Try to resist watching the next episode. I dare you.
Netflix isn’t making binge watching much of an option with their freshly released drama series “13 Reasons Why.” Based on the novel by Jay Asher, the creator of the online series, Brian Yorkey, takes full advantage of releasing the series on Netflix.
The series is raw with all of its gory details about what high school can be like for millennials in the digital age. While this story is told through 13 fifty-minute episodes, it feels more like a film broken up into parts.
Clay Jensen [Dylan Minnette], our protagonist, receives a package at the start of the show. The package contains a series of tapes with explicit and vivid details regarding what led Hannah Baker [Katherine Langford], his recently deceased crush, to end her own life. At its core, the story attempts to teach the audience a lesson in how people treat each other.
Bullying in the new millennia is different. Kids are tethered to their phones. When they get home from school they check Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It means that when someone is getting cyber-bullied, the bullying doesn’t stop when they go home. In 2011, Freeform released an original movie called “Cyberbully” starring Emily Osment. The movie attempts, and fails, to achieve the same candor that this show so effortlessly portrays.
All of the kids on the tape start at pretty much the same level as bully, other than Sheri [Ajiona Alexus] and Clay. One by one the audience watches the characters grow hearts, start standing up for one another and stop standing on the sidelines as their friends are crappy. Almost every character grows from this insight into Hanna’s experience, except Bryce, [Justin Prentice] who was kind of expected to stay a jerk. Regardless, the character development on the show is really what caused the show to be a home run.
Every girl had a Justin Foley [Brandon Flynn]. Not every girl was raped in high school or had to watch their friend get raped. But, every girl had that boy with a smile that was just swoon-worthy. Then that smile turns out to be the bane of your existence. But hey, that’s high school.
There are disclaimers at the beginning of the episodes that include rape in them. Nothing was warning enough for these scenes. Director, Jessica Yu, had the task of depicting Hannah’s rape scene. The camera lingers on Hannah’s face for an uncomfortable amount of time while she’s being assaulted in the hot tub. You see the light leave her eyes.
The series does not shy away from the big stuff. It’s hard to talk about sexual assault. It’s hard to talk about bullying. And it’s hard to talk about suicide. These are real problems in society and without addressing them, they go unchanged.
Without reading the book, the series turns out to be quite the cliffhanger. With every episode revealing who’s on what tape, the audience is forced into finding out more. It gives the story a suspenseful feel without the horror movie aspect.
Although, the most frustrating thing about the series is how long it takes Clay to finish the tapes. Granted he’s in a ridiculously difficult situation. But like, finish the tapes dude.
Not everyone is a masochist; some people don’t enjoy crying during their leisurely TV time. In that case, don’t start “13 Reasons Why.” The show is brutally honest in its storytelling and there are moments when one can’t help but empathize with the characters on a personal level.
There were moments of wanting to actually shake a character to prevent them from doing something. Or times of judgment towards Hannah for the same reasons her peers judged her. The story gets so believable and so real that it almost feels just that.
While the parents’ stories weren’t as prominent in the book compared to the series, the empathy is palpable felt not only for the Bakers but the Jensens as well.
No parent should ever lose a child. Period.
The tiredness in Mrs. Baker’s eyes throughout the show causes the urge to hug her, pretty much the whole time. And poor Mrs. Jensen is completely in the dark about everything Clay is going through (because he can’t communicate). Things are especially difficult because Mrs. Jensen acts as the school’s lawyer in the case against the Bakers. Speaking of, why is she the lawyer? They couldn’t have found a lawyer of someone who wasn’t a parent at the school?
There were some choices the creators of this show decided to change from the book in order to maintain relevance. Things like the rumors being spread mostly via social media, the Monet’s crew saying FML instead of olly-olly-oxen-free and a couple of other changes. But why the change to Tyler’s [Devin Druid] plot? The series ties almost all ends but his. The reason for him buying that gun in a creepy alley goes unexplained. It was originally thought this was foreshadowing towards a school shooting, but then it’s just never addressed again. I’m not sure if this was done on purpose to leave room for another season or there just was too much going on so they ditched the idea.
The audience doesn’t find out the results of the trial. Alex [Miles Heizer] is also in critical condition at the close of the show and the audience doesn’t know what happens to him. Still, fingers crossed Netflix doesn’t try to pull a sequel out of thin air and just keeps the series as is.
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