Television Reviews

’13 Reasons Why’ Tackles The Dark Subject of Teen Suicide

Facing the aftermath of his schoolmates suicide, a young man receives a mysterious box from the deceased including thirteen cassette tapes. One for each person who aided in her decision to commit suicide. Based on the 2007 YA novel, 13 Reasons Why examines the struggles of coping with bullying, trauma and death in your high school years, while also showing how families attempt to deal. The 13-episode Netflix series tackles some real issues gracefully, with just a hint of teen melodrama.

Plot of episode one will be discussed, expect minor spoilers

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Clay (Dylan Minnette) is a socially awkward teen coming to terms with the recent suicide of his friend Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). While school has returned to normal, Clay seems distracted by the void left by her death. One day he receives a box on his doorstep containing thirteen cassette tapes made by Hannah before she committed suicide. The tapes are meant to tell thirteen people how they pushed her to her limit.

Along with the tapes is a map, although not required, we see Clay follow the map to each location that served as the background to troubles Hannah faced. In the premiere episode he ventures to the home of the first and only party Hannah ever threw. A typical high school party where her crush began for Justin (Brandon Flynn), a popular jock. He was charming and swoon-worthy, but that soon faded when an innocent kiss was played off as more to his friends. Resulting in Hannah being the target of jokes, bullying and lies.

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Executive Produced by Selena Gomez, the series is reminiscent of other teen melodramas (think Pretty Little Liars). However, the issues faced are more realistically approached. From sexual assault, the slut shaming that can occur afterwards, to backstabbing friendships and the heartbreak that follows. The torment so hard to endure, some turn to suicide to end their suffering. The show gives an insight to what a victim deals with and also how those around them cope with the loss.

Overall the series is very well done, narrative storytelling works really well with the subject matter and the mix of present day and flashbacks provides the audience with everything they need. However, the decision to play on the books title and feature thirteen episodes forced a lot of filler moments. Given that Netflix can have their own rules regarding length, it would have been best for episodes to be made shorter in time if they wanted to keep with a thirteen episode plan.

The beauty of this series is that it’s familiar of shows from the late 90s. Teen dramas have seemingly become more about the glitz recently, focusing on the fashion and unrealistic ideas of high school. Here we have a show that is angsty in all its teen glory, highlighting dark matters, like a My So-Called Life for this generation. Much like his performance in Don’t BreatheDylan Minnette provides a raw emotion that brings a believability to the story. A series like this can hopefully provide a teachable moment for a lot of young kids.

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13 Reasons Why is now streaming on Netflix.

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