Tom’s TV: 13 Reasons Why.

In amongst all the content on Netflix, there are some really incredible shows that you should watch; 13 Reasons Why is one such program that deserves your attention and should be watched immediately.

Another new category on ‘Things Tom Types’ as I expand my writing repertoire into the world of television shows. I enjoy watching a variety of TV shows, so why not share my thoughts on them on this blog?

Yes, to answer the question – I did consider doing a “13 Reasons Why 13 Reasons Why is good” but I looked on Google and saw there were plenty of them already going round the internet. Plus why limit me to just 13 things about how good this show is?

Who doesn’t love a binge-watching session on Netflix over the weekend? Especially when there’s nothing else to do. That’s how I spent this past weekend and I finally got round to watching the highly rated ’13 Reasons Why’ and was able to see what the fuss was about.

In short; it’s a heartbreaking 13 episodes highlighting the events leading up to the suicide of main female character, Hannah Baker – showcasing the cruelty, the betrayal and all the other things high schoolers are capable of. It’s an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.

Based on the book by Jay Asher – which, after watching the series, I have been out and picked up because reviews of it state that it is even better than the Netflix show…so I’ll have to see if that’s the case once I’ve worked my way through it – it was originally stated to be a movie featuring Selena Gomez. Her of Wizards of Waverley Place fame, amongst other things.

Sure, it could have made for an excellent movie but perhaps would have been nowhere near as in-depth or as interesting given the shorter running time of a film. Splitting it into 13 separate episodes that run about 50 minutes to an hour each seems to have been the better choice in the end.

Plus, with it being released in its entirety on Netflix all at once, opens the possibility of bingeing the whole series in one go. Though, with the lack of cliffhangers at the end of each episode, there perhaps isn’t a need to do that…unless, of course, you want to. I’m not here to tell you what to do.

The show begins two weeks after the tragic event that saw Hannah Baker committed suicide, leaving the community reeling and those closest to her wondering why she did what she did and what drove her to it. Memorials popped up around the school, suicide prevention campaigns were launched, but nothing would bring Hannah back.

However, it is through the medium of tape recordings that we are able to find out what drove her to end her life at such a young age. 13 tapes to be exact (well, 7 double-sided ones…). Each one detailing the reasons why she did what she did.

13 tapes,
13 episodes,
13 reasons why…

Clever.

It’s the whole idea that each of the 13 episodes focuses on a certain individual responsible for what happened to Hannah that drew me into the show – sure, some of the characters are lame and forgettable, but there are plenty who are not. But we get an episode’s worth of each of the reasons for them to be explored in detail. There are some really, really good episodes and there are also some just ok episodes, but as a whole Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why is definitely worth investing time into.

There are some really, really good episodes and there are also some just ok episodes, but as a whole Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why is definitely worth investing time into.

So the story begins with Clay, a friend (and unrequited lover) of Hannah’s, receiving the box of tapes which she had recorded. It’s a box that you eventually find out has been listened to by each and every other person who has a tape in the collection, a kind of ‘chain letter’ if you will, and is then passed onto the next person on the list once the person before had listened to it.

People like Justin Foley, who’s one of the culprits for sharing a picture of Hannah and then spreading false rumors about her around the school. Or Alex Standall, another friend who fell out with Hannah over his willingness to be accepted by the “jocks” by objectified her as having “the best ass” in school. Both are on the list.

There are much, much worse things that see people added to the list of culpable individuals involved in her downfall, but I wouldn’t want to go spoiling them all here. Bryce Walker is a bastard though. An utter, utter bastard.

Incidents like those are revealed throughout each episode, each with a different culprit. Some of them may seem to have little impact on their own but, when combined with everything else that had gone on in the run-up to the tragic ending of the story, it all mounted up and became too much for Hannah to live with.

