13 Reasons Why is a television series developed by Brian Yorkey for Netflix and executive produced by Tom McCarthy and Selena Gomez. Gomez was originally going to play the lead character in what would have been a film adaptation of 13 Reasons Why. However, that did not transpire; it was created as a TV show instead and it is based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher. The story focuses on Hannah (Katherine Langford), a high-school student who kills herself after an accumulation of traumatic failures, brought on by select individuals within their school, including Clay (Dylan Minnette), a shy, introverted classmate of Hannah.
My Knowledge and Expectation of Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why
I did not know anything about 13 Reasons Why until a couple of weeks ago when it became a phenomenon. Everyone was talking about it whether it was on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube; it was being praised across the board and it made me want to watch it as soon as possible. From reading the synopsis, I knew that this was going to be a show which dealt with very serious, deep issues such as suicide, mental health, bullying and cyber-bullying. I was interested to see how well 13 Reasons Why would handle them.
My Thoughts on Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why
This is one of the best seasons of television that I have watched in a long time. One of the many things that impressed me about 13 Reasons Why was the performances of the young, diverse cast. Certainly, Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette are brilliant as Hannah and Clay. They show immense range in their acting and they had great chemistry together which makes their relationship believable. You really connect with these two characters and deeply care about them as the show progresses. I really liked Christian Navarro’s portrayal of Tony who was one of my favourite characters along with Clay and Jeff (Brandon Larracuente). Brandon Flynn also gave a layered performance as Justin.
In fact, every character in 13 Reasons Why is layered. No one in this show is a superficial stereotype. It may seem that way at the beginning. But, as all great shows do, the characters are fleshed out and developed to a point where you are invested in every person in the show, even the ones you don’t like (*cough* Courtney *cough*). They feel like real people. As a collective, the young cast achieved the difficult feat of outshining the adult actors in the show who themselves were very good, especially Kate Walsh who played Hannah’s mother.
Mature and Respectful
13 Reasons Why brilliantly deals with its heavy themes with a remarkable deal of maturity, grace and respect. It could have been very easy for the show to have an overbearing message or have an abundance of clichés. Instead, 13 Reasons Why is sensitive and authentic in portraying themes such as suicide, mental health and the struggle of adolescence in an extremely powerful way. There are many times where this show is difficult to watch, especially in the later episodes, but it is never offensive or exploitative.
A lot of this is down to brilliant storytelling. Each episode focuses on one side of the tapes that Clay listens to and, through this, each episode tells us something new about Hannah, Clay and/or the other characters/relationships in the show. The story grips you from the beginning, it never lets go and it will stick with you well after it is over.
I also appreciated how, after Hannah’s death, Clay’s life is shot with a blue lens whereas, in the flashbacks where Hannah is alive, Clay’s memories are shot in lens’ of bright, warm colours. I appreciated that subtle cinematography. Additionally, the use of music in 13 Reasons Why is fantastic. The music ranges in songs from the 80s to obscure indie bands and it really added to a lot of the emotional moments in the show.
Overall, I am extremely confident that 13 Reasons Why will help millions of people dealing with hardships in their life, especially millennials who can relate to a lot of what the show deals with. I also think it can be informative for older generations of people. There is something for everyone in this show and it has a lot of great qualities which helps it rank amongst shows such as Freaks and Geeks as one of the best high-school dramas ever made. Moreover, unlike Freaks and Geeks, I feel like 13 Reasons Why will be given the chance to continue its story in a second season as a lot of things are left unresolved and I am eager for more.