The second season of 13 Reasons Why brought the late Hannah Baker back in quite the unusual way. Portrayed by Katherine Langford, Hannah — who died by suicide weeks before the events of the first season of the Netflix series — returned to 13 Reasons Why as a "ghost" of her former self. Of course, she wasn't really a spirit, but a hallucination conjured up by Clay (Dylan Minnette), who was still reeling from the loss of his friend and crush.
"The challenge was when you tell a character's story so fully, and then you have to come back as a version of her that’s filtered through other people’s eyes; that required a lot of trust. I guess if I could put Hannah’s life into season 1 and then say it was kind of like being in purgatory for season 2, and then being able to officially say goodbye to her. It definitely felt like time. For me, letting Hannah go was in season 1; season 2 was for Clay to let her go. It was being able to assist Clay on that journey as Hannah and let Clay have his moment to let Hannah go."
Langford also shared her own goodbye to Hannah on her Instagram:
"Hannah...I love you...and I let you go" Those are the words I was able to say six months ago, and now can finally share with you...As most of you know @13reasonswhy was my first ever job and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to tell Hannah's story so fully in season 1, and to be asked back for a season 2. Thankyou to @netflix @paramountpics @anoncontent , the incredible producers, creatives, cast and crew for making these last 2 years so special. And to all of you here - Thankyou for filling my life with love and light 🙏 This show will always be a special part of my life, and regardless of whether Hannah is there or not, I know that I will continue to strive to do work that is meaningful and has a positive impact - whether that be in film, music, or any other form of art. There is a lot coming up this next year, and I can't wait to share this next chapter with you 💖 #hannahbaker
Despite season 2 of 13 Reasons Why receiving mixed reviews, I, personally, thought that it was a necessary continuation of Hannah's story. It humanized her in a way the first season did not. It made it clear that while Hannah wasn't always "perfect" — as Clay once believed her to be — she did not deserve to be bullied, harassed, or sexually assaulted. No person does.
But a third season featuring Hannah might send the wrong message. Suicide is a permanent decision. Hannah's story was already told post-mortem through her tapes in season 1, and then through her classmates' testimonies during the trial of season 2. Now, it's time the show truly illustrates a world without her, because Hannah left a lot behind when she died by suicide.
Hannah is dead, and that's a tragedy. Ultimately, however, her death is something that her family and friends will move on from. As Clay puts it in season 2, "I can love you, and I can let you go." The people Hannah left behind will go on to lead full lives, but Hannah never will.
"13 Reasons Why will always be a really special part of my life, and I know I’ll always be close to the people that I’ve worked with on this show. But I’m also really excited for what’s to come," Langford told EW.
Langford told Hannah's story with such careful consideration, I can't wait to see what story she decides to tell next.
If you or someone you know is considering self-harm, please get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.