at the present moment, the justice system does not favor victims. Showing a survivor winning her case can give unrealistic expectations of what pressing charges is actually like. The reality is many survivors who press charges won’t ever get justice. According to RAINN, the nation’s leading sexual violence prevention organization, of every 1,000 rapes, only 6 rapists will be incarcerated. It’ll be a tough line for the show to walk should they focus on Jessica pressing charges.
2. What is going on with the Baker’s lawsuit against Hannah’s school?
In response to Hannah’s suicide, the Bakers sue Liberty High for negligence, claiming that bullying at the school led Hannah to end her life. Mrs. Jenson, Clay’s mom, represents the school in the lawsuit. The school offers a settlement to the Bakers, who decline the offer. We see a number of characters get deposed towards the end of the season, but the case has yet to get to court. The season ends with Mrs. Baker getting a USB drive of Hannah’s tapes from Tony, which undoubtedly strengthens the Bakers’ claim.
Juliette: One of my biggest frustrations with the first season was the fact that Clay’s mom was going to be the litigator on behalf of the school in the Baker’s case against Liberty High. How would that even be possible? Even without Clay’s mom knowing how close Clay and Hannah were, isn’t the fact that she is the parent of a child at Liberty High enough of a conflict of interest? Is there really no other lawyer in town who could handle the case?
Jordan: I’m wondering how much of the tapes will be admissible in court? Bryce sort-of admitted to raping Hannah, but Clay recorded that conversation without getting Bryce’s permission. In some states, that is illegal.
3. What were Clay’s old nightmares about?
Clay’s nightmares, past psychiatric prescription drug use and probable anxiety diagnosis, were all mentioned last season. At one point, Clay seems paranoid that people know about his nightmares but it’s never disclosed on the show, what, exactly they are nor do we hear the full extent of his previous mental health struggles. According to BuzzFeed News, there will be more of a focus on Clay’s mental health in season two. Dylan Minnette, the actor who plays Clay, said his character begins to imagine full conversations and arguments with Hannah, indicating a mental health breakdown.
Juliette: Last season, the thought I kept coming back to was, for a show about suicide, it’s kind of amazing that mental illness is barely mentioned. I thought the show (and book it was based on) took a far too simplistic approach to suicide. The essential formula of the show was: bad thing + series of other bad things = suicide. Suicide is complex. Mental health is complex. It’s unfair to boil the “cause” of suicide down to just events and ignore how mental illness, genetic factors and childhood can play a part in an individual’s experience of suicidal ideation. My hope is in addressing Clay’s mental health this season, they actually name a mental illness, rather than alluding to it like they did with Hannah. Just come right out and say it! Actually naming it and showing him experiencing symptoms will do a ton for the stigma surrounding mental health.
Jordan: Clay’s been through a lot. He lost Hannah, whom he loved. His friend Jeff died. And he’s coming to terms with the guilt he feels as a suicide loss survivor. This grief would be a lot for anyone, not just Clay. Knowing Clay likely has or had a mental illness, it will be interesting to see how his grief manifests in the future and affects his mental health.
4. Will Sheri face consequences for her “role” in the car accident that ended Jeff’s life?
Jeff Atkins makes multiple cameos throughout the series. Clay tutors Jeff and in return, Jeff gives Clay social advice. At Jessica’s house party, the party where she was raped, Jeff tells Clay he is leaving soon and can drive home as he only had a little to drink hours ago. Hannah leaves the party with Sheri, who hits a stop sign driving home while looking for her car charger. Hannah tells Sheri they have to call the cops, but a freaked out Sheri declines and drives away leaving Hannah on the side of the road. Shortly after, there is a two-car collision and one of those cars is Jeff’s. Jeff does not survive the crash and is blamed for the crash as multiple empty beer cans are found on the floor of the passenger seat. Later in the season, and a decent amount of time following Jeff’s death, Clay tells Jeff’s parents that Jeff said he wasn’t drunk that night and that a stop sign had been knocked down prior to the crash. Sheri doesn’t explain that her actions might have caused the crash until the end of the season. It’s unclear if she faces any consequences or if Jeff’s parents press charges.
