A little over a week ago, 13 Reasons Why started streaming on #Netflix and soon became this huge pop-culture phenomenon. The fictional story of Hannah Baker — a heavily bullied junior high school student who committed suicide — is spread out in thirteen episodes, each of which correspond to a mixtape Hannah herself recorded for those she deemed responsible for her suicide. 13 Reasons Why has a severely dark tone at times — with a realistic portrayal of any high school's victims and bullies, and the graphic depiction of Hannah's final moments — but it also attempts to leave behind a positive legacy of caring for others, and making sure they know they're not alone.
Unfortunately, that is not all 13 Reasons Why's first season left behind. While it's understandable that Netflix would want to leave an open door for a possible second season — thus why pretty much every character in the series was left hanging on a cliff — the show failed to address some other important questions perceptive viewers will have asked.
Here are five of those questions that 13 Reasons Why failed to answer in Season 1:
1. Why Tony?
As Hannah's mother cleverly pointed out, Tony's was the only name on Hannah's brainstorm that had a question mark to it, so maybe not even she was quite sure of the role Tony could play in telling her story. He had always been kind to her — helping with her car trouble, giving her a mixtape of the winter dance songs, exchanging friendly remarks and lending her the cassette recorder — so, like Clay, Tony clearly wasn't accountable for Hannah's suicide.
Perhaps it was Tony's kindness and seeming loyalty that made Hannah entrust him with her final wishes. Also, the fact that Tony wasn't on the tapes (and, therefore was completely innocent in Hannah's eyes) made sure he had nothing personal to lose by passing the tapes on — and ensuring that the others did the same.
2. Why Didn't Hannah's Parents Get A Copy Of The Files Sooner?
As he was giving the Bakers a digital copy of Hannah's tapes, Tony opened up about his fears of letting Hannah down, and confessed he still wasn't sure that giving her parents her recorded suicide note was a good idea. It took Tony way too long to come to the conclusion that, maybe, Hannah's parents should be allowed some closure after all, and it's pretty clear the only reason he did it was because Clay went too far taking matters into his own hands.
With everything he heard on those tapes, one might think Tony would be a little more proactive about sharing their content — or delivering them to the police, or the Bakers. But one particular scene (when Tony took Clay rock-climbing) can possibly explain why Tony was so reluctant about what to do; he cared enough for Clay to wait for the tapes to make their way to him. It was only after Clay had listened to it all, and was able to fully process Hannah's last words, that Tony let go of his quest and relinquished to the Bakers' right to move on.
3. What If Clay Had Passed The Tapes On To Bryce?
After making their way continuously through ten students, the tapes reached Clay. But, once they did, Clay dealt with Hannah's story in his own way, seeking revenge and wishing to out everyone for their 'crimes'. Not only that, but he also caused the tapes to skip a listener. Since Hannah's intent was for every person on the tapes to hear what they'd done to her and others, Clay tricked Bryce into admitting he had actually raped Hannah — subsequently robbing him of the right to listen to Hannah's accusations.
What if the self-righteous jock had had the chance to hear one of his victims calling him out, "live and in stereo"? It took some time, but most of the other students on Hannah's tapes eventually went full-circle and came to terms with what they had done. One of them, Sheri, actually called the police to report knocking down a traffic sign, and even Justin came clean to his girlfriend and everyone else. So why couldn't Bryce? If you're anything like Clay, you might have thought the chances of Bryce coming clean were slim to none, hence why it'd be simpler to skip him all together. But then again, that's not what Hannah intended when she made those tapes so, in some sense, Clay actually defiled the last wishes of the girl he loved.
4. Did Hannah's Tapes Actually Help Anyone?
It's easy to think that Hannah was absolutely right in calling out her bullies (by name) on those tapes, but that's only because she's the obvious victim in the story. Taking a step back from the emotional rollercoaster that 13 Reasons Why takes us through, it would be painfully clear that Hannah's finger-pointing caused some serious damage on its own — somewhat similar to the suffering Hannah endured herself. Don't get me wrong, some of those kids were pretty nasty to her, but losing a schoolmate to suicide is a pretty heavy wake up call on its own.
Take Clay, for instance; he was only on the tapes because it'd be impossible for Hannah to tell her story without mentioning 'Helmet', the one nice person she met. He had done her no wrong, and yet he was put through the angst and depression of having to listen to the voice of the dead girl he loved for days. Not only that, but he became increasingly self-absorbed and isolated, to the point of being paranoid and even distancing himself from his own support system — his parents. It's a blessing Clay turned out to be so well adjusted that he eventually made it out alive, but even then, Hannah's tapes made him consider suicide at one point.
5. Why Did Hannah Actually Do It?
This is where we must tread lightly because, even though it's a fictional tale, it depicts what happens every day with many teens. There's no denying that Hannah was suffering from all the nasty rumors and bullying she clearly underwent in two years. She had been hurt and bruised and, ultimately, profoundly violated to the point she was no longer able to contemplate walking her school halls with the same people that had damaged her. That's deeply saddening and disturbing, even more so when she revealed that she had in fact reached out for help, but that, ultimately, that help had been denied to her.
However, Hannah did have some sort of support system in her parents — and that's where the truth begins to hurt. The Bakers were present, engaged and caring parents to Hannah. They invested in her future, they encouraged her dreams and they even went as far as buying a new car to help her better fit in with the school kids. Hannah had a friend in Clay, a possible one in Tony and in so many other kids she never reached out to, because she continued to orbit around the same people. And, when the time came for her to reach out, she did so in her final stages of depression, already admitting defeat recording her session with the counselor. She wanted help, but didn't expect it from him — and yet, she didn't reach out to her parents, who would most likely do anything to prevent her untimely death. And that's the true lingering question 13 Reasons Why poses: what if Hannah had given it just one more try and talked things through with, at least, some of her former friends? Would she still go through with taking her own life?
More on #13ReasonsWhy:
- 13 Reasons Why You Should Watch Netflix's Heartbreaking Teenage Tragedy '13 Reasons Why'
- Netflix Series '13 Reasons Why' Needs A Second Season And Here Are The Reasons Why
- Why The Graphic Depictions Of Bullying In '13 Reasons Why' Are So Necessary To The Story
13 Reasons Why is a densely packed show, with the underlying topic of suicide, but focused on lending a helping hand to those in need around us. It's about listening to other people's issues and fears, stepping up for those who can't or won't do it themselves and, eventually, trying to prevent more people from taking desperate measures. It addresses many important aspects of a distressed teenage life — school bullying, sexual assault, gossip, parental guidance, friendship and love struggles and suicide — but it also romanticizes the latter in a very dangerous way (especially considering the the show's target audience).
And, as it is the case with many meaningless deaths, it raises all sorts of questions that ought to be properly answered in order for 13 Reasons Why to fulfill it's ultimate goal: to serve as a warning call to all those who work or deal with teens in a regular basis.
What do you think 13 Reasons Why needs to cover in a second season?