Why 13 Reasons Why Should Be the Next Show You Binge on Netflix
Netflix released its miniseries based on the book 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher on March 30, and though many were worried that their attempt to expand the 288-page, young adult novel into thirteen hour-long episodes full of controversial and difficult issues might go horribly wrong, it didn’t. In fact, it’s one of the best shows Netflix has ever produced. Here’s why.
Not only was the casting for this show impeccable, extremely important for a show with such powerful roles, but it also gives young and unknown actors and actresses a great opportunity to prove what they can do. Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette, who play the main characters of Hannah Baker and Clay Jenson respectively, are particularly breathtaking as they attempt to portray extremely complex and difficult characters. Though some casts highlight the leads and fall apart where the rest of the cast is concerned, this show does not suffer that fate. Each of the characters of this show goes through a lot, meaning each actor needed to prove him or herself, and they succeeded, which is extremely impressive considering how green most of the cast is. Standouts included actors for the characters of Jessica, Justin, Alex, Tyler, Tony, Bryce, and of course the mothers of both Hannah and Clay.
The Background Cast is Not Just Background
Going off the paragraph above, the non-lead characters do not suffer from the problem that a lot of large casts do in which they all become insignificant enough that they fade into the back of your mind whether it is due to lack of screen time or that their stories aren’t important enough to matter with everything else going on. These characters are very much not like that. You could not remove a single character from this story and have it make the same impact. Each one is memorable and each one matters. As the trailer explains, each of Hannah’s thirteen tapes corresponds to a person and something specific that person did that leads to her decision to end her life. Each of those moments stays with you until the very end, which is fully intentional as that is exactly what happened to Hannah.
Rather than “book”, I suppose I should say “story”. The book is only 288 pages, not nearly enough for thirteen hours of content, but you don’t actually mind that it’s not exactly the same. If you’ve read the book like I have, you’ll love this adaptation even though it isn’t a replica of the book. It expands the story and makes each character matter more. As I mentioned above, each of the thirteen reasons sticks with you, and a large reason for that is because each of the characters the thirteen reasons correspond to are actually present through the whole of the series. It explores their lives and thinks about the motivations behind why they did what they did. To some, both the book and series come off as blaming the individuals, but the point of the series isn’t to blame them; it seeks to understand them and show that the truth from one person’s point of view is not the whole story. In that, we get to learn a lot more about each of the characters and feel like they are real people with problems of their own.
It Doesn’t Shy Away from the Hard Subjects
Though this should go without saying, Netflix’s version of this tale about a young girl who leaves behind tapes of the thirteen reasons why she committed suicide takes on difficult subjects in a way that most TV shows and movies tend to avoid. The show gets extremely dark at times, forcing viewers to watch the brutality of Hannah’s death as well as other tough scenes – that I won’t go into to avoid spoilers – rather than shying away from the images. The show also displays multiple forms of bullying, sexual harassment, stalking, and objectification of young girls in such a way that is both considerate to the subjects at hand as well as real enough to make the viewer think.
It Doesn’t Treat the Characters Like Teenagers
A major fault that we often see with TV shows and movies that feature teenage characters is that they treat those characters like teenagers even when they are facing very real, very adult issues. If Netflix had fallen to this plague, it would have made the show nearly unwatchable, but they didn’t. Both the adults and high-school students of the show go through extremely difficult situations that are treated with equal respect and consideration. This is especially true for the bullying that Hannah experiences. She even states in her tapes that she expects everyone listening to think she overreacted or took it too seriously when she brings up an incident of bullying, but the show makes it clear that she did not and all bullying is serious.
As many people have guessed through the trailers or the fact that the two main characters are a boy and a girl who are the same age, the show does feature a bit of a love story, but it’s a unique love story you’ll actually want to know more about. This is not a Romeo and Juliet situation. In fact, Hannah and Clay were never technically a couple. The show makes it clear from the beginning that Clay had extremely strong feelings for Hannah and is devastated by her death, but the layers behind what happened between them become more and more complex as the story goes on. You wind up rooting for them to be together even though you know what happens to Hannah, and their “love story”, for lack of a better term, sticks with you long after the thirteenth episode is over.