Jordan: I didn’t read the book, so I don’t know how Jeff Atkins was portrayed there, but his presence on the show felt squeezed in. There were multiple times throughout the show when characters called Jeff by his full name, Jeff Atkins, which is strange. When was the last time you said your friend’s full name to a group of people who also know your friend? Even Jeff’s death felt like a rushed plotline. It didn’t seem like Clay and Jeff were that great of friends, but when Jeff died, Clay was visibly distraught and lashed out at Hannah, which seemed out of character for him.
Juliette: I totally agree with Jordan. “13 Reasons Why” was trying to do way too much in 13 episodes. Even though Jeff was a total cutie and I loved his relationship with Clay, his death, unfortunately, felt like a sloppy attempt at foreshadowing Hannah’s death. By making Jeff so lovable, I would guess the showrunners were trying to highlight the theme of loss of innocence because Jeff, like Hannah, was gone too soon.
5. What does Tyler do with the gun he bought?
Tyler is the school’s yearbook photographer who stalks Hannah because he has a crush on her. He takes a photo of Hannah and Courtney kissing in Hannah’s bedroom, which he circulates around the school. Courtney, trying to cover up the fact she is gay, denies her presence in the photo. It is made clear throughout season one that Tyler doesn’t fit in and is bullied as well. Even the other people on the tapes want nothing to do with Tyler. This includes Clay, who takes a photo of Tyler naked and texts it to students at Liberty High. Tyler buys a gun but never says what he is going to do with it. In the last episode of season one, Tyler is shown hiding a gun beneath his camera gear. He also has photos hanging of the people on Hannah’s tape. He removes Alex’s photo after Alex stands up for Tyler after he was bullied by Montgomery.
Jordan: I have a lot of thoughts about the gun plotline. Perhaps trivial, but it looks like Tyler bought a handgun, and then when we see the gun at the end of the season it’s an assault rifle. With all of the school shootings in the U.S., this is a plotline that, while relevant, seems like it could be dangerous if handled poorly. A lot of young people are afraid of gun violence at school, if we are going to have this conversation in a popular teen television show, I hope it is a productive one.
Juliette: I’m very afraid of this potential plotline, primarily because we see Clay shooting a gun in the season two trailer. Throughout season one we saw Clay get frustrated by his inability to get justice for Hannah, so much so that he takes matters into his own hands, “vigilante” style. I’m worried about what the introduction of more firearms into this narrative means. I really hope the show handles gun violence respectfully.
6. Does Alex survive his suicide attempt?
After listening to his tape in season one, it’s clear that Alex is quite distraught. He starts a fight with Montgomery, drives his car dangerously fast and jumps into Bryce’s pool with all of his clothes on and lets himself sink. At the end of the season, it’s revealed Alex tried to kill himself and is in critical condition.
Jordan: The way in which Alex tries to take his life, by gun, often has long-term consequences. Alex is shown in teaser trailers for season two, so we know he survives, at least initially. Alex is also shown using a cane, and in an interview with Refinery29, Ross Baker, the actor who plays Zach, says that Zach helps Alex with physical therapy. Head trauma usually has long-term side effects, so I hope this is something they keep up with throughout the season, not just two episodes and then Alex has healed.
Juliette: I’m curious how the show will handle his mental health as he goes through physical therapy. Will he be grateful he survived or will he still feel suicidal? My prediction is that they will use Alex and his subsequent recovery as a foil to Hannah, who actually dies by suicide. Since the show received a lot of flack for not showing that recovery is possible, I have a feeling they will use Alex to illustrate that point — that with proper mental health support, suicide is preventable and anyone can recover. I sincerely hope they do this, but not in a cheesy after-school-special kind of way.
7. Where is Justin going?
Justin makes an appearance twice on Hannah’s tapes. First, Justin, while briefly dating Hannah, takes an up-the-skirt photo of Hannah, which is then sent around school by Montgomery, who grabs Justin’s phone and hits send. Justin then begins dating Jessica, and, as mentioned above, doesn’t step in to stop Jessica from being raped by Bryce — earning Justin a second “reason why” on Hannah’s tapes. While all of this is going on, it is revealed that Justin’s mom is not-so-great. Ms. Foley struggles with addiction and has brought several boyfriends into Justin’s life whom he doesn’t get along with. The latest one, Seth, ends up choking him. Justin asks his mom to pick between him and her boyfriend, and she makes her choice pretty clear, prompting Justin to grab his stuff and go. Hearing that Jessica is at Bryce’s house, Justin confronts Bryce about the rape, which is when Jessica finally learns the truth. Jessica tells Justin she never wants to see him again, despite Justin’s multiple apologies. When Jessica makes it clear she doesn’t want him in her life anymore, Justin leaves.
