The first season of 13 Reasons Why captured our attention with a dark and shocking mystery — over 13 cassette tapes, Hannah Baker detailed the people and events that led to her suicide — and Season 2 will do the same, except with a completely new mystery at its core. In place of Season 1's cassette tapes, 13 Reasons Why Season 2 will use polaroids to drive forward a mysterious new case about sexual assault in Liberty High School. Obviously, these polaroids are going to be a huge deal when the new season drops, so let's go over everything we know about them now to see what we might be able to figure out.
Showrunner Brian Yorkey talked about the decision to center Season 2 on a string of polaroid pictures with mysterious messages written on them in a new interview with Entertainment Weekly. He said that it's important for each season to have a central mystery that drives Clay's investigation and ends up revealing much more about the people around him. Specifically about Season 2's polaroids, he said that there are a ton of facets to the who, why, and how of these photos that eventually tie up in a satisfying conclusion:
What I love about season 2 is that there are these different pieces to this mystery. The threads of this mystery, like who’s doing this and why and how does it relate to Hannah Baker and how does it relate to what Jessica went through, it all comes together in the later episodes in a way that I think is really satisfying and also speaks to some of the underlying themes that we’re talking about like sexual abuse and the endemic nature of sexual abuse and the way institutions sometimes wittingly or unwittingly allow it to continue. These are all tied up in this central mystery of what is on these polaroids, who is leaving them and why.
We can see some of the polaroids and the messages on them in the Season 2 trailer. In the first look at the new season, Clay finds a couple of the mysterious polaroids by his locker. The first one is a picture of Hannah and Bryce, and it reads "Hannah wasn't the only one."
This message clearly sets up Clay's investigation into the serial sexual assault going on at Liberty High, which serves as the central theme of Season 2.
Later, he finds another message, which reads "He won't stop," presumably in reference to Bryce continuing to assault his fellow students.
The trailer also includes a couple of other notes that don't appear to be written on the backs of polaroids in the same way as the notes Clay finds, possibly suggesting that they are from a different messenger. Jessica finds a series of photos of herself with the message "Who would believe a drunk sl*t" scrawled across it, and Justin holds up a menacing note that reads "You talk you die." At another part of the trailer, we see Clay working alongside Justin and Jessica to go through a pile of incriminating polaroids.
Of course, everyone's first guess as to who was sending these polaroids when they first found out about them was Tyler. After all, photography is Tyler's big thing, and he definitely has bad blood with the jocks at Liberty High since they bully him constantly. But that kind of feels too obvious, doesn't it? Tyler will likely be Clay's very first guess as well, and since these polaroids will be around all season, the first guess most likely won't be right.
We will find out the truth about the polaroids when Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why premieres on Netflix on Friday, May 18.