Synopsis – Follows teenager Clay Jensen, in his quest to uncover the story behind his classmate and crush, Hannah, and her decision to end her life.
Episodes – S01E01 to S01E13
My Take – Netflix has done it yet again, by proving to us why they are currently the best streaming device to provide some excellent original content! Honestly, I decided to check this show out mainly because it was trending, and boy am I glad I did! Seriously, this Selena Gomez produced series deserves all the positive reviews and buzz it has received! For a mature audience, it’s very intriguing and rather well made and aside from feeling somewhat depressed following the final episode, I initially was impressed with the efforts the production team had gone to in making this series a highly compelling viewing experience for the viewer. The show tries to balance two antagonistic elements — entertainment and moralism, to portray a character that would, in reality, is a very troubled individual, in a story that is more romantic mystery/tragedy than psychological drama. Some of the acting was excellent and the soundtrack was a perfect blend between the 80’s and contemporary music. After finishing this, I strongly believe that everyone needs to watch this, show it in schools, and just do whatever is needed. The lesson here is not just for students or kids, but parents and teachers alike. The message of this TV series is nothing short of profound and hit home with me, forcing me to ask myself questions and wondering, could I have been one of these kids. Seriously, who of among us has not been bullied, been shunned by a friend, and left out of a group, had a rumor spread about you, had people snicker behind your back or just made to feel inferior? Who of you were the bullies, the top of the pile, the jocks, and the popular kids? How did you treat those that you felt were below you, did you ridicule, mentally or physically abuse, bring them down to make yourself look better to your friends? Most of us have experienced some of this on both sides of the line. Yes, High school is tough, mainly as our bodies and emotions are changing. This series forces you to look at yourself and those that gave a poor rating it seems that somehow the show stuck a sensitive nerve in you or maybe you just didn’t get the message.
Based on the best-selling books by Jay Asher, the story follows teenager Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) as he returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers a group of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) -his classmate and crush-who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah unfolds an emotional audio diary, detailing the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. It starts when Hannah forms a relationship with Justin (Brandon Flynn) who takes a picture up Hannah’s skirt that is then spread around the high school by the senior bully quarterback Bryce (Justin Prentice). Hannah has friendships with Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe) and Alex (Miles Heizer) deteriorates as they two friends form a bond leaving Hannah alone. Clay follows the trail of Hannah’s tapes to a coffee shop and liquor store as she details her harassment and betrayal. He remembers the missed opportunities he had with Hannah working alongside her at the movie theater and even asking her to dance at the school dance. Each tape is dedicated to a different person in a high school including Clay, and Tony (Christian Navarro) works to enforce the listeners to make it through the tapes and pass it along. Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, the series weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect anyone watching this. Now before I continue, I must warn about the SPOILERS ahead. At the beginning of watching the series, I wondered where the story was going. I was confused as to how the events would develop. Through the first few episodes I kept wondering what the big deal was, like you know kids get made fun of all the time, and it’s hardly reason to kill yourself, but without the context of the last few episodes, I was missing half the story, just like the main character Clay. I was pleasantly surprised to find a complex-ish and original storyline with realistic characters and wonderful acting performances all round. The way the story unravels episode after episode, and the way the viewer is taken to the past and then brought back into the present intermittently, makes a very well-paced story which gives you just enough in each installment to keep you satisfied but also curious about what will come next. Although the subject matter is dark and may understandably leave some viewers feeling uncomfortable, the added layers of mystery, and the tackling of other subjects such as bullying, sexism etc., keep it from becoming too morbid. In the first part of the series, we are lead to believe the events are trivial and misunderstandings and there is no reason for the first people on the tape to want to withhold the information on them, and for some of them (Alex, Marcus, Zach, Jessica, Ryan) their “faults” were very minor and you don’t understand why everyone is so intent on preventing Clay from releasing the tapes – it is only later you discover their true situation: Alex has an overpowering father would be disappointed in him Jessica is ashamed about the Hannah situation.
