My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ STARS
WARNING: I will be discussing topics such as rape, sexual assault, suicide, sexual harassment and self harm that might be triggering to certain people and that might be inappropriate for children under a certain age. Please take caution before reading this review.
After finally finishing off the last (extremely heartbreaking and emotion) episode of 13 Reasons Why yesterday night I am finally ready to get down and talk about this show, down to the nittiest and grittiest details.
So for those of you who have kind of been living under a rock for the past month, 13 Reasons Why is a Netflix originals series that centers around Hannah Baker, a teenage girl who has committed suicide and a boy named Clay Jensen who receives a box with 13 tapes that Hannah recorded right before she died. On them, she talks about the 13 reasons why she committed suicide (hence the title). Each of the reasons go into detail about Hannah’s encounter with a specific person she knew from high school and exactly how they contributed to her deciding to end her life. The deal of the whole tape-situation is that once the person who has received the tapes finishes listening to them, they have to pass it on to the next consecutive person on the tapes until all of them have listened to them.
Clay, who used to be in love with Hannah and used to work together with her ultimately wonders how he even ended up on these tapes and continues to listen to them to find out…while we viewers get to see the truth of Hannah’s life unravel before us.
13 Reasons Why was such an incredibly powerful show that I probably will never forget about for the rest of my life.
It is truly a phenomenal show that is incredibly well done and well made but it definitely isn’t a show that you can watch or should watch solely for enjoyment. Of course, there is an air of mystery and suspense, especially due to the interactions between the people mentioned on the tapes which encompasses more than just the premise that Hannah has committed suicide and goes beyond that. Nevertheless, while the show started off pretty “easy” and “light” it got significantly harder and harder to watch.
I do believe that this is a show that a lot of people should be watching in order to educate themselves on what kind of an impact bullying, sexual harassment and assault can have on someone and to bring general awareness to topics such as rape and suicide that are very often swept under the rug. These are both topics that, while absolutely and utterly horrifying, need to be talked about with a lot of honesty and a lot more frequently than we probably feel comfortable with. There are a lot of victims that often just don’t feel like they can summon up the strength to talk about their pain and struggles due to the fact that they are scared of being judged by the people they want to tell and I believe that a show such as 13 Reasons Why does offer a doorway to having more conversations about these very current issues. We must remember that if we allow ourselves to be open about these things, even if we are not always personally involved, victims might be able to seek help with less fear with more security.
However, I would like to point out that while this show does all of that and more in terms of raising awareness, there is a very, very graphical suicide scene towards the end of the last episode which could be very triggering to certain people and I highly recommend anyone who might be affected by that to skip over it (between minutes 36-39 I believe but I am not 100% sure). There is a warning at the beginning of the episode but I honestly do not think that that really depicts just how bad it will be. Not only that but there are also two very hard rape scenes as well which if something to keep in mind as well.
* If you would like a full list of all the possible triggers, a couple of fans have compiled a list here that might be very helpful to look at before watching the show*
So while I do commend this show for raising needed awareness and being super raw and honest about all of the topics, I personally felt that the graphical scene at the end of Tape 7 Side A was extremely unnecessary and even counteractive since these scenes can be very triggering and might even increase attempts at suicide.
If however, you are aware of all of the graphical scenes (or know when to skip over them) and have decided for yourself that it is okay for you to watch, then I would highly recommend you to give this show a try. I definitely do not regret it one bit and know that I have grown so much as a person, especially as a person who is becoming more aware of others around me, thanks to this show.
Let me start off by saying that I did not realize just how heavy and hard this show was going to get when I first started watching it. The first couple of episodes were actually pretty fun to watch and it seemed like the things that happened were actually pretty “normal” and pretty bearable. Well, that’s when it all escalated.
Things just went from bad to worse to absolutely catastrophic.
