The harsh truth is a gun has been fired on school grounds nearly once a week since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. With those odds, it’s nearly impossible for any film or TV show that approaches the topic of school shootings to avoid intersecting with real-life events.
And so Friday morning began with news that at least 10 people were killed after being shot at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas. Ater the chaos of uncertainty coalesced into facts, by this afternoon Netflix announced that this evening’s scheduled premiere event for “13 Reasons Why” Season 2 had been canceled. Instead, the platform issued the following statement:
Our hearts are with the victims of the Santa Fe High School shooting, and with all victims of gun violence. In light of today’s tragedy, we are cancelling the ’13 Reasons Why’ S2 premiere event tonight.
IndieWire reached out for additional comment by Netflix and the show’s producers, but the official “13 Reasons Why” Twitter account has also been silent since Friday morning, beyond this message and similar replies to other users:
— 13 Reasons Why (@13ReasonsWhy) May 18, 2018
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “13 Reasons Why” Season 2.]
This is familiar territory for Netflix, which adjusted its release plans for “Daredevil” spin-off “The Punisher” last October when the premiere date fell uncomfortably close to the mass shooting in Las Vegas. When the Santa Fe violence occurred, “13 Reasons Why” Season 2 had been streaming for about 10 hours (Netflix shows go live at 12:01 AM PST the day of their premieres), and as of this writing it is still available for viewing.
Those who wish to understand why the season’s events meant canceling the premiere celebration can watch for themselves, but it comes down to a key storyline focusing on Tyler (Devin Druid). In Season 1, the show established Tyler as an outcast who grew increasingly ostracized when the student body learned that he stalked the now-deceased Hannah (Katherine Langford).
At the end of Season 1, Tyler reveals to the audience that he has a trunk full of guns and ammunition at his disposal; over the course of Season 2, viewers see him grow more ostracized, and angrier, to the point of threatening violent action against “the system.” In the season finale, a diversionary program offers hope that he’s put his anger aside, but that hope dies when he receives a savage beating from Monty (Timothy Granaderos), including anal penetration with a mop handle.
Thus, viewers aren’t surprised when Tyler loads up on firearms and heads to the school, where his fellow students dance at the Spring Fling. But thanks to a text-message warning, Clay (Dylan Minnette) steps outside to confront Tyler, talking him down and taking his rifle away, averting the shooting and allowing Tyler to escape before the police arrive.
On Thursday, a day before the premiere, IndieWire spoke with executive producer Joy Gorman Wettels to discuss the development of Season 2, including this pivotal scene.
According to Gorman Wettels, the writers wanted to develop the idea that Tyler’s social status would lead to him planning a horrifically violent act. “[Creator Brian Yorkey] always wanted to explore how social isolation can affect a kid and have them turn to violence,” she said. “And so our focus was, really, what is the state of mind of a young man who’s grappling with these impulses? And can you, as a community, come together and try to take a kid back from the edge and stop something like that from happening?”
Gorman Wettels described her reaction to watching the finale for the first time as “heartbreaking. It’s really moving. And I feel so deeply for Tyler, and for Clay, and for all the kids,” she said. “Clay has just become this person who’s determined to uphold justice at any … He just wants to bring justice. And he’s gonna make bad decisions to do that and put himself in harm’s way because that’s kind of what heroes do.”
She wanted to make it clear that “nobody should stand in the way of somebody with a gun. That’s not the safe way to stop violence from occurring. It’s not something that we’re telling kids to do, stand in front of somebody who has a gun. You need to reach out to law enforcement or alert someone else. But I think, in terms of a cinematic choice, it’s really moving and beautiful to see Clay reach out and try to stop this from happening and have him able to stop it.”
Gorman Wettels said principal photography on the second season of “13 Reasons Why” was complete before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., but she still felt inspired by that story. “The greatest heroes in this fight are the Parkland kids. And in a way, I kind of interpreted the writers’ work and Brian’s work as trying to give kids a sense that they have some power to make change,” she said. She hopes the audience understands that message, one she said is supported by a recent Northwestern University study and other research.
“I think the whole point of this show is to create empathy and have people see what’s behind the curtain and just get a better sense of who someone is,” she said. “At the end of Season 1, Clay says, ‘It’s gotta get better. We’ve gotta be better to each other.’ And that’s what I hope the takeaway is from Season 2, and if we’re so lucky to have future seasons, is my hope that if 190 countries of kids are watching this show, they’ll be better to each other and have an understanding of other people’s pain.”
“13 Reasons Why” Season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.