18 May 2018
RP18: Contains rape, suicide themes, drug use, and bullying
PARENTS NEED TO KNOW: There is a graphic and brutal rape scene of a character with a mop handle in Episode 13 that all parents should be aware of.
Season 2 takes place five months after Hannah Baker’s suicide. In the time between the end of season 1 and the beginning of season 2, Alex has recovered from his suicide attempt and is about to come back to school. Jessica is also ready to return to school after taking some time off to try and recover from the trauma of being raped.
Hannah’s parents, Olivia and Andy, have refused to come to a settlement with the school as they believe the school failed to keep Hannah safe and was ultimately responsible for Hannah’s suicide. The first twelve episodes are narrated by different witnesses – Hannah’s friends, parents, teachers and Bryce, the boy who raped her.
The series features graphic flashbacks and retellings of both Hannah and Jessica being raped by Bryce. There is also a new, brutal and graphic sexual assault against Tyler by three members of the baseball team.
The impact of Hannah’s suicide is widely felt by those she left behind. Hannah returns and only Clay can see her. She visits Clay and encourages him to ensure Bryce is punished for what he’s done.
Hannah’s story is further explored by her friends who offer different perspectives to the events Hannah talks about in her tapes.
The show explores issues like bullying, suicide, self-harm, drug use, sexual assault and rape.
Adults are largely shown to be ineffective or actively unhelpful when young people are dealing with challenging issues. The young characters in the series often feel they have to take matters of punishment and justice into their own hands.
The series finishes with Tyler, who was raped by his schoolmates, attempting a school shooting. Clay persuades him to put the gun down and Tony helps Tyler escape. Clay is left holding an automatic weapon.
Young people know the issues in 13 Reasons Why are also issues in Aotearoa. They’re already talking with each other about many of the themes in 13 Reasons Why, including suicide, rape, drug use and bullying. It’s important for adults to join those conversations to provide guidance and support if our young people need it.
Although it can feel hard to talk about the tough stuff, it’s important that we can all have safe, open, honest and compassionate kōrero about these difficult issues so our rangatahi feel heard, supported and understood.
Let them know you are there to talk whenever they are ready. They might not be ready right now – that’s OK. Keep checking in, and make sure they know of a number of different people and places they can turn to.
You might find these issues difficult to talk about, depending on your own experiences or beliefs, but listening without judgement is really important. See our top tips for more information.
Parents and caregivers need to know: This first episode is preceded by a short video involving several actors from the series talking about the sensitive issues that the series tackles. Netflix has referred to this as a trigger warning. There are suicide, self-harm and bullying themes throughout as we learn how the characters are dealing with the aftermath of Hannah’s suicide.
The episode begins with a court case between Hannah’s parents and the school. Hannah’s parents are suing the school for not providing the right support to Hannah before she killed herself.
Clay notices that his girlfriend Skye has been self-harming by cutting and they discuss support strategies to deal with it. There is a consensual sex scene. Alex discusses his suicide attempt with Tyler and explains he survived because the gun was heavier than he had anticipated and the bullet ricocheted off the wall. There is a cynical exchange between Zach, Alex and Jessica about the school’s policy that suicide and suicide attempts cannot be discussed. Alex brings his suicide note to school and is told if he is caught he will be suspended. There are references to the rape and sexual violence from the previous series and slut-shaming throughout, e.g. Jessica finds a blow-up sex doll strung up in a noose on her porch with the word ‘slut’ written across the chest. In one scene, Bryce injects another baseball player in the buttocks with performance enhancing steroids. Clay receives a polaroid of Bryce raping an unconscious girl. On the back it says ‘Hannah wasn’t the only one’.
On the stand, Tyler takes responsibility for stalking Hannah. He also names some of Liberty High’s biggest bullies – Bryce, Scott and Monty.
The Bakers’ lawyer describes Hannah as a ‘beautiful, innocent, sensitive girl who was bullied to death’.
Parents and caregivers need to know: Hannah appears for the first time and only Clay can see her. This episode features bullying and intimidation (e.g. Jessica gets another threatening message in her locker, “keep your fucking mouth shut”), sex references and discussion about incidences of sexual violence from Season 1.
Courtney is forced to come out as a lesbian on the stand and voiceover of her testimony talks about the effect of rumours at high school defining who you are as a person. Skye attempts to give Clay a handjob under the dinner table in front of his parents. Later, they fight about this.