I have to be honest and say that I would be lying if I said that there never was a moment where I thought Hannah was exaggerating and where she was taking things too seriously. But then I thought to myself: yeah, she might have taken things a bit seriously at times, but so what? Don’t we all do that at times? And besides, just because she might have been sensitive or have been a bit defensive at times doesn’t change the fact that what people did to her afterwards was way worse. Not only that but Hannah also had countless moments when she tried to make things right with people, like Jessica. On top of that, it is completely understandable that Hannah had started to become more defensive about certain things after what had happened to her with Justin, Bryce (in the supermarket) and Marcus.
And another thing to keep in mind: she wasn’t blaming each person equally. There were clearly people who did worse and less bad things. But the bottom line was that it all contributed to Hannah coming to a point where she wanted to kill herself. So while it might not be worth considering putting some of the things that happened on the “reasons” list to some people, they were still stories that were important and worth telling and ultimately showed us the path to how Hannah was isolated.
My thoughts on all of the characters:
Hannah: Hannah, poor Hannah. There are no words to describe just how much I felt with her throughout all 13 reasons. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see her go from a pretty confident girl who was extremely upbeat to someone who got more and more defensive and who’s soul got more and more crushed. I think that while I can in no way really understand what it was like for her to go through what she did, I do think that as a woman I can – at least to a certain point – empathize with the objectification that Hannah goes through. A lot of the things that she dealt with might have seemed like typical ‘high-school’ stuff, the kind of stuff that would usually make you roll your eyes and say “boys will be boys” but I do know that sexually harassing words can cut deeper into a person than any weapon could at times and that it will be something that you carry around with you for a long time.
Seeing her try to start over again over and over and failing each time made my heart break bit by bit. Seeing her reach out to people just to have them turn her down because she was too much of a ‘drama queen’ even though she was legitimately dying on the inside every day was really hard to watch. Seeing her ultimately come to a point where she just didn’t try to defend herself anymore and just let Bryce rape her in the hot tub made me want to smash my TV into bits and pieces. And of course, seeing her die at the end completely ripped my heart apart. She deserved better. She really and truly did. And by that I don’t just mean Hannah in particular. Everyone who is suffering from things like this, who are depressed and are suicidal – they all deserve better and we need to be there to help them.
Clay: It was extremely difficult for me to watch Clay listen to the tapes at certain points in the show. A lot of viewers have complained that it took him too long to listen to all of them but what would you have done? He was the one who had the deepest connection to Hannah. He had loved her and wanted her and couldn’t even begin to understand why he would have been on the tapes to begin with. The girl he loved was there one day and gone the next. Do you truly think that you would have been able to listen to all thirteen tapes one after the other if you knew you were one of the reasons the person you loved was dead?
It was also incredibly heartbreaking to see Clay get more and more depressed every day that he was listening to Hannah. I don’t just believe it was the tapes that were affecting him in that way, though. I believe a lot of it was due to the fact that he was the one who wanted to take action, to have the people who contributed to Hannah’s death pay for what they did but he kept getting stopped and it was killing him. He wanted revenge for the girl he loved and it drove him absolutely crazy.
Clay truly has a heart of gold and it was incredibly uplifting and respectful to see him handing in the tapes at the end of the show.
Justin: I have to be really honest, I had a lot of sympathy for Justin, especially in regards to his situation at home. I could even understand the fact that that entire situation brought him to a point where he felt so emotionally dependant on Bryce that he was too scared to go against him. For Justin, losing Bryce meant losing his lifeline. But while I might understand his motives, that does not for one second excuse the fact that he let Bryce do what he did to Jessica and not come clean to her afterwards. I think that Justin is a character that has a chance to redeem himself but I don’t think that anyone should ever forget what he did.
Jessica: This was probably the character (besides Hannah and Alex) whom I felt the most sympathy and pain for. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for her to have gone through Bryce assaulting her the way that he did. It was also horrifying to see how she got more and more unstable throughout the show, and how she was delving into alcoholism. It’s pretty clear that she did have some recollection of what happened that night at her party, but she was strongly suppressing it in her mind and convincing herself that it didn’t happen.
