Surprising, addictive, important and altogether moving. The latest Netflix drama is a roller coaster of emotions that you should most definitely get on.
Creator: Brain Yorkey
The story follows teenager Clay Jensen, in his quest to uncover the story behind his classmate and crush, Hannah Baker, and her decision to end her life.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the latest Netflix drama. Teen suicide? A mystery novel adaptation? High school drama? It sounded like a recipe for disaster. One that could easily dive into simple exploitation. Teen angst has been done to death now, and suicide is a difficult subject to pin down, let alone make entertaining.
So i’m happy to say that 13 Reasons Why is one of the best dramas to explore these all too relevant issues. And it does so with honesty, empathy and by letting you observe, not judge.
Right from the start the show sidesteps the black and white, opting for a morally grey mystery to dive into. Was Hannah Baker just a victim? Or was she just an attention seeking drama queen? Is she lying on the tapes? And what is the point to all this impassioned confessional tapes?
The mystery builds brilliantly as see the events unfold in Clay Jensen’s eyes, played wonderfully in a star turning performance by Dylan Minnette. Tape after tape secrets are uncovered, people exposed and uncertainty builds. I guarantee that you will not be able to stop at just one episode. This show sucked me in like nothing i have ever seen in recent years. And yes even more than Stranger Things. And it does so without ever feeling cheap, or pandering to the young adult crowd.
Yes, 13 Reasons Why does have some shortcomings. Some of the teen slang is hit and miss, not all of the ’13 reasons’ feel impactful, and the narrative sags just slightly in the middle. There are also some notes that dont always hit as the show threatens to veer towards melodrama, which it thankfully doesn’t linger too long on.
Without spoiling anything, the show is not afraid to asks the difficult questions, and does not always paint Hannah Baker as a heroine. Throughout the series i was right there with Clay. Questioning her intentions through these confessional tapes. Whether it was an act of cruelty, a last cry for understanding or simply a series of bad decisions. The show simply explores the consequences of her actions, and what led to her decision.
The cast does a magnificent job here. With all of the teens lending an authenticity that gives them more dimension than the usual high school stereotypes. You will grow to love, hate, understand and probably even relate to more than a few of them. But it is the parents that really drive the story home, with the devastation of a grieving parent heartrendingly portrayed by Kate Walsh. Like Clay, we are sucked into the narrative of questions, and faced with the reality that it could all be a dead end.
There are no easy answers to the tragedies in ’13 Reasons Why’, and i applaud the show for that. There has been some backlash to the show due to how it directly confronts suicide, and how some of the ’13 reasons’ feel inconsequential, but in a way that is the point. And to present it otherwise would be dishonest.
Everyone is affected differently in life, and people have done way worse for less. What makes ’13 Reasons Why’ work so well, is because it takes painstaking efforts to accurately portray its world. The drama feels real, lived in and hard hitting. Their struggles seem so familiar because we see it in our own lives.
And more than anything, the show is a call to empathy. To take stock of the people around us.
To simply listen.