Get ready to embark on an emotional and thought-provoking ride with 13 Reasons Why, the new Netflix series.
by Julia Migné
Hannah Baker, a high school student, kills herself and thus begins the heartbreaking journey to find out why. As her parents struggle to wrap their head around Hannah’s tragic but definitive decision, they are completely unaware that she recorded the reasons leading to her suicide on tapes.
7 tapes for 13 reasons, all wrapped in a box accompanied by a map. The rules are simple, each tape’s face brings in one person who influenced Hannah’s final decision. Each of them will receive the tapes in order decided by Hannah. They have to listen to them and pass them on to the next person until the cycle is complete. If they fail to do so, the tapes will be made public for everyone to hear.
That’s the premise of young adult book, 13 Reasons Why, written by Jay Asher and now adapted as series by Netflix. The entire season is built around the tapes with each episode narrating one face, one piece of the puzzle that brought a teenage girl to the conclusion that living was not worthwhile anymore.
Centered around the character of Clay Jensen, played by Dylan Minnette, the drama unfolds as he learns the truth about what his friend and crush, Hannah, went through and the role he himself played in her death.
Taking us on a journey through Hannah’s voice, the show delivers a powerful message on bullying, slut-shaming, and on depression.
As she says herself: “You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life.”
As Hannah’s story unravels, we are made to introspect about important things that we often don’t pay much attention to. We often forget that our words and actions can affect someone in a way that we can’t undo. In Hannah’s words, “I guess that’s the point of it all. No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.”
Gripping and addictive, the show really manages to take the viewer in the head of Hannah Baker. The young adult genre is perfectly executed bringing its lot of raw emotions, teenage dramas, and moral dilemmas. Through Clay 13 Reasons Why depicts beautifully the pain and heartbreak that are associated with losing someone so suddenly.
More than just being about Hannah, the series is also about the dynamics and evolution of all the people who were somehow involved in her death. Aligning themselves to make sure the tapes don’t get public, the characters are forming unlikely alliances and are slowly made aware of the aftermaths of their behaviours.
The incredible cast manages to dig out all the different layers hidden beneath the surface of their characters and turn them into complex and torn teenagers.
Going through dark and serious topics such as bullying and sexual assault, 13 Reasons Why shines a light on the issue of suicide. And it’s not all about how Hannah’s friends react to her death but also how her parents struggle to understand what happened to their daughter, blaming themselves for missing the signs.
Kate Walsh is absolutely brilliant and touching in her role as Hannah’s mum, portraying the heartbreak, guilt and incomprehension of a broken mother.
The show, co-produced by Selena Gomez, sends a strong message, one that most of us can relate to. Life is complicated and messy. We all process, feel and react to certain events differently but it is still up to us to truly look out for each other. To be kind and considerate of anyone we might interact with because as Hannah would say: “In the end, everything matters.”
Julia Migné is a multimedia journalist and wildlife photographer specialising in environmental issues and odd hobbies. She has written for Africa Geographic and BBC Wildlife among others. An endless traveller, she swears that she would visit one country for each letter of the alphabet.