No rea­son to keep watch­ing ‘13 Rea­sons’

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE - Kelly Lawler Colum­nist USA TO­DAY

We don’t need 13 more rea­sons. The sec­ond sea­son of Net­flix’s

13 Rea­sons Why (stream­ing Fri­day, ★☆☆☆) is a tawdry, un­nec­es­sary ex­er­cise, a bla­tant grab for the head­lines the teen sui­cide drama gar­nered last year when it pre­miered.

How do you fol­low up on some­thing that was as much of a light­ning rod as

13 Rea­sons Sea­son 1? The se­ries was crit­i­cized for its graphic de­pic­tion of sui­cide and sex­ual as­saults, for po­ten­tially mis­in­form­ing teens about men­tal health and sui­cide, and for sen­sa­tion­al­iz­ing its se­ri­ous sub­ject mat­ter. Net­flix re­sponded by adding content warn­ings to the first sea­son, and those warn­ings con­tinue in Sea­son 2. But the ten­dency to use an is­sue as se­ri­ous as sex­ual as­sault just for drama’s sake has con­tin­ued. In the 13 Rea­sons world, it’s all just an­other plot de­vice.

It’s not just the se­ri­ous sub­ject mat­ter that didn’t need to be revisited, but the plot it­self. Han­nah Baker (Kather­ine Lang­ford) left be­hind cas­sette tapes de­tail­ing 13 rea­sons why she killed her­self. The tapes are done. The story should be, too.

And yet, here we are.

Set five months af­ter Han­nah’s death, the new sea­son fol­lows the civil trial as her par­ents sue the school dis­trict for its part in her death. In­stead of fo­cus­ing on one “rea­son” per in­ter­minable hour-long episode, each episode this sea­son re­volves around tes­ti­mony from one of Han­nah’s class­mates. It is, quite lit­er­ally, a re­hash of all the events we saw in Sea­son 1.

The show man­ages to shoe­horn in the ghost of Han­nah as Clay’s (Dy­lan Min­nette) talk­ing hal­lu­ci­na­tion and through fur­ther unil­lu­mi­nat­ing flash­backs to the time be­fore she died. The writ­ers also try to raise the melo­drama, spin­ning tire­some con­spir­a­cies and mys­ter­ies at the school and putting the trau­ma­tized teens through more ha­rass­ment and abuse than they were sub­jected to in Sea­son 1. A rape vic­tim finds a sex doll strung up on her front porch, duct tape over its mouth and “slut” writ­ten on its ch­est. And that’s only in the first two episodes.

The new sea­son tries to make a point about rape cul­ture, slut sham­ing and sex­ual ha­rass­ment, but its de­pic­tion of these com­plex top­ics has all the sub­tlety of a sledge ham­mer. If it’s meant to start a con­ver­sa­tion, as the cre­ators in­sist, it cer­tainly isn’t go­ing to be a very nu­anced one.

It was dif­fi­cult to get through all 13 episodes of the first sea­son, and the new episodes are even harder to watch. The pace drags, the di­a­logue is un­nat­u­ral and cheesy, the plot is dull and ab­surd, and most of the char­ac­ters are still ab­hor­rent. Watch­ing is a chore, but there’s no ben­e­fit at the end.

There are zero rea­sons to put your­self through it.

BETH DUBBER/NET­FLIX

Jes­sica (Alisha Boe) has to re­count her rape and sub­se­quent abuse on “13 Rea­sons Why.”

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