The following is a review of the first season of 13 Reasons Why – Developed by Brian Yorkey
13 Reasons Why is based on Jay Asher’s young adult novel of the same name, and the first season of the show follows Clay Jensen (played by Dylan Minnette), a high school student, who, one day, receives a mysterious package containing seven double-sided cassette tapes.
The tapes have been recorded by Hannah Baker (played by Katherine Langford), a classmate of his who recently committed suicide, and each side of the cassette tapes details one of the reasons why she took her own life as well as who is to blame.
Like I suspect many people did when they first heard of this show, I initially thought this was little more than just a young adult drama and I certainly had no idea that it would spark as many discussions online as it has. Variety recently revealed that 13 Reasons Why is the most tweeted about show of the year, thus far.
That online discussion, which I didn’t participate in but definitely did notice, was one of the two major reasons why I ultimately decided to bingewatch the series. The other major reason was that I suddenly became aware of the experienced directors that had worked on the first season (including Spotlight‘s Tom McCarthy and The Stanford Prison Experiment‘s Kyle Patrick Alvarez).
Although perfectly interesting in the beginning and middle, the season packs a punch towards the end as characters you care for are irreparably damaged or never heard from again. The two central characters – Hannah and Clay – are played by two young actors – Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette – that are flat-out fantastic in the series. Minnette, especially, manages to add a lot to a character that, with a lesser actor, could’ve been the downfall of the show.
While I do think that most of the characters are handled rather well – with most of them being given at least one episode to be focused on – there are some underwritten characters like school counselor Kevin Porter (played by Derek Luke) who feels almost like an afterthought once the show finally gets to his character
Now, one of the first thing you may wonder is why I’ve labeled this as ‘season one.’ A show with 13 episodes about 13 ‘reasons’ should end after those episodes. So, to be perfectly honest with you, I feel like I need to warn you that the show stumbles in its final episode.
13 Reasons Why doesn’t properly stick the landing, so to speak. There is an uncomfortable lack of conclusion and closure, and there are some moments that will make you feel like the writers of the show are planning a second season.
And I’ll say this about a potential second season. If a second season of 13 Reasons Why is announced and it revolves around 13 reasons for another suicide, then that would, due to this season’s final episode, feel rather irresponsible.
“Some of you cared. None of you cared enough.”
Although not without flaws, 13 Reasons Why eventually moves on from cursory or hasty discussions about anti-bullying and starts dealing with much more heavy and tough problems. While the overall message seems to be to realize the dangers of miscommunication and not listening, the much more memorable and painfully effective moments revolve around the suicide itself as well as discussions of rape.
The suicide itself is one of the hardest TV moments I’ve had to watch, and the shot of her parents finding her in their bathtub is actually even tougher to witness. Kate Walsh – who plays Hannah’s mother – is phenomenal in this scene. I think this scene more than anything else shows the repercussions of a suicide. Perhaps it may be a selfish act but it is not entirely tough to understand, and it leaves everyone broken as a result.
The show is out for our attention, which it should get quickly, and, although it may feel tough to watch often, I think the show may be a necessary watch for some and irresponsible for parents to ignore. Therefore, to say that 13 Reasons Why is must-watch television is a gigantic understatement.
– Jeffrey Rex