At the conclusion of the episode, Skye is taken away in an ambulance, the implication being she has self-harmed. Her mother tells Clay Skye isn’t upset, she’s ill. Someone leaves a paper target covered in bullet holes in Alex’s letterbox. It says “better luck next time”.
Parents and caregivers need to know: We see brief flashbacks to Jessica’s rape from Season 1. Bullying and intimidation continue. There’s an assault and some drug use. In the hospital, Skye and Clay discuss Skye’s illness and she tells him she does not understand her own behaviour but she loves Clay for trying to help her. She breaks up with him. Clay continues to communicate with Hannah. Jessica’s testimony explores how hard it is to be a teenage girl, to be judged by how you look and what people hear about you. She says the school couldn’t be trusted to help when girls were slut-shamed or bullied. Jessica is pressured by Clay to tell the truth about Bryce raping her on the stand but she isn’t ready. Someone posts photos of Jessica in her classroom that say “who would believe a drunk slut?” Jessica points out that Hannah is essentially on trial, she’s the ‘ideal victim’ and people still don’t believe her. Jessica doesn’t think she’s the ‘right kind of victim’ to take on Bryce Walker. This episode features a scene of a character smoking black tar heroin.
Parents and caregivers need to know: This episode features an aggressive sex scene between Bryce and Chloe – Bryce pressures a reluctant Chloe into sex. While Marcus is on the stand there are flashback bullying scenes where Marcus calls Hannah “Hannah blueballs”, “Hannah big butt”, “DTF” and “cock tease”. There are further scenes of bullying and intimidation. Gun use is depicted as a powerful release as two of the male characters practise target shooting in the woods. There are drug references, and Justin detoxes in Clay’s house. Alex is fixated on why he tried to take his life – he can’t remember. He begs Clay to send him a copy of the tapes Hannah left behind detailing the ‘reasons’ why she took her life, and, after some hesitation, Clay does. Hannah’s ghost tells Clay he has to make sure Bryce is punished – “find the unconscious girl in the polaroid, find the room she’s in”.
Parents and caregivers need to know: On the stand, Ryan talks about a poem Hannah wrote that details her suicidal thoughts. He says adults don’t take young people’s feelings seriously. Alex shares he has been impotent since his suicide attempt. He tries a live video chat with a topless woman but thinks he is ‘broken’.
Masturbation is implied, nudity and drug references. More bullying and low-level violence. There is a positive scene where Jessica attends a group sexual abuse survivors meeting and listens to a fellow schoolmate, Nina talking about her experience and how the group has helped her.
Parents and caregivers need to know: While Zach is on the stand, viewers find out he and Hannah dated secretly the summer before she died. He didn’t want his friends to know and they eventually broke up. There is a consensual sex scene with implied condom use. Jessica recounts her personal survivor story to the support group. It is vivid but brief. Violence is eroticised during a physical altercation between Alex and Zach, which leaves Alex with an erection. An incident of cyber-bullying and some low-level drug and alcohol depictions. Reinforcement of the general theme that adults/parents are inept. Justin challenges Clay for thinking less of Hannah for dating different boys. Zach makes an emotional speech to his mother saying he is struggling, he has felt like Hannah did. She shuts him down and tells him the trial has put thoughts into his head. He’s fine. The episode ends with Zach, alone in the changing room at school, filled with rage and regret, taking a baseball bat and smashing it into the lockers.
Parents and caregivers need to know: Clay says he is going to testify for Hannah, to make sure the truth gets told. He tells the court she was kind and truthful, funny and clever. She asked him to write to her when he went away for the summer and he never did. Alex is taunted by Bryce and his friends at school, and Alex responds by screaming that Bryce is a rapist. Jessica is very upset by this. Bryce coerces Chloe into having sex with him. Drug use and references. There’s a flashback scene where Clay and Hannah join a group of friends and take ecstasy. Clay calls it out as peer pressure. A follow-up scene shows them coming down, and Hannah questioning her existence. Bullying and cyberbullying themes continue. Jessica tries to kiss a boy she has just met but has vivid flashbacks to being raped and runs away crying. Hannah tells Clay she didn’t record the tapes as revenge – she wanted to tell her story so it wouldn’t happen to someone else. Clay publishes the tapes online to counter some of the vicious comments about Hannah on social media.
Parents and caregivers need to know: This episode features further bullying and slut- shaming incidences and drug references. Clay’s friends are angry with him for publishing the tapes.