One thing that I just can’t really understand though, is why she voluntarily hung out with Bryce alone those couple times. It’s clear that even if she’s not completely letting herself remember what happened that night, she definitely knew something and I’m sure she knew it was Bryce. Why would she have wanted to ever come near him?
It was really powerful to see that at the end she finally manages to come to terms what happened to her and to make the decision to move forward.
While I do think she was quite a bitch at times, I do wish her the best of strength for what is to come and I also hope she can finally get justice with Bryce.
Alex: Alex. Deserved. Better. What I really admired and respected about Alex was that he was pretty much the only one who appears on the tapes who shows genuine and honest remorse for what he did to Hannah. I admired his courage and the fact that he was standing up for Clay against the other guys. It was so heartbreaking to hear about him shooting himself in the head (yes, I do believe it was suicide). Thinking back on it, it’s clear that there were many signs of depression and suicidal thinking with Alex. I also seriously, seriously hope he doesn’t die.
Tyler: I don’t really know what to say about this guy. He’s a creep and shouldn’t have taken that picture of Hannah. What I don’t like about him is that he didn’t really show any signs that he was sorry for what he did, even though it’s pretty clear that what he did was actual privacy infringement. But the most important question is: What is he doing with that gun?
Courtney: Gaaah. I really disliked Courtney. Her entire attitude was extremely self-centered – all she really cared about was how to protect herself and her reputation. While I do respect the fact that she was going through some conflicting things with her sexuality, that didn’t in any way excuse her behavior towards Hannah and the rumor that she spread about her which ultimately destroyed her reputation. Not only that, but the fact that she kept trying to protect Bryce made me really, really angry. “Alleged rapist”? Yeah alright, shut up Courtney.
Marcus: I don’t have a lot to say about Marcus. His character wasn’t very prominent in the show. At first I thought he was a very sweet guy and that he wasn’t really going to have that much of an impact on Hannah’s life, but oh my was I wrong about that. He’s absolutely disgusting and completely doesn’t understand the boundaries of sexual harassment, Dollar Valentine aside. It was utterly disgusting seeing him trying to fondle Hannah in that diner. He needs a massive reality check and boot camp.
Zach: While I do think Zach made a lot of mistakes over the course of Hannah’s story I can’t bring myself to see him as a bad guy. He absolutely and definitely should have reacted to Hannah’s letter in a different way, and yes, he is definitely one to blame when it came to isolating Hannah but deep down, I don’t think he meant it. He was hurt over what Hannah said and reacted in a very bad and horrible way but I do believe that he does feel sorry for what he did and if there is a second season, I do believe that he will redeem himself in some way.
Tony: Ah, Tony. Clay’s guardian angel. At first, I thought he was extremely creepy to be following Clay around so much but it became clear to me soon that he was really just trying to look out for him. He was the guider of wisdom in this show and the rock that Clay could kind of grab on to at times. He was the 21st century Gandalf.
What made me respect him that much more was that at the end he ends up going to the Baker’s and giving them Hannah’s tapes. I do believe that they deserved to have them in the first place and it was really great to see Tony admit to them that he should not have kept Hannah’s secrets from them.
- Is Alex dead? Was it really a suicide?
- Is Jessica finally going to get the justice that she deserves?
- What in God’s name is Tyler planning on doing with that gun? Is he going to kill someone? Is he planning on shooting down the school?
- Where is Justin going to go now that he doesn’t have anyone?
- How will Skye’s story continue and how will Clay impact that?
- How will Hannah’s parents react to her audio files, and will they use that against the school?
- Will Bryce (finally) go to jail?
- Will Zach redeem himself? (As well as other characters).
- Did Hannah leave anything else (besides the tapes) for her parents specifically?
- Will Clay’s mom leave her case?
- Where the heck are Clay, Tony, Skye and Brad headed?