Before you continue – It’s taken me 2 days to think this show over and what I should write about it. I tried to go spoiler free but didn’t feel like I was able to properly project my thoughts. This is part review/part personal perspective and it will contain spoilers of the new series 13 Reasons Why from Netflix.
If you’re unaware, 13 Reasons Why is based on a 2007 young adult novel by Jay Asher. Following the death of 17yr old Hannah Baker, 13 people who Hannah deemed to be instrumental to her final decision to take her own life are given a series of cassette tapes asking them to follow along in her footsteps and listen to her story otherwise their skeletons in the closet would be revealed. The series protagonist Clay is the next person to be given her tapes and he finds himself reliving her experiences learning about his classmates and the lost Hannah while some of his peers seek to prevent him from learning the truth.
13 Reasons Why is unflinching and at times difficult to watch with it’s depiction of a teen girl who struggles with the awkwardness of adolescence, friendship, love and her all around pursuit of happiness and belonging. With each moment of heartache, it’s not difficult to see her disappear piece by piece and relative newcomer Katherine Langford was so instrumental and simply outstanding that I really felt terrible for her. Intensely. No matter how trivial or monumentally heinous the event is that ultimately drives Hannah to her end, it gets tougher and tougher to watch with each episode. Social isolation, gossip, love interest confusion and much worse. Hannah experiences it all. Katherine Langford masterfully displays a dulling of Hannah’s spirit until there is no light left and it’s a truly heartbreaking moment in the series. You’ll know it when you see it. Trust me.
While I’m on the topic of outstanding performances, Dylan Minnette who plays Clay is equally as important in the delivery of Hannah’s story. During the flashbacks that show the multiple interactions between Hannah and Clay, we’re given this warm and very real feeling of teen awkwardness. As a viewer you kind of forget for a moment that things won’t end well as you silently cheer for Clay and Hannah with each small relationship victory they share and then you’re ripped back to reality as she reminds you through her narration that she’s dead and as a viewer you feel a great sense of sadness for both of these kids in what could have been but never will.
The cast as a whole was very good a but one of the characters that particularly stood out for me was Tony as both a bright spot but also a little annoying was Christian Navarro’s character Tony. Tony acts as Clay’s Obi Wan if you will… or even as Clay once called him “Not Helpful Yoda”. Tony is the epitome of best friend but he kinda shows up at the right exact time every time to help bring Clay along on the journey. Even when Clay has had enough and decides that he no longer wants to carry on, Tony appears magically and talks him back off the ledge so to say. Don’t get me wrong I loved the guy and mused that he would be a spectacular friend.
Without being too gratuitous, 13 Reasons Why attacked hard subjects. Provides some tools and behaviors we can all look for to hopefully help someone. It also gave us (me anyway) a real slap in the face. All the while we’re paying attention to all the signs that Hannah was exhibiting and all the ways she was subtly crying for help and everyone around her failed to properly notice that she needed help – we missed the simple fact that someone else was coming closer to the same edge that Hannah can’t come back from. You just never really know what other people are going through.
At the end of the finale episode, Clay approaches Skye, a girl he was once friends with and asks her if she can hang out. She seems perplexed and maybe even a little dumbfounded by his sudden interest to reacquaint with her and she asks if he’s ok and his response was “No. I’m not. Is that Ok?” She smiles and says “ya”. I found that to a be an extremely powerful moment that provided perhaps the only real glimpse of optimism and perhaps that was Hannah’s intent. To teach people it’s OK to not be “Ok” and that it’s OK to express that to other people. And to point out that perhaps just simply reaching out can be all the difference in the world to someone else.
13 Reasons Why left me sad and worried for what the future may hold for my 2 daughters… More importantly – it opened my eyes to a phenomenon that I kept hearing about in the news that I couldn’t understand. It taught me some of the behaviors I can be on the lookout for. It taught me that sometimes even the most simple of gestures can make or break someone’s day. Hopefully it will never come to this but I feel like I may be better prepared for the eventual time where my daughters are in high school and perhaps I can help them or help them help someone else.
I’m not putting a score on this show. It’s not for everyone and I strongly recommend you don’t binge watch this show as I had. I’m nearly unflappable with respect to movies, TV shows even the news but there are moments in this show that I actually intentionally diverted my eyes/attention away from the screen. I felt wrong. Dirty for being privy to what I was seeing take place. I had to look somewhere, anywhere. Take the time to walk away from the show and do/watch something more uplifting because it will bring you down. Appreciate what you have going for you and if you happen to be someone who is going through a tough time call someone. Reach out to someone who you trust. If you don’t feel that you can talk to any of your peers there are a variety of crisis numbers out there. Call them. Or, you can feel free to message me on twitter via PM. I’ll chat with you all night long if that’s what it takes. I want to help you and if talking via PM or Skype is what it takes