There comes a point in 13 Reasons Why season 2 where time feels as if it’s folding in on itself. The issue is that by the midpoint of the Netflix drama’s second volume, the story of the late Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) seems to have more competing timelines, flashbacks, and sepia-toned memories than an episode of Westworld. The entire time-bending production is so overwhelming, it's likely you will eventually feel like a malfunctioning Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) robot, dumbfounded and staring at Hannah’s latest flirtationship play out on screen, mumbling, “Is this now?!” over and over again until someone closes your laptop.
To keep you from your own cortical corruption, there is one perfect, simple way to figure out when a flashback takes place: sports. Yes, really, sports. If you look closely, 13 Reasons Why uses the regular schedule of high school sports to frame Hannah’s journey from arriving at Liberty High School at the very beginning of sophomore year to her suicide the following fall, during her junior year. This is especially helpful since the California setting of the drama leaves every scene, no matter the time of year, with an endless summer vibe. So, we can't count on weather, or the always helpful hint of outerwear, to serve as the series' framing devices.
The breakdown is as follows: if you see anything football-related with Hannah happy and sporting long hair, it is the fall of her sophomore year. Basketball, being the indoor, winter sport that it is, corresponds to the colder weather months. From there, baseball takes both viewers, and Hannah, into the spring. When football returns once more, it is the fall of Hannah’s junior year, and she is sporting her shorter hair, which is a response to to the teen witnessing Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice) rape an unconscious Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe). And, we know the present-day events of season 2 take place during the spring of what would be Hannah's junior year, as all 13 episodes revolve around baseball team drama. Remember, baseball equals spring!
13 Reasons Why seemingly signals to us just how important the sports schedule, of all things, will be within the its second season’s first major flashback. In the season 2 premiere, “The First Polaroid,” Tyler Down (Devin Druid) recollects the first time he spoke to Hannah. It was one of the first days of school for Hannah’s sophomore year, and Tyler was taking photos of everyone back from vacation. Before meeting Hannah, he stops and takes a photo of Bryce and his friends, who are all wearing their varsity jackets. Tyler yells, “Football team!” It helps set the scene immediately, especially since one one person in the photo isn’t wearing a letterman jacket: Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn).
Of course Justin wouldn’t be wearing a varsity jacket during the fall, during football season — he’s a basketball player. See, there are rules to the 13 Reasons Why universe, you have to pay serious attention if you want to find them.
These rules help map out when certain other relationships for Hannah arise, including her on-again, off-again crush on Justin (which seems to be fall into winter), her Valentine’s Day date with Marcus Cole (Steven Silver), which turns into an assault (it's definitely winter because Valentines Day), or her secretly very deep, important relationship with the fantastic Zach Dempsey (Riverdale alum Ross Butler). That last one was clearly summer thanks to the complete absence of any high school sports.
But, this chronological detail is most helpful when trying to understand season 2’s Bryce-focused eleventh episode, “Bryce And Chloe.” Knowing the role sports play in 13 Reason’s framing takes all the guesswork out of this episode, which features many purposeful, confusing, and manipulative misdirects from the serial rapist. Yet, we can feel grounded in knowing that Bryce and Hannah's post-football game introduction likely took place at the very start of Hannah's sophomore year fall semester, since football means fall. The supposed “relationship” that followed, which was fabricated by Bryce, follows from there. Since the athlete is purposefully trying to trick the jurors in the Bakers' lawsuit, and therefore us viewers, it’s good to have at least one reality-ensuring touchstone among all the lies.
Who would have thought sports would finally be good for something other than giving the world Derek Jeter?
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