When it was announced that Netflix would be adapting Jay Asher’s novel “13 Reasons Why,” many people assumed was that the show would be one-and-done — a miniseries adaptation, rather than an ongoing story.
This isn’t the case with all adaptations. Both “The Handmaid’s Tale” and the upcoming “American Gods” expand and build upon their original novels to create narratives that could last multiple seasons. But “13 Reasons Why” seemed to have a finite end to it, given its premise: Clay’s (Dylan Minnette) discovery of Hannah’s (Katherine Langford) first-person narrative describing why, exactly, she killed herself a few weeks prior. Once Clay has listened to all of Hannah’s tapes, what comes next? Hannah’s incapable of narrating the story any further. There’s no coming back from that.
At least, that’s what you might think if you haven’t finished the first season. If you have done so, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that reports are circulating that Netflix is considering renewing the show for a second season. The primary piece of evidence on that score is the fact that Ross Butler, who currently plays a recurring role on The CW’s “Riverdale,” will be recast for that show’s second season (likely so that he can continue as a series regular on “Reasons Why”).
To explain exactly how “13 Reasons Why” may become “26 Reasons Why” requires a minor SPOILER WARNING. But the shortest version: At the end of Season 1, Episode 12, we flash forward to see an unidentified teenager rushed to the hospital after a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The season finale then sets up a few different possibilities for who that might have been, before revealing who made the attempt.
We don’t get any evidence that, like Hannah, this person has left his own version of a suicide note, but we do know that he is still technically alive as the season ends. Thus, a second season would theoretically track what might have motivated him to make the attempt as well as keep up with the continued stories of the other characters.
And honestly, that could work. One of the best things about Season 1 was the way in which it crafted Hannah as a richly developed and likable character, making her choice to end her life (in one of the more horrifying scenes of 2017 so far) all the more painful. But the world of the show beyond Hannah’s story did have depth, with several characters proving intriguing. In addition, the journey of Hannah’s parents (played with extraordinary pathos by Kate Walsh and Brian d’Arcy James) is far from over. Grief is an ongoing struggle.
There is beauty in the idea of a singular season of television, as our own Hanh Nguyen has previously argued. But if Netflix does decide to continue the story, there’s plenty of meat left on the bone, thanks to the fact that the first season was about more than one girl’s death. In addition, given the critiques that the show has received (including from IndieWire’s Jude Dry) regarding how it has depicted suicide, a second season might give creator Brian Yorkey the opportunity to explore the topic further, and address those issues.
Death may be a permanent end, but beyond each of our own stories, life continues on. And a second season of “13 Reasons Why” could be a powerful reminder.