13 Reasons Why season two- Review and Conversation Starters

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The issues 13 Reasons Why season two and how to talk about them

Yes I am one of those sad people who watched this in one go on the day of release, not because I am some sort of addict (although I am ) but because I found myself left a little behind when the first season came out and you know me, I like to be ahead of the game.

Please note that this does contain spoilers so if you haven’t watched it yet, I suggest you do that before reading this post.

The main talking points are clearly around sexual assault , ostracising and bullying someone to the point where they snap, but I think they are some secondary points that, while not as in your face as much, are nevertheless very important to talk about.  Below I have outlined some of the secondary conversations that I think this show could encourage. I have left out the main issues not because I don’t think they are important, but because there are many resources out there around these topics already.

The secondary issues the show brings up

  • How do you forgive and move on?

  • There are two sides to every story.

  • The difference that privilege makes in life.

  • What really is the truth?

Review of 13 Reasons Why season two

This series is set among the backdrop of the trail, with each episode focused around someone’s testimony. We learn that there was more to Hannah than we first thought, we see how each character is struggling (or not) to come to terms with what has happened and we are left looking at the devastating after effects when someone takes their own life. I think that for me the main challenge with this season is that we are not really sure whose story we are following. In the first season we followed Hannah, but here we jumped around. However, in the end I’m convinced that what we are really watching is Clay’s story about letting go, making some sense of what happened and doing good in the after effect. The series seems to focus heavily on sexual assault with a B story (around school shootings), which to me was much more interesting, if not a little obvious at some times. I think many fans will be left a little disappointed as the climatic end you are envisioning doesn’t happen and you are left feeling a little let down. However, I do think the ending was perfect and shows  how far Clay has come, but I do believe that nuance may be missed by many. There will be much talk I am sure about the sexual assault scene with Tyler and yes it is shocking and isn’t expected and blindsides you a little.  I have heard some talk about it being unnecessary and I understand why, but in the story line it is absolutely necessary as it would take something this shocking to push this character over the edge, in my opinion.

All in all I think the show did a good job of highlighting some much-needed topics and yet again I’m sure if given the chance this show could spark some amazing debate.

Below are my suggestions for conversation-starters and topics for discussion in each episode.

Episode One

There are some huge topics covered in this episode about loss, moving on, self harm, anger, sexting and bullying, all mixed in with a huge dose of victim-blaming, which I am sure will get young people talking.

We see Clay in this episode clearly trying to get over Hannah by trying to save Skye. We have two broken people here, each trying to save each other and it isn’t working well. Why do we try and make ourselves feel better by saving someone else? This would be a good conversation starter around this topic.

We also see Skye clearly stating how all of the things used to try and stop self-harming just don’t work for her. But Clay doesn’t hear this and in his blindness keeps trying to help here. It is clear here that she needs professional help but Clay never sees this as an option. When should you seek help on behalf of another? When do you realise as a friend this is beyond your help? This would be a good debate to start. I can’t tell you how many young people I talk to that feel burden with their friend’s issues, unable to help them through not wanting to break their trust.

Also in this episode we see a lot of victim-blaming going on in the court. There is one point when the lawyer even suggests what Hannah went through wasn’t bullying because she likes attention. They try numerous times in this episode to make you feel that Hannah wanted the attention. This could start a huge conversation about good versus bad attention and where is the line. It takes the brilliant line, “No one likes the kind of attention Hannah got” to stop this in its tracks. What is the kind of attention that no one likes?

We also touch in this episode on something they call confirmative consent and actually getting a Yes from a girl before you sleep with her. I think confirmative consent and what it is would make a great discussion.

And then a line is said which is repeated a lot in various ways throughout the series; “Just because you have the picture doesn’t mean you have the whole story.” In a time where pictures and social media rule the roost and conclusions are often jumped to, I think having conversations about this would be really important.

This is a meaty episode and there is so much that adults could touch on and start discussing.

Episode Two

This seems to be an episode where the story behind the picture is played out and we are asked what is true. We also see Courtney coming out and telling the truth, despite what it might do to her.

There is a lot of talk about secrets in this episode, with the suggestion that keeping secrets is how you survive, and there is some talk that the secret is kept not to protect yourself but to protect others, a theme which we see play out again and again in this show, the young people suggesting that they were often keeping secrets to protect their parents and those they love rather than themselves. So a good discussion topic here could be why do people keep secrets? Do we keep secrets to protect ourselves or others?