Jordan: If you watch the trailer for season two, it appears as though Justin returns — and with longer hair. Still, it’s unclear where he goes and why he comes back.
Juliette: I’m not sure where Justin went, but I hope the show delves more into how an abusive upbringing affects someone’s mental health as they grow up. We’ve all seen the trope of the misunderstood kid from the broken home, but let’s push it further. I want to see how abusive behavior modeled to Justin growing up actually affects his relationships — particularly with Jessica. I hope we can see him start to break out of the cycle of abuse and begin to heal.
8. What is Tony hiding?
Tony was the keeper of Hannah’s tapes last season — and happens to have a lot of secrets of his own. Tony follows Clay around for most of season one in an attempt to make sure Clay listens to all of Hannah’s tapes. Later on, Clay follows Tony and sees him beating up some guy, which Tony justifies as “taking justice into his own hands” on behalf of his sister. In addition to distributing the tapes originally, Tony made sure they got circulated to everyone on the list. Tony claims Hannah gave him the tapes because he is the only guy at the school who didn’t objectify her, though he says he didn’t open the door when he saw her drop the tapes off at his house because he found her drama a bit obnoxious. At the end of season one, we see he disregards Hannah’s wishes and gives a flash drive to Hannah’s parents with each recording on it.
Jordan: Tony, Tony, Tony. I don’t even know where to begin with Tony. First, I’ll say that Tony reminds me of a cross between Bruno Mars and the guy who sings “Beauty School Dropout” in “Grease.” The “Grease” reference is because he kind of has this angel-lurking-in-the-background-trying-to-nudge-Clay-in-the-right-direction vibe. Tony, in my opinion, is one of the show’s most and least developed character. He comes off as awfully mature for a teenager, but in a way that doesn’t feel realistic. He has so much going on — he’s gay, he loves his car, his dad is a hard-ass — but at the same time, what do we really know about Tony? Every glimpse of Tony we get seems superficial. He talks about beating up some guy for his sister because on his side of town you have to take justice into “your own hands.” But, at the same time, he doesn’t seem willing to do anything with the tapes or get “justice” for Hannah until Clay turns himself into a human punching bag to get Bryce’s confession. This season, I hope we learn more about Tony, emotionally. Enough with the surface level snippets. Despite all of this, however, Tony is my favorite character.
Juliette: I think the thing Tony is hiding is that he’s a 30-year-old man masquerading as a 15-year-old. (Kidding! That’s just the nature of casting teen soaps these days, obviously. *Rolls eyes*) But seriously, I know we are supposed to like Tony or think he’s the most mature, but I actually thought his “Yoda routine” was annoying — not to mention so irresponsible to carry out Hannah’s wishes like he did! He should have turned over the tapes to the police right off the bat, in my opinion.
9. Why was everyone so willing to protect Bryce?
Bryce is an all-star jock at Liberty High with a large group of friends and very wealthy parents. Bryce raped Hannah, Jessica and, based on how it’s laid out in the “confession” Clay records, probably other students at Liberty High. While everyone on the tapes potentially has something to lose from others learning about what they did, Bryce is one of the only people who truly committed a crime. When deciding what to do about being subpoenaed for the Baker lawsuit, the students Hannah called out in her tapes, minus Bryce and Clay, discuss a bunch of ways to avoid blame. These ways include protecting Bryce, until someone suggests sacrificing him since his crime is the worst of the group’s. Even then, not everyone is on board.
Juliette: This plot point was confusing to me. I don’t really see how protecting Bryce would protect them. Is it because they are afraid that because they knew for a long period of time and didn’t tell anyone, they will be in more trouble? Is it because they truly don’t think what he did is that bad? I find those things hard to believe. I want this explained in a believable way in season two.
Jordan: We’ve all done things we aren’t proud of that we wouldn’t want to be documented in a lawsuit. However, nothing anyone in the group is trying to cover up makes harboring a rapist OK. I found it disturbing how much Courtney, Marcus and Justin were willing to protect Bryce. Rape is unjustifiable — period, the end.
