'13 Reasons Why' Boss Explains Controversial Season 2 School Shooting Storyline

13 Reasons Why Still 3 Season 2 - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Netflix

[This story contains spoilers from the season two finale of Netflix's 13 Reasons Why.]

On Friday, May 18, at midnight Pacific time, the second season of teen drama 13 Reasons Why was released on Netflix with new episodes that continue a school shooting storyline introduced in the first season finale. Just five and a half hours later, a gunman opened fire at Santa Fe High School outside of Houston, Texas, killing at least 10 people in the deadliest school shooting since February's massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

In response, Netflix canceled the planned L.A. premiere event to celebrate the second season of 13 Reasons Why on Friday night, as castmembers took to social media to speak out about gun violence.

In the season one finale, the ostracized Tyler (Devin Druid) was shown amassing an arsenal of weapons in his room. In the same episode, another student, Alex (Miles Heizer), attempted suicide with a gun.

The second season sees Tyler channel his anger and alienation via target shooting as he becomes more isolated from his peers, and in the finale, after being brutally assaulted by a classmate, arms himself with multiple guns (including an assault rifle) and heads to the school, where his classmates are gathered at a dance.

Two weeks before the May 18 season two premiere, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with 13 Reasons Why creator and showrunner Brian Yorkey about the school shooting storyline and the way guns are portrayed throughout the new episodes. (Netflix did not respond to multiple requests asking for a new response from Yorkey in the wake of the Texas shooting.)

"We had a character who was obviously severely bullied, suffering from social isolation and was thinking of making a very tragic choice in addressing those feelings for himself," he says. "With season two ... we're very interested in continuing to follow his journey and to try to understand his state of mind and the state of his soul. I think you'll see in the balance of the episodes that it's very much about trying to understand Tyler's character and how a troubled young man might be driven to consider this very difficult choice.

"We're much more interested in understanding that character's journey than we are in seeing it end in the worst way possible," he continues of the thwarted shooting. "The thing that's interesting for us is the journey and trying to understand what goes into the experience of a young man who goes that route."

The biggest challenge the series faces is figuring out how to address gun violence without glorifying it, and Yorkey told THR it will be up to viewers to decide if the series is successful.

"I think each viewer will have their own opinion about whether we found that balance, so I will leave that evaluation up to each individual viewer. For our part, we did as much research as we could," he says. "Unfortunately, there's a great deal of literature about a great number of troubled young men who resorted to or almost resorted to violence to act through their feelings. So we were able to study a great deal of the history there, and we tried to be authentic and honest and also accurate in our portrayal of the character. As with all things with the show, our hope was that we could honestly represent the experience; that our viewers might, through the experience, learn more and start more conversations about those issues in their own world."

And while the first season of the series flew under the radar upon its release before it received outcry about its graphic depiction of suicide, Yorkey and Netflix are expecting a much more immediate response to the second season.

"There are many issues presented in the show that are very much topics of conversation in our culture right now. We're anticipating that there will be a lot of conversation about the show, and I think we're hoping there will be," he says. "We're hoping there will be strong and divergent opinions and that people will talk about these issues in the context of the show, and more importantly in the context of the real world."

13 Reasons Why season two is now streaming on Netflix.