We also hear the talk about the power of rumours and how one rumour can define you and never go away, with indication that young people feel like they’re being watched all the time and they have two choices, fight or hide. Most choose hide. Are rumours as damaging as they seem in this series or is that just TV? Can one rumour define you? Should we speak up or hide from ourselves and others when we know that rumours aren’t true?

And then at the end of this episode we get told that you should face what you are most afraid of. So what does that mean to people, should we face what we are most afraid of? What might be the consequences of doing so? What might be the good things that happen?

Episode Three

This episode seems to focus on labels and how we put labels on people. Starting by asking young people what good and bad labels they feel they have could be a great conversation starter.

For me, one of the most amazing things is said in this episode, one I think we could talk about for an eternity.

There is a part where I believe Jessica states, “Boys get to define and choose their identity; Girls get given a label and you have to live with it."

She goes on to say that sometimes these labels are so ingrained that the truth doesn’t matter, and that the real thing is to find friends that see past the labels.

Do boys get to choose their own labels and identity? Do girls have their identity chosen for them? Do these labels stick forever? Do you have anyone that can see through them? These are all good conversations that we could start having with young people.

And the episode ends with the thought that none of us are as strong as we want to be. Asking questions about this would be a great conversation to have with young people. Have there been times that we wanted to speak up and do things but didn’t?

There is a lot of meaty conversation content in this episode.

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Episode Four

This brings up one of the most interesting topics in the series and that is privilege; what it gives those that have it and how those that don’t have it are treated. This theme is highlighted in a much greater way further on in the series, but here we see Justin saying that people will always judge you, whether we want them to or not. He talks about how when you get no favours in life it is tempting to hold your head down, but you have to find a way to hold your head up.

Having a conversation about privilege would be an interesting one to have with young people. What is privilege, what part does in play in our society and how does it affect us?

Episode Five

This episode starts with the statement that nothing worth anything comes without pain.

I mean what a conversation starter! Is that really true, does there have to be pain in getting what you want?

This is an episode that will speak to all the creative types. There is the mention that work is only good if it comes from a need, either from the person itself or others, which I thought was an interesting take on art and if I was an art teacher i would certainly be discussing this.

This episode to me is all about expressions. There is talk about taking the words of others and making them your own and how it is so hard to stay silent when you have so much to say. It is hinted on in this episode that the poems that Hannah writes are her expression of herself, a reclaiming of herself and above all a cry for help, a desire for human connection.

I have often gone into schools where such writings from students are being laughed at and fobbed off as just "teen ramblings". This episode really made me think differently about this and about how one who needed help might express themselves. The ways we express ourselves would be a great topic for debate.

Also in this episode we are told that Hannah had her story taken away from her and that the stories others told were so loud, she could no longer hear her own and forgot who she was.

For me this would be great way to have young people help others and share what they would do about reclaiming their own stories if they were taken away from them.

Episode Six

In this episode we contemplate the issue of walking a fine line, not wanting to be a victim or a bully. How do you sit in the middle? How do you sit in a place where you don’t get bullied but also don’t bully? It’s a fine line and this episode talks about it. I think this is a challenge to every teenager; the desire to fit in can sometimes tip the scales one way or another. The suggestion is that to stay hidden, not make a fuss and not saying how you really feel is the way to do it. What to the students think?

Also, there is a lot of talk of shame in this episode, something that adults hardly ever talk about. There is talk of how shame burns. A conversation around shame would be so worthwhile here. What is shame? What makes us shameful? How do we get past shame?

Episode Seven

This is an odd episode but there are some interesting points made, such as why kids don’t tell their parents what really happens. Is it because they don’t think they will understand? Is it that they don’t think they will hear, or is it out of fear? The suggestion is because they think that their parents will understand to well and they are protecting them. Is that true? Why don’t you tell your parents things?

There is a lot in the episode that could be discussed about peer pressure and drugs and missed chances, but for me this is the piece that stood out the most.

Episode Eight

This to me seems like an episode aimed at parents and if parents were thinking of watching this show, this is the episode to watch.

It talks a lot about what young people are going through, how difficult it is and how little they share.

