A far cry from the levels of tension and revelation which made Season 1 so special.
“You’ve heard of the butterfly effect, right? That if a butterfly flaps its wings at just the right time in just the right place. It can cause a hurricane thousands of miles away.”
Hannah’s reference to chaos theory way back in Episode 3 of Series 1 may be a quote which will have slipped your mind twelve episodes later, but it proves to be one of the most important in understanding 13 Reasons Why‘s second season and its continuation of Hannah’s story. The hurricane thousands of miles away here takes the form of the lasting impact of Hannah’s death; the proverbial butterfly who flapped her wings and changed the lives of an entire school. Season 2 focuses on these lives half a year later, now exploring how they deal with the lasting impact of their actions as more secrets are exposed.
Episode 2, entitled ‘Two Girls Kissing’, refers back to Season 1’s ‘Tape 3, Side A’, perhaps best remembered as Courtney’s tape. Immediately, the continuation of season 1’s focus on individual characters is established, with the episode centring on Courtney’s struggle with her closeted homosexuality. ‘Two Girls Kissing’ also serves to clarify season 2’s structure. A big question surrounding the anticipation of 13 Reason’s Why‘s sophomore year was how it would work considering all of Hannah’s tapes had been heard. Courtney recounts her involvement with Hannah’s suicide in court, indicating Season 2’s episodic structure is to be based on the witness testimonies of the subjects of Season 1’s tapes.
This is where the first issue of the episode, and worryingly perhaps the whole series to come, lies. Although new mysteries are introduced in the form of threatening Polaroid images, the core story surrounding Hannah spends precious run time telling us what we already know. It is only a minor issue though, as the past serves to influence the present with Courtney being forced to confront her hidden identity on a public platform. This makes for the episode’s most interesting element, depicting Courtney’s story and the positive influence of Hannah’s life rather than the negative effect of her death, which offers a refreshing spin on the series.
The path of destruction left by Hannah’s hurricane is still present however, with Clay struggling to suppress his visions of her and commit to a relationship with Skye, resulting in potentially disastrous consequences. Olivia is equally haunted by her memories of Hannah in a less literal manner, with one of the episode’s strongest scenes coming from her reluctance to wash her daughter’s death from her memory. It is in these moments that the episode feels relevant, veering away from its tendency to re-tread worn ground in favor of pursuing the ongoing threads left behind by the first season.
‘Two Girls Kissing’ is far from one of 13 Reasons Why‘s most memorable episodes. It lacks the same tension which punctuated practically every moment of the show’s freshman year but its emotional core and ability to handle controversial subject matter remains. As an episode, it feels less significant than anything the tapes had to offer but it may prove to be a smaller contribution towards a bigger conclusion. As the hurricane in Hannah’s wake continues to blow through Liberty High, it is all but guaranteed that its winds will reveal more about the people it leaves behind, and its just as hard not to watch as it does.
13 Reasons Why, Season 2 is available in its entirety on Netflix.