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13 Reasons Why - Season 1 - Review

A few weeks ago 13 Reasons Why premiered on Netflix. There’s been a lot of buzz about this show so if you haven’t seen it yet but are considering watching let me share a few things with you first. While only 3 or 4 episodes have explicit warnings, I think all of the episodes should have a warning for the mention of suicide. It’s the central theme of the show so it’s obviously mentioned a lot. Hannah, the main character, has killed herself and left 13 tapes with the reasons why she did it. Clay receives the tapes and things progress from there (I won’t spoil much else). You should also be aware that there are two very graphic rape scenes (especially the second) and the actual suicide is shown on screen. If these things might be a problem for you, I suggest not watching it. Your mental health is more important. Now, everything below will contain spoilers so you’ve been warned. 

Book vs TV: I decided to re-read the book since it had been at least 6 years since I last read it. Reading simultaneously as watching the show did mean that I noticed a lot of the things that were changed. One of my biggest issues with the book was that we only really saw the story from Clay’s perspective. It made every other character, including Hannah, feel one dimensional. The show did more than just fix that problem. They gave these characters their own story, motivations and made us care for them (most of them). And it makes sense that not everyone would be happy just passing along those tapes, that there would be resistance. The show made a lot of changes but this, to me, was the most important one. 

Most improved: Something that bothered me in the books was the lack of anger. This might have something to do with my own anger issues but hearing those tapes, how can you not want those people to pay for what they did. I like that this Clay got angry. He didn’t just listen to the tapes, brood and pass them on to the next person. While his initial reactions towards Courtney and Tyler may have gone a bit too far, he got smarter as the season went on. I thought he was an idiot for confronting Bryce in his own home. Turned out he went there with an actual plan. Skipping Bryce in the tape order was also a very smart move. In the books, Clay’s name came up a bit sooner than it did in the show so he couldn’t have just given it to Mr. Porter. Still, it made no sense that the tapes would eventually end up with Bryce. He’d never pass them along. I’m glad they showed how much Clay struggled with listening to the tapes. It can’t be easy listening to someone you cared about explaining why she killed herself but being unable to do anything about it. Their relationship was frustrating for me as a viewer because we know what’s going on in Hannah’s life, but of course, Clay doesn’t. So when Clay says something that to anyone else would be okay, it ended up pushing her away. 

Character that deserved better: Jeff Atkins is another change the show made. In the books, it was just a random teenager that died in the accident with no real significance to Clay other than being the one that found him. But no, they had to make us love him first, didn’t they? Most of the characters on this show have done bad things. But all Jeff wanted was to get his grades up so he could keep playing baseball. He was a great friend to Clay, someone Clay could’ve really used in the present day. This guy deserved so much better than to die in an accident that he ended up getting blamed for even though it wasn’t his fault. I didn’t make the connection to the accident until the actual episode. From that moment until it happened I spent the entire time saying “no no no”. Why couldn’t it have been Bryce? 

Character that I want to light on fire: Speaking of which, I very rarely detest a character as much as I detest Bryce. He’s basically everything I hate wrapped up into one character. His fate was left up in the air but I think it’s safe to assume things will take a turn for the worse for him. After Hannah’s parents and Jessica’s dad hear what he did to their daughters, they’ll make it their mission to get justice. 
Most difficult to watch: There’s not a whole lot that can make me look away on TV these days, aside from the occasional extreme like someone eating a cat (thanks for that, The Magicians). However, this show had some moments that were difficult to watch. The two rape scenes for example, which were a lot more graphic than they were described in the book. Part of it was probably for shock factor but I think they also wanted to erase any doubt in people’s mind as to whether or not it was rape. But these weren’t the scene that made me look away. Hannah’s suicide was. While in the books Hannah killed herself by taking pills, the show actually showed her slitting her wrists. Up until right before, I was so sure that they wouldn’t show it. Part of me is glad that they did. And that they didn’t sugarcoat it. I’ve seen a few shows with characters who did the same and they always seemed so peaceful (for example, Alex in One Tree Hill). I’m glad they showed how painful it is. I felt so bad for Hannah’s parents, having to find her like that. She didn’t leave a note so her parents spend weeks or even months antagonizing about why she did it. In a way, the tapes were a suicide note but if it hadn’t been for Tony, they might have never reached them. 

Why this show is important: I’ve seen a few different opinions about this show online. Some say that it glorifies or romanticizes suicide but I have to disagree. I don’t think it ever made suicide look like a good way out. Hannah felt like it was her only way out but the audience saw that it didn’t have to be. At least, that’s how I saw it. But I think it’s important that this story is shown, and that these subjects are discussed. This show has already created a lot of buzz, more than I expected which means that people are talking about these subjects. The message of this show is that we never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life. We can’t possibly know, but what we can do is be nice and respectful to other people. Every mean comment you make has an effect on someone else. Just because it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, doesn’t mean that counts for everyone. 

Season 2? There were a lot of things that remained unanswered by the end of the season. Alex’ suicide attempt, Tyler and his gun collection, Hannah’s parents hearing the tapes. While the book never went further than the events of this season, the writers of the show may have other plans. While I still think it’s unlikely that there will be a second season, I wouldn’t completely rule it out. Perhaps they still have a story to tell. 

Best quotes: Hannah: “You’ve heard of the butterfly effect, right? That if a butterfly flaps its wings at just the right time in just the right place it can cause a hurricane thousands of miles away. It seems like nothing, until the hurricane hits.” 
Tony: “You never really know what’s gonna hit how. You don’t know someone else’s life.” 
Alex: “You know what’s worse than being a rapist? Hiding behind one. Fucking justifying a fucking rapist, that’s worse.” 
Tony: “You know I’m gay, right?” Clay: “What?” 
Hannah: “Dream big, they say. Shoot for the stars. Then they lock us away for 12 years and tell us where to sit, when to pee, and what to think. Then we turn 18, and even though we’ve never had an original thought, we have to make the most important decision of our lives. And if you don’t have the money and don’t really have the grades, a lot of the decision gets made for you.”

There are so many more things I could talk about but I figured I shouldn't make this too long. 13 Reasons Why is a show that really caught me by surprise. The writers made some major improvements from the book, the acting from the main characters was fantastic and the story really got to me. People will be talking about this one for a while.

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