There is another scene of gun use showing Tyler feeling powerful after shooting a raven dead. Alex finds Justin unconscious with a syringe in his arm. Justin later says that no one would care if he died.
Skye confides to Clay that she has been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. This is a positive scene as she explains how Bipolar has affected her behaviour, and talks about brain chemistry and the medication she is taking.
In a flashback, Hannah discovers her father is having an affair. The affair is used by the court defense attorney as a reason why Hannah killed herself.
On the stand, Hannah’s parents say they should have been able to trust the school with their daughter’s safety. They weren’t told about Hannah’s struggles, that she was being bullied or had reported feeling suicidal. They didn’t know, so they couldn’t help.
Clay has an argument with Hannah. He tells her everything that has gone wrong is her fault, that she ruined people’s lives by killing herself. He tells her what she did was evil, and Hannah cries.
Parents and caregivers need to know: There are strong suicide themes throughout this episode as Mr Porter, the school counsellor, flashes back to his counselling sessions with Hannah. There is an assault, scenes of vandalism and sexual references throughout. Violence is eroticised. The teachers are once again portrayed as inept.
Principal Bolan delivers a speech about suicide contagion to Clay after he releases the tapes to the other students at the school. Principal Bolan admits that he has not listened to the tapes, and Clay then dismisses the principal’s concerns as uninformed. This conversation is set up so younger viewers see concerns about suicide contagion as an attempt by authorities to shut down conversations about suicide and prevent people from seeking justice for Hannah. Younger viewers are likely to accept this interpretation uncritically and may reject any valid criticism of the series for its portrayal of suicide.
Justin leaves Clay’s home and goes back to see his mother. She notices he’s been using drugs and expresses concern, but as an addict herself he doesn’t want to listen to her. Eventually, he steals money from his stepfather and leaves.
Bryce’s parents argue about Bryce – his mother is very concerned about the person Bryce is on Hannah’s tapes. His father says that everyone says stupid things when they’re drunk, but Bryce is a good person.
Tyler is humiliated when he ejaculates in his pants after kissing McKenzie.
On the stand, Porter says he could have done more to help Hannah. He names Bryce as her rapist. He fantasises about what he should have done when Hannah came to him – begged her not to leave, told her she had so much life to live. He promised to help. Hannah looks at him and says “it’s too late. I’m dead.”
In the locker room, unknown assailants put a bag over Clay’s head and viciously beat him.
Parents and caregivers need to know: A polaroid emerges depicting Bryce raping Chloe while she is passed out. In a flashback scene, Ryan and Tony kiss and are called ‘faggots’ by a passer-by and a vicious assault scene ensues. There are more bullying storylines, and low-level drug use.
Clay and Hannah apologise to each other for their fight. Hannah says Clay didn’t say anything she didn’t deserve.
On the stand, Sarah, a girl from Hannah’s previous school, testifies that Hannah and two other girls bullied her. It was so bad she had to drop out of school.
Sheri finds the playhouse where the polaroids were taken, but is effectively trapped there by Bryce and two other boys. When she gets out, she tells Clay how to find the box of polaroids that link the boys on the baseball team with a number of other rapes and sexual assaults.
In another flashback scene, Tony viciously attacks a stranger who calls him and Ryan “faggots”.
Zach quits the baseball team and then helps Clay find the polaroids. He was the one who left the first three in Clay’s locker – he was too afraid to tell Clay earlier.
Parents and caregivers need to know: This episode contains a written warning at the start about ‘graphic depictions of sexual assault and images of gun use that some viewers may find disturbing.’
In a flashback, Bryce tells his teammates that they are “gonna get their dicks sucked tonight” after a last minute win in a football game. There are flashbacks to Season 1 when Bryce rapes Hannah in the spa pool; and Montgomery comments to Alex in the summer house nearby that “Bryce is banging some chick” and that she must be a “desperate slut.” We see shots from the rape that focus on Hannah’s frozen face and a look of disassociation.
On the stand, at first it seems Chloe is about to tell the jury that Bryce raped her. Halfway through her testimony she changes her mind and ‘remembers’ consenting.
Bryce’s testimony suggests he and Hannah had a secret relationship. Hannah wanted them to be exclusive but he didn’t think of her that way. Later, on his own, Bryce remembers that it was the other way around.
Alex is left a package with a gun and a message “how can you live with yourself?”
