Part Two: The Later Seasons of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY
The story is told. Hannah is dead. The series is popular enough to warrant funding for more seasons. I’m reminded of the Road Runner cartoon, where Wily Coyote follows Road Runner off a cliff. Road Runner doesn’t fall. He just stands there and says “Beep Beep”. Wily zooms over the edge of the precipice, stops dead still…and doesn’t fall. He stands next to Road Runner. He’s about to grab Runner in his evil claws but then he looks down. Way way down there is the bottom of the gorge with a teeny strip of road. When Wily realizes that he is standing on empty space, only then does he fall! EEEEeeeeeoooop! Puff of distant dust down below.
The three following seasons of “13 Reasons Why” bring to mind the dilemma of Wily Coyote. The first season received critical and audience acclaim. The series was banned by numerous school districts and libraries, the putative reason being “that it glorifies suicide”. This smacks of the disingenuous (I think it’s really about the sex, lots of it) but it put a rocket under the series’ ratings and created a demand for further content. Imagine telling an adolescent that a “hot” series is banned and forbidden. That’s like leaving a mouse trap sprung with the bait still in it. What an insult to the inventive intelligence of today’s teenagers. The writers and producers of this series got the funds to make yet another season. And another. And, yes! Another! Three more seasons! They’ve run off the cliff and don’t know yet that there is no ground under their feet. Netflix is usually so canny with regard to marketing and deploying content. That doesn’t mean they don’t stumble occasionally. Everything that follows season One is a reason to allow the characters to utter the same dialogue, hundreds of times.
“Are you okay?” asks Clay’s mom. “I’m fine,” says Clay, all surly and concealed. He is clearly not fine. His teenage brow is wrought, his eyes are tormented. “You can tell me anything, Clay” says mom. “Absolutely anything. We love you unconditionally. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done”
Mom has no clue what Clay has done. No one knows what anyone’s done. Has Jessica fucked Bryce without Justin knowing? Has Justin robbed a bank in the next town and raped a prostitute? Has Clay masturbated in front of the school principal? No one knows but people will say anything about anyone to get revenge. Teens live in a hot mess of drama like an X-rated Shakespeare play fueled by hormones. They’re dripping with pheromones and committing real crimes. Anyway, it isn’t about what anyone’s done. It’s about what they’re capable of doing. Bryce has raped Hannah, Jessica, maybe Clay’s mom. Bryce is a real villain who provides a lot of emotional energy to the series. Bryce has raped just about everybody, including the dog. Justin’s a drug addict, but now he’s clean. Uh oh. He’s not clean. He just bought a bunch of dope from his mother’s boyfriend.
There’s a curious variation of competence and skill in the casting. The actor who plays Clay Jensen couldn’t act his way out of a police lineup. That’s an apt metaphor because Dylan Minette has trapped himself in a repertoire of basic emotional modes. He plays “sensitive teen stricken with guilt” until I want to strangle him. I wanted to like him. He’s so nobly protective of Hannah. His obsession and unrequited love are sloppy sausages filled with angst. In the end it just seems like he’s fishing for credibility. He’s the series’ star but he’s also the worst actor in the ensemble. Whose decision was that? Most of the others fare pretty well. The roles aren’t terribly demanding and that strikes to the core of the problem with this as drama.
This is really a soap opera. It’s about bad decisions and catastrophes. The drama is predictable and sour. The plots are so thin that if they turn sideways they become invisible. We can speak the coming lines before the characters get to utter them. After the first season, the stories are fatuous and boring. They are soaked with the psychological arrogance of the writers and producers. “We know what’s going on with high school kids.” They seem to say. “These kids are the same age as our kids. We’re good parents; we’re Woke. We understand their issues.”
Season One was a siren and a rotating red light on an ambulance roaring down the street. The episodes reek of parental terror. “Our kids are dying!” they scream. Seasons 2.through 4 are a paper whistle from a carnival. The terror is gone.
Fuff! Tweet! The ragged ass follow-on seasons of Thirteen Reasons Why can’t stand up under their own weight.
Watch the first season of this teen-angst drama and leave the rest alone unless you’re a glutton for punishment. (See my review of season 1 here.)
A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He harkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good. His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv.
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