TV Review: ‘13 Reasons Why’ Is Bad Teen Drama

There’s something to be said about embracing melodrama. A variety of teen shows, like “Riverdale” and “On My Block” have found successful ways to utilize this drama and still be fun shows. One show that certainly does not qualify as “fun” is “13 Reasons Why,” the controversial series on Netflix.  “13 Reasons Why” became a lightning rod when it premiered last year, especially with its violent depiction of suicide. This year, the show returns with a new story, new mystery, and new disclaimers. However, the show cannot find its footing, resulting in a sophomore slump to be remembered.

When “13 Reasons Why” was renewed for a 2nd season, there were questions about whether or not it needed to have a 2nd season. The show quickly seems to answer that question. As the show evolves from a mystery and teen drama into a courtroom drama, it quickly loses its footing. The result is an inessential season of TV that revels in misery. Even with a few standout moments, the rest of the show wallows in misery porn. There are very few positive things to pull from this, making it one of the worst seasons of TV this year.

In many instances, the show is controversial for the sake of controversy. The show tries to handle heavy topics, including sexual assault, bullying, drug use, and suicide. From moment one, you know that everything you see is bad. You know this because the show handles these sensitive topics with weighted boxing gloves. In doing so, the series resembles the worst kind of clichés, including having lines like “there was life before Hannah, and life after Hannah.” It’s almost comical how serious the show takes itself, which simultaneously makes it a chore to watch.

Even compared to its first season, season two is extremely flawed. The show is not anywhere near as gripping as the first season. Moments that gave us real characters last season, such as the movie theater scenes between Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette, are non-existent. Clai’s savior complex only gets worse this season, apparently stopping bad things from happening to every character. Other moments, such as one where the black student witnesses his father’s political campaign sign burned in their front yard, despite receiving less than 15 minutes of screentime across 3 episodes, feels manipulative disingenuous. There’s also a leftover thread from the end of the first season that hints at the potential for a school shooting at Liberty Hight. Moments like these two, especially in the wake of Charlottesville, Parkland, and Sante Fe, feel borderline offensive.

Finally, the show doesn’t get the performances or standout moments it picked up in the first season. Langford is relegated to Clai’s imagination and flashbacks. While Clai has “A Beautiful Mind” moments with Hannah, other characters regress. Jessica (Alisha Boe) is not given the opportunity to stretch this season, resulting in a fairly flat character. Justin (Brandon Flynn) is given a stereotype to play. Tyler (Devin Druid) is now a paint-by-numbers would be school shooter. Bryce (Justin Prentice) is the one-note villain he’s been since episode one. None of the actors are given a chance to evolve their characters. At the same time, the show becomes dull and infuriating at every turn. No one here gets better as a person, and maybe that’s the point. But if that’s the reason for your show, can you give me one reason why I should keep watching?

“13 Reasons Why” delivered one of the worst seasons of television in 2018. The show almost dared itself to be more controversial this season, simply because it could. The result is a season that has no real positive moments and instead wants you to cry forever. Yet the lack of real connection between any of the characters, or any real moments at all, makes every one of these sad moments fall flat. Save your time. Watch the first season again instead. At least that season understood how to be interesting.

What did you think of “13 Reasons Why” Season 2? Let us hear in the comments below! 

“13 Reasons Why” is now streaming on Netflix. 

GRADE: (★½)