Wow. I don’t ever think I’ve ever been so happy to be finished a show. This was the most grueling 13 hours of television I’ve ever been through. You’re probably saying right about now “wow is the show really that bad?” Oh no, this show is one of the most realistic depictions of 21st century high school I’ve ever seen. Never before have I related a school before because of how real it felt. The show also has the benefit of having a truly intriguing and investing set-up and plot that kept me wanting to come back to see more, even if I could only take little at a time. 13 Reasons Why is truly fantastic television.
13 Reasons Why tells the tragic and ultimately life-ending story Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). Hannah has recorded 13 tapes that each relate to a reason that has led to her decision to take her life. The tapes begin circulating around each person that is on those tapes and it is that person’s job to pass on the tapes to the next person in line. Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) is the student that has received the tapes now and as he listens to each one, Hannah’s story is shown in flashback form with each tape building to something progressively worse and more tragic. As the other students that have heard the tapes hope to keep these secrets quiet, they begin to fear of what could happen when Clay finally hears his tape and learns what he contributed to Hannah’s tragic demise.
This show is brutal. Not in a violent way, save for three of the most disturbing scenes I’ve ever seen in a TV show or film. But, the show is brutal in an emotional and disturbing way. Each of Hannah’s different issues she was faced with slowly get worse and worse, as I felt as though I was Clay listening to those tapes. It really beats you down and there were moments where I was sick to my stomach. Towards the beginning of the show, I found the first couple tapes that Hannah made to have things that didn’t feel that awful or maybe she was blowing them out of proportion. When I get through more of those tapes, I look back now and see that, even the smallest things that maybe don’t seem hurtful can have major impacts on someones mental and emotional state. This show handles this with maturity and care. The show is in no means a happy watch. I think I laughed or felt any form of joy three or four times. This show is grueling and I honestly was able to binge at most 3 episodes at a time, only getting to that point once as I couldn’t put myself through anymore and instead had to take a break. This is a weekly show, available to a viewer at anytime but is best viewed an episode or two at a time as you can take more in and be able to handle each episodes new revelation. The second half of the season is especially tough as the pieces begin to come together with the best set of penultimate and finale episodes I’ve seen.
The cast here is marvelous with each performance being strong. Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker is a scenestealer. She steers the show and is both the narrator and the main character showing up in flashbacks and a few dream sequences. I loved her performance and found her to be likable and tragic as Hannah just gets beaten and beaten with disappointment and tragedy. Dylan Minnette as Clay is the other show steerer and he is a bit more reserved as a character but not in a bad way. He clearly is a character that is hurting and when you learn some more things about him, you can see that he is a guy who has just missed so many opportunities to tell the girl he loved how he felt and ultimately feels guilty. The chemistry between these two is fantastic too as there’s an awkwardness intertwined with a sweetness. What really impressed me is just how fleshed out each character is. Not just the main two but each supporting character on the tapes each has their own secrets and backstories that helps you honestly see that even though they may have done things that could of hurt Hannah or another person, it doesn’t make them a truly bad person and I liked that about the show. It didn’t make characters a villain but just people who made mistakes and that made them more relatable.
Something the show does that I found to be a really cool is it used different color palettes for Hannah before her suicide and post suicide. The flashbacks are very warmer and bright with the present being cooler and having a very blue palette. I found this to be a brilliant filmmaking choice. As we get closer to Hannah’s eventual suicide, each event begins to suck the light out of the frame as Hannah begins to slowly die inside until eventually she’s had enough and it adds to the draining feeling of the series.
The only issue I have with the show how it’s broken up structure wise. The book has Clay visiting different areas that the events on the tapes took place at in one single night and the show has it take place over the course of a few days. While it does so to flesh out the supporting cast and create more subplots, each of which felt earned and equally investing, I still found myself thinking to myself that Clay is taking a really long time to get through these tapes. Even characters say he’s taking too long. I had to sort of suspend my belief and just go with it and it helps there’s always intriguing things going on but still, I’m curious how the book route would of translated on screen. Also, there’s like two episodes where you don’t visually see Clay listen to the tapes and it just plays the tapes and flashbacks ensue and I kind of forgot about the tapes until you see Clay put on his headphones again. Finally, Episode 7 involves a lot of dream and hallucination sequences and the first couple times, there’s some truly awesome fake-out moments, but then it just gets insanely repetitive to the point where you’re just waiting for the moment where the hallucination doesn’t end up being one and it doesn’t arrive until you get 5 hallucinations too many.
13 Reasons Why is an amazing and often times, disturbing TV series. It is one of the toughest experiences I’ve ever been through with either a film or TV show. That being said, I think it is an extremely important piece that everyone should watch. It had a profound effect on me with things such as Rape, hurtful comments and of course, suicide that I look at such things in a different light. A great cast of characters that all well acted with two main performances that shine brightly, an intriguing mystery and a great message about you don’t know how a little comment or act could impact a person and hurt them deeply. It is the most authentic and realistic depiction of present day high school I’ve seen yet. I absolutely loved this show even though it was rough to get through and I recommend it to everyone. My grade was originally going to be an A- but due to the fantastic and gut-wrenching finale that it needed to be bumped to…