The flashbacks work notably better than the present-day material, which includes the unfortunate creative choice of having Hannah appear to Clay as what amounts to a ghostly vision. While increasing Langford’s presence is an understandable goal (she’s again terrific), it’s a tired device, one that makes the series feel more like a conventional teen soap.
The first season largely avoided those pitfalls, in part by dealing so unflinchingly with the difficult subject matter. That approach also brought criticism about glamorizing teen suicide, which Netflix has addressed with disclaimers taped by the actors and information regarding a website where those who are troubled can seek help.
That’s welcome, but other aspects of the drama — including the combustible mixture of high school and guns — remain problematic. The finale sums those issues up in a nutshell — distinguished by powerful moments regarding sexual assault, but simultaneously undermined by more questionable developments. Ultimately, it’s not enough to redeem these episodes or spark appetite for more.
The latitude Netflix enjoys means not being locked into stock TV formulas, among them continuing to exploit shows that have exhausted their core material. The streaming service can be forgiven for wanting to sustain a popular franchise, but what made this series special has already been significantly diluted by piling more reasons upon “Reasons.”
“13 Reasons Why,” Season 2 premieres May 18 on Netflix.