Netflix renews controversial teen drama '13 Reasons Why' for a second season

The series has been widely criticised for 'glorifying' suicide and flaunting media guidelines

Netflix renews controversial teen drama '13 Reasons Why' for a second season

Director Tom McCarthy, the Oscar-winning writer of 'Spotlight', working behind the scenes on '13 Reasons Why' [Beth Dubber/Netflix]

After weathering a critical storm and enjoying widespread online buzz, Netflix has announced that the teen drama 13 Reasons Why will return for a second season.

Based on the YA novel by Jay Asher, the freshman season of the show revolves around the suicide of a high school girl. Hannah, played by Australian actress Katherine Langford, leaves behind a series of cassette tapes outlining her reasoning, with her classmates listening in and learning how she felt ostracised by the school community.

Netflix has said the second season will pick up in the aftermath of Hannah’s death, as the other characters in the series learn to come to terms with their complicated journeys towards healing and recognising mental health problems.

The second season, comprising 13 more episodes, will debut on Netflix next year, coming after 13 Reasons Why became the most tweeted about TV show of the year.

However, given that the show follows the plot of Jay Asher’s novel, many assumed that 13 Reasons Why would be a one-and-done miniseries adaptation, rather than becoming an ongoing scripted series.

Among the other novel adaptations debuting in 2017, including Amazon’s American Gods and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, 13 Reasons Why comes with a finite plot; schoolboy Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) works his way through the tapes left by Hannah, in which she narrates the events preceding her death some weeks earlier.

But once Clay reaches the end of the final tape, fans of the novel would have assumed that the show would have reached its conclusion, with the schoolgirl silenced by the suicide that took her life. As the show makes clear, despite widespread criticism that it fails to do so accurately, there’s no coming back from the decision Hannah makes.

In order to explain how 13 Reasons Why set itself up for a follow-up season, buckle down for some slight SPOILERS of the first season...

At the end of the penultimate episode, the series jumps forward in time to show an unidentified teenager on the way to hospital after suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The finale then sets up a number of smoking-gun plot strands to offer viewers several possibilities of which character may be fighting for his or her life, before finally revealing which one it is.

Should a second season chose to follow a chain-letter style suicide note, like Hannah’s cassette tapes, creator and showrunner Brian Yorkey will have an uphill battle to answer the criticisms of 12 Reasons Why’s first run. And a teaser for the show’s second season, posted to Instagram by its pop star producer Selena Gomez, ends with a red play hot button, suggesting that the cassettes may be replaced by a YouTube-like video series.


Their story isn't over. Season 2 of #13ReasonsWhy is coming.

A post shared by Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) on

After the series faced criticism for its graphic depiction of Hannah’s death, in a scene that ignores all media guidelines for how to deal with suicide on screen, Netflix responded by adding more robust trigger warnings to the episodes.

“While many of our members find the show to be a valuable driver for starting important conversations with their families, we have also heard concern from those who feel the series should carry additional advisories,” the streaming giant said in a statement last week.

“Currently the episodes that carry graphic content are identified as such and the series overall carries a TV-MA rating. Moving forward, we will add an additional viewer warning card before the first episode as an extra precaution for those about to start the series.”

Speaking to Vanity Fair, Yorkey said the follow-up would continue to tell in “as honest a way as possible” the lives of the teenagers connected to Hannah’s death, calling 13 Reasons Why a “tremendous opportunity.”

“I think that we would really sort of just try to continue to tell the story of these characters as truthfully and as wholly as we could,” he said.

“We certainly wouldn’t shy away from anything, but neither would we go out of our way to respond in any way to what’s been said about the show. We would just try to keep continuing to tell the story – and tell it as well as we could.”

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