13 Reasons Why review
There’s no way to sugarcoat teen suicide, and I’m glad they didn’t. The Internet has been littered with stories about backlash against the show and think pieces about its “glamorization” of it. I disagree. I think this is something kids need to see to understand. It’s also worth noting that a suicide survivor wrote one of the episodes.
13 Reasons Why is a 13-episode series adaptation of the bestselling YA novel by Jay Asher. It follows high school student, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), who receives a box of tapes from Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) after she ends her life. They turn out to be her recordings of 13 reasons (or more accurately, people) why she killed herself. In a twisted version of a mail chain, each person who wronged her must pass them on to the next. Clay is one of them.
I had a hard time getting through most of the series because the dialogue is insufferable. It sounds like it was written by an alien that’s trying to sound human. Aside from Clay, none of the kids sound like actual high school students. The “FML forever” line made me cringe every time. Like, who actually says “Come on guys. Let’s watch the girls get changed.”
I found myself checking my phone a lot during the show because it really drags. Momentum doesn’t pick up until the last five episodes. The rest feels more like filler material. I get why they’d want to make 13 episodes, but it could have easily been cut down to eight. There’s a part where Clay’s friend Tony (Christian Navarro) makes him climb a mountain, which ends up being a metaphor for struggle LIKE FOR REAL WHAT THE F-CK?
Naturally, each episode is narrated by Hannah as Clay listens to the tapes. (And of course, his Beats By Dre headphones get a ton of screen time in what is the most obvious product placement of all time.) Langford isn’t an amazing actress, but she and Minnette have some cute chemistry as they flirt at the movie theater they work at. Minnette, on the other hand, is the strongest of the bunch. He completely anchors the story as the well meaning, but naïve Clay who is dealing with anxiety and loss.
I was impressed by the diverse casting of 13. Not just different races, but different sexualities too. I’m pretty sure the show hints at bisexual characters at some points. There were also quite a few women writing and directing this season. What’s great about this is that there’s room for more stories to be told. We see most of the narrative through Clay, who’s a straight, white, middle class male. He’s a Nice Guy, but there’s a lot he doesn’t understand. I appreciate that the series tackles white privilege, especially in relation to bullying and rape.
I didn’t expect 13 to push it as far as it did. I would say it’s more gruesome than the novel, because you’re actually watching what happened to Hannah. (After complaints, Netflix has tacked on a trigger warning.) Hannah’s suicide is hard to watch, but I think it’s important. We need to talk about mental health. That how we treat other people has consequences.
I’m curious to see what happens, now that a second season has been confirmed. There’s a cliffhanger at the end, and I hope the story will go where I think it’s going to go. Because there’s another issue that would be really interesting to cover.
Image credit: Netflix