Thirteen Reasons Why is the new show that was released on Netflix over the weekend about the aftermath of a high school girl’s suicide and the reasons why she did it. It is based on the novel of the same name by author Jay Asher.
The show revolves around two central characters. Hannah Baker, played by newcomer Katherine Langford, is the character who’s life we explore, from the incident that began the path that led to her eventual suicide. We explore the 13 reasons why she killed herself, and the various people who were responsible, through a series of 13 tapes that left to be listened to by each of the people that were mentioned in them. The other principle character in the show is Clay Jensen, played by Dylan Minnette, who receives the tapes at the start of the show, and begins to learn about Hannah’s secrets, and how his classmates were involved.
13 Reasons Why is not a show for the faint hearted. As it gets further on some of the characters enter a really dark place, and it contains some of the most affecting and emotional scenes, with one in particular late on, really making it hard, yet gripping drama throughout. But that’s certainly not a bad thing. The show doesn’t shy away from difficult themes like depression, bullying, sexual harassment, and of course suicide. Instead it tries to talk about them in a very honest way, and that makes it a very emotional experience.
The show is so effective in large part down to Langford’s performance as Hannah. She really makes you care about this character so that at every turn you find yourself wishing that someone could have done something different. Her chemistry with Minnette does at times offer a much-needed injection of humour into the show, and really sells this as a believable, if awkward friendship. It is also something that makes it understandable why we are experiencing the show and the tapes for the most part though Clay’s eyes. Minnette doesn’t get as many opportunities to do much more than stare off troubled into the distance, but when Clay does let his emotions get to him Minnette does an excellent job in those two or three key scenes for his character.
Most of the supporting cast also excels. Alisha Boe as the hardy partying but troubled girl Jessica Davis and Brandon Flynn as her jock boyfriend Justin Foley are certainly the best of the supporting student cast. Although mention should go to Ross Butler for a strong subtle performance as the ‘nice guy’ star of the Basketball team Zach Dempsey. Kate Walsh’s turn as Hannah’s grieving mother Olivia Baker is also a stand out from the show.
It’s not an absolutely flawless show. It could certainly do with being a few episodes shorter. Some of the stories feel very stretched trying to make them last an entire hour, and given that many of these are very connected there could easily have been some episodes that were compressed together. This would have stopped some of the middle episodes from feeling so stretched, and could have tightened it up to feel as strong as the ending did.
It might not be a barrel of laughs, but 13 Reasons Why is certainly a powerful, and incredibly emotional exploration of bullying, harassment, and depression in High Schools, as well as a story of dealing with grief and loss. The heavy subject matter may put some people off, but this is an excellent new show from Netflix.