(WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS DISCUSSIONS ABOUT SUICIDE)
To escape the hysteria and hype surrounding Netflix’s new 13 episode offering, 13 Reasons Why, one would have to lock themselves in the most underground vault in Fort Knox. For a viewer like myself, who is against binge watching shows, I succumbed to the magnetism of this show and managed to watch all 13 hour long episodes in two days. For this is a show that gives you no choice but to continue on and witness the unraveling of the mystery within the show.
13 Reasons Why follows the suicide of high school teen, Hannah Baker, played by the wonderful debutante, Katherine Langford. Before she commits suicide, she records 13 reasons why she killed herself on 13 sides of cassette tapes. She releases them to the people that she blames for her tragic end. This leads to the central character, friend of Hannah, Clay Jensen, who receives the tapes and each episode revolves around each side of a cassette tape and the slow un-spiraling of the reasons why Hannah Baker commit suicide.
The show has received some highly publicised criticism over the apparent glorification of suicide. There is always the danger of this happening, as the topic of suicide being put into the spotlight for some people could elicit a strong negative reaction, however I find this production to counter this. Suicide is a taboo subject, so to have the center of the show revolve around the tragedy of a teenager’s suicide, is a needed representation within media. It tackles the misconceptions of suicide and the effects it can have, and the effect of what can drive people to suicide and how hidden it can seem. It is a needed story in the wealth of content that Netflix offers and if this can at least incite discussion about suicide, both male and female, then it is indeed welcomed.
13 Reasons Why is a tale of ‘teenage angst’ , but I feel that term is somewhat diluted because of the connotations that term has become due to high school flicks such as Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink. This is no TV programme about people forgetting your sixteenth birthday, 13 Reasons Why projects the true horrors of high school. High school or Secondary School for British counterparts, is a pit of social conformity that is brutal and cut throat. It is very peculiar that nearly every person is aware of this but is oblivious to react to any of it. Hannah Baker is cruelly victimised within this cut throat environment and her attempts at trying to fit it lead to harrowing events that slowly reveal the mystery of why Hannah commit suicide.
The mystery is central to this show, every episode you are enticed to continue to watch how everyone is involved and what the 13 reasons are. What really holds this show together are the two main actors. Katherine Langford, who plays Hannah and Dylan Minnette who plays Clay. Clay and Hannah, both have feelings for each other but are too awkward and stubborn to admit it. It feels genuine and the performance of both brings a sense of realism to the parts. Hannah is a fragile character that braves the horrors that she witnesses. The vulnerability of Langford’s performance is the back bone of this production. You have no option but to feel exactly what Hannah feels. It is a painful but cathartic experience that benefits from perfect casting. Clay, for me seemed most relevant, the awkward and stoic teenager who tries to do the right thing but somehow ends up mostly in the opposite result. Their relationship was magnetic to watch and their performances led to a degree of authenticity of the show.
This is a brilliant representation on the horrors of high school and the detrimental effect suicide can have on the family, friends, the school and individuals. 13 Reasons Why is perfectly casted with a haunting soundtrack that accommodates some of the most daring subjects portrayed in mainstream media. Some scenes are hard to watch, some scenes I had to look away, but this needed it. It needs to generate a reaction. This was an experience that was loaded with emotions; anger, sympathy, sadness. 13 Reasons Why is a fantastic project that I hope can inspire some people to talk to someone about their problems.
You will be hooked, you will get angry, you will get upset. That’s the point. But I guarantee you will enjoy it.