It also raises some interesting points about responsibility and about when we take responsibility for our own illness. There is talk about how we blame everyone else for our illness but we have to get the help ourselves. I think this would make a great discussion about responsibility and mental illness and when you need to take responsibility and seek help yourself. It might not be a popular discussion but nevertheless one that needs to happen.

There is also a question asked in this episode of how we can fix ourselves if we don’t know what’s broken, which I thought was really interesting. How can we seek help if we don’t know what’s wrong? And I think this is what a lot of young people do hold back. They don’t know what’s wrong and I think discussions about what is normal, what isn’t and when to seek help would be a great way to start young people having these conversations.

Episode Nine

There are lots of gems in this episode, first of all about what we do and say on-line and whether we would say the same to someone face-to-face. This is another episode for the parents I think as there is lots of talk about nothing being broken that can’t be fixed.

Then there is some talk about how actually for young people it feels more like what’s hurting can never be fixed. Does it feel like that? What do you do if it feels like that?

There is also a huge lesson in here for parents about the difference between talking and telling, a distinction to definitely keep in mind.

There are also discussions around power; those that have it and those that don’t and the effect that has on people, particularly the powerless. Is that something that the young people you work with recognise the difference between, those that have power and those who don’t?

There is also a mention of how no matter what you have been through and despite everything, you should put yourself out there.  This is probably one of the hardest and bravest things to do, to put yourself out there when it is all going or had gone wrong. How do you find the strength to do that?

Episode Ten

There is a great statement in this episode about when we act out of anger and fear we hurt people we don’t mean to hurt, how powerful anger is and how you just don’t know what to do with it.

This could spark a great debate about how do we not act out of anger and fear, how do we calm ourselves long enough to think? What do we do when anger feels so powerful that it is set to consume us?

Episode Eleven

In this episode we talk about how one wrong turn can define us and ask how we get back on track when we have made one. What a great conversation that would be to have with young people.

There is also talk about how precious life is and how lonely it can be.

I think that loneliness is becoming an epidemic that we don’t talk about enough. And I think an open and honest discussion around this could be a great thing to have.

Episode Twelve

This episode focuses a lot of friendship, how powerful it is and how you will do things you never thought you would do because of a friendship. Also, how friendship is something you commit to, no matter what.

I find this a really interesting concept and I can see how for young people it might feel like that. I think this is where the adults have difficulty, as we have long gone past the stage where we believe this to be even remotely true. However, we must acknowledge that for young people this is the case and feels very real.

What would you do and what would you not do for friendship? What would you consider to be going to far? Would a real friend expect this from you?

Episode Thirteen

There is no doubt that this is a shocking episode with lots of shocking moments in it.

  • We have women talking about their sexual assaults and how their stories matter.

  • We have Bryce’s privileged positions allowing him to get away with rape, while Justin gets a worse deal.

  • We have Chloe staying with her boyfriend even though he assaulted her.

  • We see Tyler assaulted in the most horrid way, which tips him over the edge

  • And we see Clay step in to stop Tyler committing a school shooting.

Its jam packed

And I am sure that this episode alone is one that we could be talking and talking about to young people for years. For me however the interesting story in this final episode is Clay, how he finally lets go, how he breaks down and then how he bravely stands up to Tyler to ensure that he doesn’t let the cycle continue. This is the breakthrough; the time we realise that it is Clay’s story and he has finally taken action instead of standing back. While we are all expected carnage, the show slows right down and does something unexpected, for which I really honour it.

How do you put yourself forward in a difficult and dangerous situation? How do you say no more? How do you heal and move forward?

I’m sure that the conversations most people with be having about this episode will involve shooting and sexual assault, I think that would be missing the point. While it’s important we discuss these things in the open and let’s face it all the signs were there for Tyler, it’s also important that we talk about the everyday, the mundane, the things that affect real-life young people and Clay doing what he does in this episode is worthy of discussion.

Well done Netflix for yet again producing a show that will spark discussion. For me, I did feel the show was a little too sanitised and not as raw as the first and the signposting was obvious sometimes, tying things up neatly with a bow and summarising a little too well. And perhaps the outcry from season one did have them hold back a little and try to make it more moralistic in nature.

Now I wonder what Season Three will bring...

Read my thoughts about Season One of 13 Reasons why here