Let’s talk about the hottest show on Netflix right now. 13 Reasons Why was dropped on Netflix on March 31st and most of the world binged it within a week. The story follows Hannah Baker and her classmates after her unexpected suicide. It’s based off of the novel of the same name by Jay Asher. It tackles so many important issues ranging from bullying, sexual assault, suicide, rape, and so much more. It’s heavy, I’m not going to lie. Usually with a short season show, I can binge it in a couple of days. It took me about a week to finish this, I found myself having to take breaks because some of the subject content is brings up emotions and feelings that you may have hidden away. Everyone at some point has been bullied, or been the one to bully someone, and some of the other matters of this show are someone’s everyday reality.
Before Hannah ultimately decides to kill herself, she makes tapes detailing the reasons why she took her life, and calling out the people she felt were responsible for her feelings of such isolation. Among those people were Justin Foley, Jessica Davis, Bryce Walker, Alex Standall, Zach Dempsey, Tyler Down, Courtney Crimson, Marcus Cole, Ryan Shaver, Sheri Holland, Kevin Porter, and Clay Jensen. We mostly follow Clay Jensen and his journey while listening to the tapes. He’s traumatized that his friend, and the girl that he has been crushing on, killed herself and left behind tapes, tapes that are only given to people who helped contribute to her ultimate decision.
If you haven’t read the book, or watched the show for that matter because I hear it’s pretty different, I don’ recommend reading on. I’ll be discussing some aspects of the show and don’t want to spoil anything for readers/viewers that want the full experience.
Justin Foley is one of the most popular guys in school. He’s a star on the basketball team, and looks like your typical bad boy, the one you should definitely stay away from. He takes an interest in Hannah, and the two start talking and spending time together. It’s cute and playful and they seem like they could be a sweet couple. Justin takes Hannah to the park for a cute first date, and the two share a kiss. Hannah’s first kiss, a memory she wants to keep forever. Justin snaps photos of her sliding down the slide, cute right? Seems like a nice first date. The next day at school, we see Justin talking with his friends about how it went. They ask how far he got with the hot new girl and he just laughs, not answering. The boys assume the two had sex, or at least fooled around and Justin shows them a picture of Hannah sliding down the slide, and you can see up her skirt. Bryce takes Justin’s phone and sends the picture around the school. And, as how things like that go, the whole school gets it and assumes Hannah hooked up with Justin. This is the start of the downfall of her reputation. In this first episode, we also learn that Clay loved Hannah, and the two were very close.
The next person to push Hannah on her downward spiral is Jessica Davis. Jessica is a new girl at school along with Hannah in their sophomore year. The vice principal calls them in to try and strike up a friendship, which works beautifully between the two girls. They begin getting coffee at the local coffee shop together daily, where they meet a cute boy named Alex Standall. The three become inseparable before finally becoming distant. It is revealed that Jessica and Alex have started to date and abandoned her as a friend. Shortly after, Alex breaks up with Jessica, who blames Hannah for it. We learn later that Alex took part in a making a list of best/worst qualities of the girls in school with some of the popular guys in order to better his reputation. Alex contributed that Hannah had the “best ass” while Jessica had the “worst ass”. This triggers Jessica to blame Hannah even more and causes her to slap her, it also makes guys more interested in the physical aspects of Hannah rather than getting to know her. Bryce corners her in a small convenience store and grabs her butt, scaring her.
Tyler Down is the next person on the list. He stalked Hannah and took pictures of her through her bedroom window. Hannah, thinking it was a neighborhood creep, enlists the help of classmate Courtney Crimson to catch him in the act. The two girls end up drinking some of Hannah’s parents liquor and forgetting about the task at hand. A game of truth or dare turns into more than Hannah bargained for when Courtney dares Hannah to kiss her. Hannah does, and the two share a heated moment, and in the process Tyler snaps a photo of them and Hannah catches him in the act. She goes to him the next day and asks him to delete the photos, and he asks her out, which she responds to with laughter. Tyler then releases the photo to the school which causes Courtney to become cold to Hannah, even though no one knows it’s the two of them in the photo. Later, Courtney and Hannah reconcile and go to a school dance together. While there, people are giving the two girls a hard time about the photo, assuming its them. Courtney spreads a rumor that the picture is of Hannah and a classmate who is an out lesbian. She also tells that Hannah and Justin did hook up. People begin saying stuff to Hannah which prompts her to leave the dance early.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, Hannah fills out a survey that helps match you with a classmate you have stuff in common with. Hoping to match with Clay, Hannah excitedly fills out the survey, but Clay’s friend Jeff helps Clay fill out his and Hannah doesn’t match with him. Marcus Cole, one of the popular guys at school, asks Hannah out, and she accepts. He makes her wait over an hour at the diner and when he finally shows up he tries to get with her, to which Hannah responds with hostility. He says he only took her out because he thought she was easy. This upsets Zach, who goes back in to sit with Hannah. Shortly after, Zach tries to ask her out. He ends up accidentally offending Hannah, who embarrasses him in front of the entire school at lunch. She later apologizes in a written note, but he throws it away, hurting Hannah’s feelings. Somehow, the letter she sends to Zach ends up getting read out loud in class and she feels emotionally attacked by him.