10. What was the beef between Clay and Skye?
Though most of season one focused on the relationship between Clay and Hannah, we also saw Clay rekindle his friendship with Skye, a girl who struggles with self-harm. The pair were childhood friends but grew apart when they got to high school. Dylan Minnette, the actor who plays Clay, told Seventeen that Clay and Skye may become more than friends in season two. “I can’t say too much, but Skye is still around and in the picture and there’s a chance that her and Clay could be friends or more,” he said. “That’s something you’ll learn pretty quickly when the season starts. I don’t want to spoil that for you, but she’s around.”
Juliette: I have a feeling the show will explore a relationship between Clay and Skye as a “full circle” scenario. We know Skye has a history of self-harm, so we may see Clay get to respond to her the way he wished he could have with Hannah. I hope they just become close friends instead of love interests because I would hate it if Skye became a “stand-in” for Hannah — like Hannah could so easily be replaced. I think the full circle message would be more powerful if it was about supporting a close friend, rather than replacing something he could have had with Hannah.
Jordan: I agree with Juliette. I’m all for Clay having a meaningful relationship, but I think he needs time to heal from the trauma of losing Hannah.
11. Does Mr. Porter ever own up to his “role” in Hannah’s death?
Mr. Porter is the school’s guidance counselor and was, in Hannah’s mind, her last hope. He’s the subject of her thirteenth and final tape. On the tape, she records the invalidating conversation she has with him. Hannah discusses being raped and experiencing suicidal thoughts but he isn’t fully paying attention to her because his phone is ringing off the hook. When he does respond to her, he says all the wrong things. He presses her for the name of her rapist, continues to ask her if she said “no” to her rapist’s advances (showing Mr. Porter questioned Hannah’s claim) and ultimately suggested that if she didn’t want to report the rapist, she needed to just “move on” from the experience. Unlike the other people on the tapes, Mr. Porter is an adult and objectively had the most power and training to stop Hannah from killing herself.
Juliette: Mr. Porter should absolutely be held responsible for his part in Hannah’s death. As a guidance counselor, he is a mandated reporter who is required by law to report a minor who experienced sexual abuse or suicidal thoughts. I know his character is meant to shine a light on the larger problem with schools failing to meet the mental health needs of students, but it’s hard for me to believe he was this incompetent. I would imagine even the most basic of training for counselors would not lead him to act as he did — which was essentially slut shaming and not performing his legal obligation out of negligence.
Jordan: I feel like the show did a lot to try and humanize Mr. Porter. We got to see his home life — he has a wife and two small children — and the stress associated with “counseling” hundreds of students. But Mr. Porter has an important job, and life and work stress don’t excuse him from doing it properly.
12. Do the Bakers move? What happens to their store?
At the end of season one, it’s revealed that the Bakers are selling their house. Throughout the first season, we see them struggle to make ends meet at their small drug store and it’s mentioned how the lawsuit could financially crush them.
Jordan: If the Bakers move, which seems likely, I hope they discuss why. Is it hard to live in the house where Hannah ended her life? This seems like an important topic to address and one that suicide loss survivors would likely relate to.
Juliette: I think the Bakers will definitely move. I would imagine it would be incredibly painful to even look in the direction of the room where Hannah died. In terms of the lawsuit, I think I’m most curious about how it will affect their marriage. Will Mrs. Baker be so fixated on the lawsuit and getting justice for Hannah that she neglects her marriage? What does it look like to grieve as a couple over the child you have lost? What kind of strain will that put on a marriage that is already struggling for financial reasons?
13. Does anyone go to therapy? Ever?
A lot happens in season one that causes grief, trauma and emotional upheaval for the majority of the key figures in Hannah’s life. No one goes to therapy, or at least it’s never shown or discussed. And you can’t really count seeing Mr. Porter, the school’s guidance counselor, as therapy — especially after he downplayed Hannah’s trauma.
Juliette: It was amazing to see suicide talked about on such a large scale because of this show, but the message it sent was, unfortunately, a hopeless one. Hannah’s story ended tragically largely because she never got the help she needed and deserved. This season, I would love to see many of the teen characters (specifically Clay, Jessica and Alex) go to therapy that is actually helpful. I would also love to see the Bakers go to a bereavement group for parents who have lost a child. Showing therapy in a positive way would be huge for normalizing seeking help for your mental health. It would also show that recovery is possible — and that’s so important when you think of all the young people who are watching this show.
Jordan: I hope everyone goes to therapy, and I hope we get to see it.