It became clear to me several weeks ago that there were going to be times I would need to choose to watch a show because it needed to be reviewed rather than just for the sake of my own entertainment. 13 Reasons Why is my first example of such a decision. I usually stay away from shows about teenage drama because, well honestly, I just don’t care about it. Usually it’s bad acting about problems I can’t relate to set to terrible music, and not just because I’m a crabby old person.
I didn’t like teenage dramas when I was a teenager either. I knew this has been a book, which always garners a little more respect from me, and then Googling revealed that it was a show about suicide. My decision was made. It was too important to not watch.
Television is just like any other art form; some pieces are flippant and fun, some are interesting and mind bending, and a very few are important. They aren’t necessarily made to be enjoyed, they are made to educate, to shed light in an area overcome with darkness, to jar us out of our ignorance and expose us to truth. Make no mistake, I didn’t enjoy watching 13 Reasons Why, but I needed to see it.
We have two main characters to follow in this story: first is Hannah, played by Katherine Langford, the character who throws everyone’s life into chaos when she leaves behind tapes for 13 people to listen to, listing their actions that have lead her to debilitating hopelessness and ultimately suicide. Then we have Clay, played beautifully by Dylan Minnette, the usually sweet, quiet, social nobody that loved her. We follow Clay on his journey through Hannah’s story and through his grief-stricken responses to each tape.
I don’t want to give away much about what happens, because I think that just about everyone should watch this at some point. I mean, I think it might even need to be played in schools. Just be prepared: there is something, at least one thing, in this story to which you will react viscerally. The rest of it you’ll watch and think, “That’s so terrible! This poor girl!” or maybe, “Okay, that sucks, but it will pass, just hang in there.” But then it will hit you, a scene that hits fairly close to home for you or that you can relate to with stunning clarity and you will cry. It will be messy. You will not feel better afterwards.
For me, it was the scene where her mother finds her dead in her bathtub. I didn’t realize they would show her actually committing suicide, so it took me a little off guard, then to watch her mother walk in on it was just… Pain. I’ve never lost a child, but I’ve lost both parents and several close family members and I know the initial feeling of helplessness when you realize you can’t try to make anything better for them ever again.
The dialog can be a little stilted and unbelievable at times, there are a couple of characters who’s existence I don’t understand (which could honestly be blamed on the transition from book to show) and there’s not a lot of character development except for Clay, the transition of Hannah from decently happy to angst-ridden-to-the-point-of-suicide is a little glossed over. These are very small complaints, honestly. I’m just a critiquer. Watch it anyway. It’s important. To borrow a line from the show, make sure you’re in the right head space for it and if you have some fairly sensitive triggers, maybe don’t watch it alone. Once you do, you will, hopefully, be reminded of the importance to love better, learn faster and connect fully.