Something similar happens to Hannah because of Ryan Shaver. Hannah and Ryan are classmates and get to know each other better at a poetry reading. She writes a poem about drowning and how she feels like she isn’t even here anymore. Ryan tries to make her publish the poem in the newspaper, but she refuses saying she doesn’t want her personal thoughts to be read by her fellow classmates. Ryan betrays her and publishes the poem anonymously. It gets read out loud in class by one of her teachers.
During the summer before their junior year, there is a summer party at Jessica’s house. Hannah ends up witnessing a brutal rape while locked in Jessica’s room upstairs. Jessica and Justin come upstairs and Jessica passes out. Justin leaves her in the room by herself and Bryce comes in and rapes her. Hannah witnesses the whole thing, and sees that during the middle of the rape Justin comes in and sees Bryce, but Bryce throws him out and locks the door. Justin didn’t try again to stop him, and Jessica doesn’t know it happened to her. Upset, she leaves the room and runs into Sheri who offers her a ride home. On the way, Sheri knocks over a stop sign at an intersection and Hannah begs her to call the cops, she doesn’t and leaves Hannah on the side of the road. Hannah runs to the nearest store to call the police to tell them, but they’ve already been informed of the accident. Little does Hannah know, it is a different accident. It’s one that took the life of fellow classmate Jeff. Hannah begs Sheri to tell, but she refuses and tells Hannah they shouldn’t be friends anymore.
The next tape is Clay’s. We learn that Hannah and Clay spend the whole night together, and almost have sex. During the middle of it, Hannah remembers flashbacks of what happened to her earlier in the year and all the rumors people said about her. She tells him to get off and leave her alone. Clay’s tape is to apologize to him, and tell him that he is different from the rest of the guys, he cared about her and that’s what she needed, but she pushed him away.
While still in her downward spiral, Hannah tries to help her parents out and do some errands for them, it results in her losing the bank deposit and a huge fight between her and her parents. She winds up at a party at Bryce’s house where she ends up alone with him in the hot tub. She is uncomfortable because of what happened to Jessica and tries to leave, but Bryce forces himself on her and rapes her too. This is ultimately the straw that breaks Hannah Baker. She tries to go to the guidance counselor at school, who shrugs off her suicidal thoughts. She tries to tell him about the rape, but he discourages her from reporting it since she doesn’t want to give up the name. She blames him for not trying harder to help.
Collectively, all twelve of these people killed Hannah. The tapes bring them together, cause friction, but ultimately, they all know what they’ve done. Small actions can build up over time, and that’s exactly what happens to Hannah. She felt hopeless after so many bad things happened. People think that bullying isn’t a big deal, or that small words or rumors don’t matter in the long run, but sometimes they do. One false rumor could ruin someone’s life. Sexual assault and rape were another thing that the series touched on. It’s never a joke. Bryce thinking he did nothing wrong was disgusting. The scenes were graphic and horrible, terribly hard to watch, but it portrayed how you feel after in a way that most people don’t usually get to see.
I personally loved this series. More so than most for so many reasons. Not only was it an intriguing show to watch, it had a good message. Do I think suicide is ever the answer? No. Of course not. But it shows what someone may do if they feel they have nowhere to go. It talks about things other shows are afraid to. I’m impressed. It has affected me deeply, and I find myself constantly thinking about it. I haven’t decided if it’s good or bad, but it has definitely made me think. I think this is something everyone needs to watch.
The cast was perfect, down to the minor characters. Getting a relatively unknown actress to play Hannah was the best casting decision made. A big name in the driver’s seat could have distracted from the story they were trying to tell, and that is why Katherine Langford was chosen. She made the perfect Hannah, in my personal opinion. Given, I haven’t read the book yet. Did I like Hannah as a character? Not particularly. I felt bad for her, I feel as though I could have been her friend, but leaving tapes behind blaming her ‘friends’ for her suicide was cruel. Dylan Minnette, one of my favorite young actors, took the role of Clay Jensen and ran with it. He ran across the finish line and kept going. He played the kind, sensitive character perfectly. Another favorite casting of mine was Brandon Flynn as Justin Foley. He started out as a character I didn’t care for, and ended up being one of my favorites by the end. Ross Butler and Alisha Boe, Zach and Jessica, were also great characters. Miles Heizer played Alex and also did an excellent job. Let’s talk about the man behind the evil Bryce Walker, Justin Prentice. Prentice made me hate the character, he made me want to run him over with my car. He disgusted me. His acting was above and beyond what could have been expected.
I know, I didn’t talk about the show’s present time timeline, but I feel that the reasons Hannah felt the need to kill herself was the more important part of the story. Listening to what happened was what she wanted. I’ll leave a little bit up to imagination if you haven’t watched and still want to.
I know that Jay Asher has said several times there will be no book sequel, however she has hinted about the possibility of a season two for Netflix, and I really hope they go through with it. There are so many stories left to be told, and cliffhangers for days. Another season could continue the lives of these characters after the tapes, and some of them will have to deal with the repercussions of their past mistakes, some of them may not make it to season two. Either way, I need to know. I need more.
Do yourself a favor. Cut out 13 hours of your week for this show. It seems like a lot of time and a lot of effort for a show about high school kids, but trust me it is worth it. Have a box of tissues and a friend close by, you’ll need both by the time it’s all over.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10