By Ty Willis
The Mirror Staff
“There are elements of 13 Reasons Why that move toward more typical teen television storytelling, but it never fully abandons Hannah’s story in order to explore them, linking every character’s actions to the aftermath of Hannah’s death.”
An Unforgettable “Thirteen Reasons Why”
April 7, 2017
ENTERTAINMENT: The new Netflix show, based on the wildly popular teen novel, takes high school suicide to a whole different level.
LEFT: Clay Jensen, played by Dylan Minnette RIGHT: Alex played by Miles Heizer
Novels like Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, and The 100 have all been recently produced as TV shows. However, they all pale in comparison to Netflix’s new series, “13 Reasons Why,” which was adapted from Jay Asher’s best selling 2007 novel.
“13 Reasons Why” follows a central mystery and sets up one main question which the 13-episode show attempts to answer: Why did a girl’s life have to end?
The show begins a few weeks after the death of Hannah Baker (played by new actress Katherine Langford), a junior at a suburban high school. Clay (Dylan Minnette), a socially awkward classmate who had a crush on her, receives a shoebox full of vintage cassette tapes.
The cassettes contain Hannah’s descriptions of 13 traumatic events that led to her decision to commit suicide, each addressed to a schoolmate or adult who caused a particular trauma. She left instructions for the box to be passed from one tormentor to another, and Clay is further down on the list. Most of the other people she accuses have already heard the tapes before he receives them.
If Clay decides to pass on the tapes without listening to them or to just end the chain, the copies will be released to the public so everyone could know who caused Hannah to take her own life.
There are elements of “13 Reasons Why” that concentrate on more typical teen television storytelling, but it never fully abandons Hannah’s story. In order to explore the characters, the plot links their actions to the aftermath of Hannah’s death.
Throughout the show we see how Hannah was hurt by many people who have done terrible things to her. We learn from the tapes that she was bullied, stalked, and molested. She even witnessed one of her own friends commit a crime she wished she didn’t see.
This sad tale of suicide, apologies and regret is enough to make any person with a heart want to watch the series from the beginning to the end non-stop.
The TV show moves a little more slowly than the book, and that’s mostly a good thing. The book never develops its characters well enough beyond giving them each a name and a single trait. However, the TV show turns them all into genuine three-dimensional people.
Alex (Miles Heizer) becomes a New Wave-obsessed music geek riddled with guilt for his sins, and Courtney (Michele Selene Ang) becomes a type-A overachiever working desperately to overcompensate for her secrets.
An admirable feature of the show is the way the writers are able to make sure viewers remember every little detail, either by looking back to them with flashbacks or having another character reference the detail.
When the show gets to a scene of sexual assault, the camera does not pull away, instead continually returning to those brutal images as they weigh on the characters involved.
Content warnings precede these episodes. The finale goes a step further and shows the act of Hannah’s suicide without cutting away, creating a series of truly alarming images that are going to be staying in my mind for an incredibly long time.
You might find yourself skeptical though, despite the undeniable veracity of some of the show’s depictions of high school angst.
The overall message that will appeal to most teenagers is that there will always be a reason why someone takes her own life. Therefore, as peers and colleagues, we must guard against it happening to others
But the school counselor, played by Derek Luke, may have it right when he tells Clay that you can just never tell.