Tyler takes Clay to the forest to shoot guns at cans and bottles. Tyler tells Clay that naming the targets provides motivation and improves his aim. As Clay takes aim, Hannah appears beside him and says ‘Bryce’ in his ear.
In the final scene, Clay goes to Bryce’s house with a gun to finally punish him for what he did to Hannah. Justin arrives in time to prevent him from shooting Bryce, but Clay then turns the gun on himself. Hannah is beside him, insistently talking about being raped by Bryce. Finally, Clay puts the gun down.
Parents and caregivers need to know: There is discussion about Jessica’s rape in Season 1, and drug references. Bullying and intimidation continue.
Tyler tells Cyrus that he has more guns and that getting expelled “doesn’t have to stop them bringing down the system”. They can “end those motherfuckers.” In another scene, Alex pulls a gun on Montgomery
Someone tries to stop Justin from testifying by driving his car off the road and, later, putting a sign outside that says ‘you talk, you die.’
Hannah asks Clay to forgive her, but he can’t.
Justin’s testimony explores his friendship with Bryce, which he says was based on loyalty and fear. He says Bryce was lying about his secret relationship with Hannah – it never happened. He recalls being locked outside the room listening to Bryce raping an unconscious Jessica.
In closing arguments, the Bakers’ lawyer reminds the jury that Hannah asked the school for help twice before she died, and she was ignored. “She was a complicated girl but the case is simple. Hannah Baker asked for help. Liberty High School failed to provide it.”
In her summary, the school’s lawyer tells the jury “Hannah never reported being bullied or raped. She was troubled, but when do we hold the parents responsible”?
Tyler is sent to a diversion programme because of his increasing vendetta to seek ‘justice’ against the people who always get away with doing the wrong thing.
Kevin Porter is fired by the school board. He gives the principal a file of kids he’s concerned about before he leaves and Tyler’s name is at the top. The principal drops the file on the empty desk and walks away.
Jessica decides to go to the police and report Bryce for raping her. She makes a statement to police with her parents beside her, vividly recalling what she remembers. She comes out and her friends are waiting there to support her.
The jury reaches its verdict – the school is not responsible. Clay, his friends and the Bakers are devastated.
Outside the courthouse, Bryce is arrested for rape and Justin is arrested as an accessory to sexual assault.
Episode 13 contains a written warning about “graphic depictions of sexual assault and drug use that some viewers may find disturbing.”
Parents and caregivers need to know: Jessica reads out her impact statement at Bryce’s sentencing and he receives a derisory sentence but Jessica appears to have achieved closure. Hannah attends her own memorial service, whilst Clay is giving his eulogy. In a fantasy sequence the church is empty and Hannah is addressed directly by Clay. He tells her he loves her, and he lets her go. When he finishes she walks out through the church doors into a white light. Hannah’s presence at the moving church service commemorating her death feeds a powerful romantic fantasy about suicide, as does her connection with Clay during his eulogy.
Hannah’s mum gives Clay a printout of a document she found. It’s a list written by Hannah containing 11 reasons not to commit suicide, suggesting if only Hannah could have found more reasons to live she would still be alive.
Nina has the box of polaroids that went missing and she burns them.
There is a brutal sexual assault on Tyler by Montgomery and two other students. Montgomery smashes Tyler’s head against a mirror and the edge of a sink before dragging him to a toilet where he repeatedly submerges his head in the bowl. Montgomery then anally rapes Tyler with a mop handle as he is being held down. The scene is graphic and violent with the camera focusing on Tyler’s anguished face and Montgomery’s rage during the act itself. Blood on the mop handle gives an indication of the level of physical trauma suffered by Tyler. The scene is filmed in a highly degrading and dehumanising manner. Tyler is later seen at home in the toilet with blood on his fingers as he continues to bleed from his internal injuries.
Bryce is given only 3 months probation for raping Jessica, while Justin receives 6 months. Bryce’s parents decide to send him to a private school to finish high school and get a new start.
All the kids go to the school dance except Tyler. He is shown packing a bag of guns and driving to the school. He texts Cyrus to tell him what he’s doing, and Cyrus warns Clay.
Clay tells his friends not to call the police and runs outside to meet Tyler. Clay begs Tyler to reconsider. Eventually, Tyler puts down the gun as sirens blare in the distance, coming closer and closer. Tony pulls up in his car and drives off with Tyler, leaving Clay holding the gun as the police arrive.