"13 Reasons Why" is here, and it is not only brilliant, but also dark and unflinching. So keep in mind what to expect.
Note to people living through teen angst: "13 Reasons Why" is essential.
Adapted from Jay Asher's book of the same name, "Reasons" explores into the affected lives of people involved in the aftermath of the suicide of high school student Hannah Baker, who killed herself two weeks before the show's events. "Reasons" explores the events through mostly the perspective of protagonist Clay Jensen, Hannah's former classmate and crush.
Two weeks later after Hannah's death, Clay received a set of thirteen tapes in which Hannah recorded just before her death, explaining thirteen reasons why she killed herself -- some of whom were minor and others of whom are emotionally and physically traumatizing -- and accuses several people as the culprits in their respective tapes -- and Clay finds himself accused as well, but doesn't know why. In an effort to make amends, Clay attempts to confront the people responsible and try to understand why. Meanwhile, the accused people try to find ways to stop Clay from finding more about the truth, and Hannah's parents started to suspect that Hannah's death was more about than just a suicide while confronting the school system in a lawsuit that can affect everyone involved.
Directed in part by Academy Award winning director Tom McCarthy of "Spotlight" and written with confidence and elan by Pulitzer Prize-winning Brian Yorkey, the first two episodes initially establishes itself as a mystery revolving around Hannah's death, with an understated sense of subtlety and complexity contextualized within its story and characters to accompany the show's sense of noir-ish uncertainty and investigative intelligence.
However, as the show continues on, it expands more from its initial viewpoint and becomes more than that. "Reasons" doesn't only explores the ambiguity within teen suicide and bullying, but also is an expansive overview of the world affected by Hannah's death. It fleshes out its characters as more of flawed human beings rather than stereotypical archetypes, and the story within is so complex that there's no doubt it can expand into several seasons, even though the story is written in its one original book.
Acting performances are very solid across the board -- professionals and newcomers alike. Aussie newcomer Katherine Langford's compelling performance of the tormented and sad Hannah is the MVP, but Dylan Minnette is almost equally compelling as the guilt-ridden Clay, haunted by the unpredictable tragic circumstances of these dark events. Meanwhile, performances are very strong from the board, especially from the accused teenagers (in particular, Alisha Boe as Hannah's former friend Jessica, and Brandon Flynn as ashamed athlete Justin Foley) and also from Hannah's parents, played in devastatingly great turns by Kate Walsh and Brian d'Arcy James. Almost everything else, such as the writing, direction and cinematography, makes it all stand out, making it all the more memorable for those to watch.
However, be careful what you'll see, because "13 Reasons Why" is not only your usual YA show in narrative and character sense, it is also unusual in a maturing and thematic sense. It is dark as it can emotionally tender, brutally unflinching as it is subtle, and intense as it is urgent. That being said, this is for mature audiences.
There are frequent instances of strong language throughout the show (mostly by teenagers), with frequent uses of "f--k", "s--t", "god---n", "a--hole" and other several uses of profanity. Occasional instances of drug use and sexuality are shown, as well as some very bloody fist fights, but the one that's strongly cautioned is three disturbing depictions involving two instances of sexual assault and an infamous scene of suicide.
If you can handle the difficult subject matter, "13 Reasons Why" is definitely recommended to watch. It is a brilliant show because of how it stands out from the crowd of the young-adult genre in the media, but it can be very dark and unflinching at times, but if you can handle its difficult subject matter and complexity, then it is totally a must-see.
VERDICT: I found myself glad to have seen "13 Reasons Why". It was engaging, addictive and emotionally direct in many complex ways that made me give this show my respect. Even if it is intended to be a story that is about teen suicide and bullying, it feels more like an exploration, a complex tale about regret, loss, unhingedness, mistakes and recuperation, even though its bleakness can be a bit too much for viewers. There are people like Hannah Baker in the world that need support now and it's important to help them so that they won't have to be through the events that Hannah have been through. We owe them that respect, that integrity, that care, all as much as this show do. So, for one last time, go see the show and understand why. You won't regret it.
April 2nd, 2017
This title contains:
Positive role models
Violence & scariness
Drinking, drugs & smoking