TV review (Netflix): 13 Reasons Why, a must-see show about teens, bullying, and suicide

TV review: 13 Reasons Why, on Netflix
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I'm not usually a "binge watcher" when it comes to TV shows - I like to savor a show, especially if we know it only has a limited number of episodes (ie, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, also on Netflix). However, I started watching 13 Reasons Why on Saturday, and just finished it last night, three days later.

The show is based on the book of the same name, by Jay Asher, which I remember liking, but apparently gave 2 out of 5 stars to on Goodreads, in 2011. They've made a few changes from the book, too, which you can read about here, and I eventually want to reread the book when I have time.

TV review: 13 Reasons Why, on Netflix

About the show (Wiki synopsis):
Hannah Baker, a high school student, dies by suicide. Two weeks later, Clay Jensen, one of her closest friends, finds a package on his doorstep containing 13 audio cassettes made by Hannah explaining the 13 reasons why she killed herself, and Clay is one of them. In order to find out how he fits in, Clay must listen to the tapes. But doing so may reveal a disturbing secret about Hannah, as well as some of his classmates, that Clay isn't ready for. Meanwhile, his classmates featured on these tapes set out to keep their secrets hidden, by any means necessary.

The TV series was probably one of the best teen series I've seen on TV (including Netflix) in a long time.

Starting from episode 1, we know that Hannah Baker has committed suicide. I read a review of the series that said something like "it's not fair for Netflix to make us fall in love with a dead girl," and I'd agree with that - overall, I liked Hannah as a person, though I have some nitpicking to do too (see below). She and her friend Clay are the two main characters in the show, even though Clay was more of an acquaintance to Hannah than a friend - they worked at the same movie theater together, but she had many secrets that Clay didn't know about.

Teens here are depicted very realistically - they swear, they drink at parties, and they're mean to each other in the hallways of their high school. Although the teen cast is mostly unrecognizable, movie fans may recognize Clay (Dylan Minnette) from Goosebumps, Prisoners, or TV's Scandal, and I definitely recognized Derek Luke, as one of the high school administrators, from Antwone Fisher; he was in TV's Empire, as well.

TV review: 13 Reasons Why, on Netflix

I'm going to be honest, and it might be an unpopular opinion: though I loved Hannah as a character, and also had a large amount of empathy for her, I had some issues with some of her actions (or non-actions, to be specific). Without spoilers: she witnesses a crime that later could have been reported—two crimes, actually, if we are being specific, though one is much more serious than the other—and does nothing about the first one, which later leads to the crime being repeated, this time with herself being involved. For the second crime, she tries to be a Good Samaritan and report it; unfortunately, by the time she finds a phone, the consequences of that crime have affected someone else, fatally.

That being said, she goes through much more bullying which anyone should be subjected to, as well as her reputation being tarnished at the beginning of the episodes, and this was one of the reasons she ultimately decided to kill herself.

(Related semi-spoiler: the suicide is shown, in episode 13 - I've never seen such a realistic depiction of suicide and it's very, very hard to watch.)

TV review: 13 Reasons Why, on Netflix

The other characters in the show are interesting, too, and they all have their own secrets, even Clay, who is probably has the most morals of any of the characters in the show. All of the kids featured on the cassette tapes have heard the tapes, since it was Hannah's wishes that the tapes be passed around between them, and now that Clay has them, they want to make sure that no one else hears about the tapes.

Each episode of 13 Reasons Why is harder to watch than the previous, and you'll be shocked at what happens once Hannah eventually does go to an authority figure at the school (Derek Luke) to share some of what has happened to her - his reply to her is woefully insufficient, and it's another part of her decision to take her own life, later that day.

I'd recommend 13 Reasons Why for any age group - if you're an adult and you're dismissing it as a "teen show," you'd be quite remiss in doing so.

5 stars out of 5.

*This is not a sponsored review/post - I wanted to share my review on the TV show.

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