EPISODE 2: “Tape 1, Side B”
1. “Are you having fun?”
Hannah can come off somewhat hostile in her early tapes. She mocks her listener and strings them along, teasing them about what she knows and what they’re about to hear. But she has good reason to do so: Behind her playful words at the start of the second tape is, again, raw anger and pain — a hurricane of it, if you will. And Clay, being a sensitive teen made more sensitive with the knowledge that he had something to do with his friend’s death, internalizes every single one of her comments. He remembers making eye contact with Hannah in the hall after laughing as she made her way past a group of jocks pretending to grab her ass. He remembers the way she looked when she became their object of mockery, not of affection. He knows he’s guilty — he’s just not sure why.
2. Clay is seeing things and keeping secrets from his parents.
None of this overthinking helps with the gaping wound on his forehead, and the more it bleeds, the more he fails to tear his thoughts away from Hannah. He thinks he sees Tony’s car parked outside his house in the morning, and when he rushes downstairs, he’s met with an intervention from his parents. His mother is the more worried of the two: She cheerily offers his breakfast, and he accepts until he spots the new bottle of pills she’s brought home for him. He fights back, saying that he hasn’t needed them in a while and then quickly scurries away while his parents debate how much he’s keeping from them. If only they knew…
3. Justin has disappeared.
Justin, after meeting with Mr. Porter (Derek Luke), the guidance counselor, has ditched school entirely for the day even though he’s supposed to show up at a pep rally, or else, as the coach puts it, he’ll be “running suicides until the lights go out.” (Uncomfortably cutesy writing there, 13 Reasons Why.) The coach isn’t the only one looking for him, though. His girlfriend, Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe), is even more frantic to find him.
4. In fact, tape 2 is about Jessica.
Jessica was Hannah’s former friend who later became a popular cheerleader and Justin’s significant other. In the present, she’s also being hounded by Mr. Porter to talk about what went down between her and Hannah, but in the past, we see a sunny series of flashbacks that show just how the friendship began for the girls, both of whom were new to the school. It’s hard to see where things went wrong — but we’ll get to that.
5. Sheri reaches out to Clay
Clay isn’t satisfied with listening to the tapes; he’s also searching for Justin and for more answers. When he exits the gym, Sheri (Ajiona Alexus), Jessica’s fellow cheerleader, follows. Sheri’s kind and offers up some answers to Clay’s questions, saying that Jessica is concerned about Justin. More importantly, she reassures Clay that Hannah liked him very much, and that she misses Hannah as well.
6. When Hannah met Jessica…
Clay’s surprised to learn that Sheri was friends with Hannah, but then again, friendships in high school are complicated. They can be simple and sweet at first, though: Through flashbacks, we see how Hannah and Jessica were both called to the guidance counselor at the time, Mrs. Antilly, who was concerned that the pair of new girls to school wouldn’t have any friends. They riffed off of each other’s jokes and wound up grabbing coffee afterward at Monet’s, another significant location on Hannah’s map.
7. Clay lands on Mr. Porter’s radar.
Porter has already tracked down Justin, wants to meet with Jessica, and now asks to speak with Clay. He knows Clay knew Hannah, but it’s unclear what exactly he wants. As Hannah mentions on her tape, it’s too bad that Mrs. Antilly left and got replaced by Mr. Porter — an issue she promises explain in another tape. Could he be the subject of a later tape?
8. Meet Alex.
For now, Hannah’s more concerned with explaining the friendship that blossomed between her, Jessica, and Alex (Miles Heizer), a loner who sat in Monet’s and watched them until they invited him to join them — as long as he passed a test. The three clicked pretty much immediately, becoming a close group that did everything together and saw each other as often as possible.
9. Monet’s and the “hot chocolate friendship”
This all leads to a beautiful sequence midway through the episode, in which Hannah describes the bliss of a first friendship. “Day after day, drink after drink, we lifted mugs and lifted each other,” she recalls, adding that they would arrive at Monet’s to talk about their FML’s (you know, “f— my life”). Jess, for example, would talk about her dad being deployed again. It’s moving to see how deeply their friendship was felt, even though they all came from different backgrounds.
10. A “hot chocolate friendship” that cools over time…
As Hannah explains, she eventually realized their little trio had always been a “hot chocolate friendship,” a phrase borne out of how much Jessica depended on a hot chocolate to lift her spirits. It encapsulated how they were a social circle that worked for a short season before moving on: Alex was first to stop coming and, as Hannah put it, “traded up” for new friends. Then it was Jessica’s turn to move on as well — but when Alex and Jessica started dating, it shifted Hannah’s perspective of her friends. It hurt Hannah because as confident as she seems, she has the same insecurities as anyone at that age, and she wonders if she’s as pretty as Jessica to Clay in a flashback. He calls her “special” but it only irks her not to get a straight answer from him. As kind as he is, he couldn’t see how much she needed to hear him say how he felt.
11. …and ends in a slap.
If only it had all ended there. Instead, Hannah goes on to tell the story of how Jessica came to hate Hannah for something Hannah never did. Alex apparently wrote a list about the girls in high school and their looks, and Jessica blamed Hannah for Alex’s newfound douchebaggery and for causing him to break up with her. It’s not completely clear what happened between Jessica and Alex, but it made Jessica angry enough to slap Hannah in the face at Monet’s, fracturing a friendship and breaking Hannah’s heart further.
12. Clay corners Jessica after the pep rally that celebrates Bryce, and Jessica finds Justin.
In the present, Clay begins to draw attention from the jocks. Zach and Marcus (Steven Silver) try to give him a ride to Bryce’s — it turns out Justin’s been hiding out at the pool house behind Bryce’s mansion, snacking and smoking the day away to avoid the consequences of Hannah’s tapes — but Tony saves him from the trip. Clay then gets a chance to talk to Jessica, who warns him not to put so much faith into Hannah’s words. She’s listened to all the tapes already and tells Clay that Hannah lies. Hannah was the second one to leave the Monet’s trio, she says, not her. But even if that’s a lie, Hannah may be telling the larger truth: Later, when Jessica finds Justin in the pool house, she realizes that if Hannah were lying about everything, Justin wouldn’t be so scared.
13. Hannah’s parents find the list.
Hannah’s story can’t be contained, it seems. Though the tape’s recipients haven’t shared a thing, Hannah’s mom (Kate Walsh) finds Alex’s list buried among Hannah’s things in her bedroom. She reads it, then dashes to her husband (Brian d’Arcy James), insisting that the list is proof Hannah was bullied at school. To learn more, she calls, of all people, Tony, who arrives at the Bakers’ house while Clay watches from across the street.
It’s another strong episode buoyed by strong performances for 13 Reasons Why. Teen friendships are, as characters put it in this hour, complicated: Friendships form quickly and passionately but break just as easily, feelings rocket between extremes in a world built on cliques and reputation, and for Hannah, Jessica, and Alex, grabbing hot chocolate at a local cafe meant so much more than a casual reprieve at the end of a long day. Without Jessica and Alex, Hannah was left on her own again — and the last place in which anyone should be alone is high school.
Episode grade: A-
Click ahead for episode 3.