In amongst the misery, there are some genuine signs of hope and light-hearted humour between Hannah and Clay – but, given how we know the story ends, it’s something we know that never amounts to anything serious. It’s a shame because the two being together – whether at parties or at their part-time job in the local movie theatre, there’s an awkward chemistry between the pair that provides many of the series’ less sad moments.

“Clannah” could have been so good together. Curse the world for that not being enough to dissuade Hannah from ending her life. The Clannah ship never sailed, sad times.

It’s hard to blame Clay for what happened and, in all fairness, he’s probably the least deserving person to be included on the tapes – granted he’s only included because the only thing he did wrong was following her request to leave her alone…he really did nothing wrong but was included just so he could know the full story. Small recompense, sadly.

It’s a hard-hitting, emotional story throughout and has some severely shocking moments. Not at all a surprise then that certain episodes come with a warning over their content.

For example, the rape scenes are hard and disturbing to watch. As is Hannah Baker’s suicide. Both of them came with content warnings but I never expected it to be as graphic as it was – the latter of which left me feeling almost nauseous. But I guess it needed to be shown, as much as it was painful to watch.

Some reviews (that, thankfully, appear to be in the minority) reckon that the show somewhat ‘romanticized’ suicide. Personally, I think that couldn’t be any further away from the truth. There is nothing at all that could suggest such things, at least in my eyes, and I don’t see where they came to that conclusion – it’s dark, disturbing and difficult to watch at times. Nothing at all romantic about that.

As far as the story goes, I think they did a tremendous job on 13 Reasons Why. But the story is not the only good thing that this show has to offer.

So, Hannah may not be alive at the time of Clay listening to the recordings but it’s such a great way of putting the show together in that it fuses together the past, with flashbacks involving Hannah and others, and the present, with Clay visiting certain locations, all with Hannah’s tapes acting as a voiceover. It’s the sort of thing I can’t really describe aside from saying that it’s very cleverly edited and is better off watched rather than read about to be appreciated fully.

It’s the sort of thing I can’t really describe aside from saying that it’s very cleverly edited and is better off watched rather than read about to be appreciated fully. Some of the shots used where we see Hannah in the past and then Clay in the present visiting certain places on the map, sometimes even in the same frame, are amazing. I’m sure there is some kind of technical term that describes them but I never did pay much attention in Film Studies…my bad.

Some of the shots used where we see Hannah in the past and then Clay in the present visiting certain places on the map, sometimes even in the same frame, are amazing. I’m sure there is some kind of technical term that describes them but I never did pay much attention in Film Studies…my bad.

Add to that the incredible selection of music used throughout the show. Lots of indie rock vibes from the songs chosen at different points in 13 Reasons Why – many with poignant lyrics that ring true to certain events in the show. Another big plus as to why you should give 13 Reasons Why.

Finally, let’s not finish this piece off without crediting the superb acting performances of both Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette as Hannah Baker and Clay Jensen respectively. Both put in brilliant performances throughout the show; when on-screen together and then when interacting with other characters, in dark and depressing scenes and then in light-hearted interactions as well. I’d give them all the awards right now.

Other actors and actresses also provided very believable portrayals in the show, but the main two characters deserve the bulk of the praise in my opinion. You know, given my own acting prowess and all…

Looking back on the day I spent binge-watching the series in its entirety, perhaps it would have been wiser to space these episodes out a little bit. Especially given the bleak nature of the series and all the emotion and devastation caused by the suicide, maybe it’s best to not binge the series all at once. Unless you enjoy misery, then go right ahead.

The show has already been renewed for a second series which will be interesting to see where they go with it – sure, there are several plots left open, so they could obviously be addressed but would Hannah be in the series considering there are no more tapes for her to act as narrator from? Will Bryce get his comeuppance? Will the person who got shot survive?

Whatever happens with Season 2, Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why is an amazing show that is definitely deserving of all the plaudits it has received to date. It may have ruined me emotionally, but it is already one of the best shows I have watched this year – I would highly recommend checking it out when you get the opportunity to do so.

I’m heartbroken.

T.

 

 

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