Marcus, Ryan and Zach were not vehemently opposed, nor did they have a reason to be but were just followers and more than anything are guilty of not standing up for what is right and following the wrong charismatic people at school. But actually, there is a clever detail in the show, which is that Clay’s wound doesn’t heal throughout the 13 episodes, which means it all takes place within a couple of days and is a perfectly valid reason for the situation not becoming clarified until the end – we just have to accept the premise of the show, which is to provide a photography of the millennial generation. More than parenting though, the show depicts the divide between millennials and their parents. Millennials seek instant gratification and have lost the ability to communicate with each other on a deeper level. Friendships form and dissolve faster. They were told by their parents that they are good kids and will achieve great things, only to discover reality is much harsher than they thought. This story describes very well the everyday life of typical students and the problems that they face. It also shows how important it is to help others in need, at least try to understand what’s going on with others. Bullying, alcohol, drugs and rape, these are some of the problems that the series portrays and how a beautiful, good student and exemplary daughter dealt with them, which led her to take her life, overwhelmed by everything that happened and not able to handle it anymore. Not only suicide, but bullying and other things are an huge problem among the kids and teenagers, which should be taken seriously. Little events might lead to disastrous ends. If you can do anything to help anyone, even if you think that it might not help that much, do it. That may change the course of the events and turn out to really help a lot. The show represents how it is a person can get to that dark place in their mind and make a choice. A choice they feel is right because no one saw her pain and no one came to rescue her. She couldn’t rescue herself and she didn’t know how to ask for help because every time she tried it went sideways. She would get blamed for everything that happened. It’s her fault for going on a date and kissing a boy that later turned into an inflated rumor. It’s her fault she went to a party. It’s her fault for not asking for help. It’s her fault she was raped. With all the blame getting dumped on her it’s easy to understand how she thought life would be better if she were gone. While it’s true that Hannah appears self- absorbed, it is important to remember that she is a teenager and the teenage mind is not fully developed. Teens have not developed the ability to fully empathize with others and often appear to be self-centered. To portray Hannah otherwise might have made her a more sympathetic character, but would be less realistic. Lots of teenagers deal with the same problems and don’t kill themselves – True, however not everyone responds the same way. Hannah didn’t kill herself just because of what was going on at school. There was something much deeper going on below the surface. Furthermore, remember the teenage mind is much different than the adult mind. Adults are more focused on the future whereas teens think more in the here and now. Friendships and social status is everything to a teenager.
It seems silly to an adult that someone would kill themselves over high school problems, knowing that in a few years it will all be over anyway and none of the drama that happens in high school will matter once you become an adult, but a teenager does not think that far ahead. They live in the moment, and if the present moment is difficult, it may seem hopeless to them. Hannah was desperate to fit in. She worried about what people would think of her. She didn’t report the rape because she didn’t want to upset anyone and risk the chance of her reputation being ruined even more. When people think about bullying, about all those situations that a person goes through, they usually think it was something, sometimes even ONE whole event that turned their lives upside down. We don’t realize that bullying is made from a thousand small acts that can destroy a person both physically and emotionally. The main character, Hannah, describes this well at some point. They have broken her mind, her soul and her spirit. We not only get to hear about Hannah and her point of view, but we also get to live the lives of the other main characters. There were times I was conflicted, especially with Justin Foley. Seeing the life he lived made me develop more empathy towards him. I appreciate that they didn’t portray these people as pure evil, and that there was a source for their actions. I felt that all the actors were meant to play these people, such an emotionally powerful cast. The fact that I, along with other people on that Monet’s table, despised Courtney’s annoying character so much just shows how Michele Ang portrayed her so well. The show tells an important message about how we don’t really know what other people are going through, or where they are coming from that leads them to act that way. However the show does take a few missteps for example, like most Netflix shows, the total number of episodes seemed a bit too much of a overall story because pacing wasn’t the best, some characters were not that interesting and dialog is a bit poor at times. Plus the show progresses really slow and after a frankly fantastic first episode the show slows for a couple of episodes after before picking back up again. The two leads of the show are truly charming and likable in their roles. Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette have come a long way with this show, and blend into their roles with gravitas and poignancy. In supporting roles, Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe, BrandonFlynn, Justin Prentice, Miles Heizer, Ross Butler, Devin Druid, Amy Hargreaves, Derek Luke, Steven Silver, Kate Walsh, Michele Selene Ang, Brian d’Arcy James, Josh Hamilton, Ajiona Alexus and Steven Weber play their parts well. On the whole, ’13 Reasons Why’ is undeniably an interesting and entertaining show which despite its flaws is very well written, well acted and moralistic.
Creator – Brian Yorkey
Status – Season 1 (Completed)
Network – Netflix