EntertainmentTelevision Reviews

13 Reasons Why TV Show Review

It’s time for something that I don’t do too often, and that’s a review of a television show! Honestly, I really like television, but I just don’t have the time to fully invest myself in a longer show even though I wish I did. Every now and again, I do get a chance to watch some TV, so I wanted to talk about a show that almost every single person on Earth is talking about right now, 13 Reasons Why! Unless you’ve had your head stuck in a hole for the past three weeks, you’ve probably heard all about this show. Weird enough, I hadn’t heard a word about it before it came out, but I feel like that’s a great way to determine whether or not a show has buzz. It had no fire before the release, and three weeks later everybody on the planet is talking about it. Right now this needs no introduction, so let’s just talk about 13 Reasons Why!

13 Reasons Why is a Netflix original series based on a book of the same name by Jay Asher and stars Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Christian Navarro, Justin Prentice, Miles Heizer, Brandon Flynn, Ross Butler, and many, many more insanely talented actors who would probably fill the entire review if I chose to list them all out. After a student at Liberty High School decides to take her own life, Clay Jensen, another student at Liberty High School, receives 13 tapes laying out all of the reasons for her choice. As he slowly works his way through the tapes, he starts to uncover the truth about his school, his classmates, and Hannah Baker.

I usually like to watch television that makes me smile. I like to put it on in the background while I eat dinner or even fall asleep to something that I’m not emotionally invested in. 13 Reasons Why is not that kind of television show. It’s kind of an odd show in that it’s extremely difficult to watch, yet it’s so compelling, and I didn’t want to stop watching. There are times where I had to cover my eyes and ears, but I uncovered them right away because I couldn’t bear to miss a second. Right off the bat, from the opening line, I was sucked in and emotionally invested. When you approach this subject matter, I think that you need to handle it with care, thought, and depth, and I think this show does a fantastic job of balancing all three. The show has so many layers, and the characters are all individuals who have defining characteristics, and we are always able to see each person for exactly who they are. The characters are the reasons that this show works because they go through so many different phases of their lives in such a short period of time. They all have extremely compelling arcs, and we get to see them from their highest points to their lowest points. We see when they’re at the top of the world, but we also see them when they’ve been broken down into just about nothing, and it’s not just through the eyes of Hannah Baker. It’s showcased by the jocks, the nerds, the popular girls, the smart girls, and the outsiders, and it’s always compelling. I also can’t praise these performances enough. There aren’t many big names in this show. You could probably argue that Dylan Minnette is the biggest, and he’s still far from his peak and where I think he is going to end up in a few short years, but every single performance has so many layers and adds to the rounding of the characters. It feels like they draw from their own life experiences, their own strength, and their own pain to bring these characters to life, and they blew me away. I also think the show does a great job of screen distribution when it comes to the characters. I was always captivated by what was happening on-screen, and even though the story is told through so many different people and perspectives, I never wanted to move to a different area, and I was never bored by a character’s arc. It’s always difficult to balance dozens of characters, but 13 Reasons Why mastered it.

I’d probably say that the most compelling storyline, and for good reason, was Hannah Baker’s. Early on in the show, I really thought some of the “reasons” were bland, and she seemed like such a confident individual. I really wondered how a girl with such charisma ended up at a place low enough to where she decides to take her own life. I began thinking this, but by the end I completely understood. It wasn’t simply the small reasons. It was the culmination of all these events and issues, and it became too much for her. I don’t think that suicide is ever the option. I truly believe that everyone is valuable and has love to both give and receive, but I do see why her confidence was destroyed by everything that transpired. I also think that a lot of people will be able to connect to her issues, and I think that this show will demonstrate that we need to deal with these issues in healthy ways such as discourse and embracing people who can rehabilitate you and show you that when your skills and personality are applied correctly, you always mean more good than bad. I think that a lot of people in life face issues such as loneliness, nothingness, and the idea that they might be more of an issue than a convenience to everybody they interact with. It’s something that comes with being human. We ponder existence and think about its meaning, and it can be a lot to process. I do believe 13 Reasons Why is spreading a great message about our need to treat people as though they have value as well as to come forward when you need help or something is bothering you. I think that life’s greatness is demonstrated through Clay, and a large chunk of audience members will be able to connect to Clay and understand where he is coming from as well as appreciate his values. He is another example showing that love exists. Someone who cares is out there, even if it doesn’t always say the words you want it to say or pick up on the signs you want it to pick up on. The series is very grounded in the harsher sides of realities, and I loved that aspect.

Another thing that I loved was that it wasn’t afraid to shy away from anything. It wasn’t afraid to leave loose ends because suicide is something that will never tie itself into a nice bow. Suicide is something that will be done without the consent or knowledge from others, and the love will never have an opportunity to seep back in. Death is final, and loved ones will never have the chance to tell the person that they were valuable and adored. Actually, they had the chance, but may not have sent the message clearly enough or often enough. I think that a lot of people will be mad that a lot of arcs are left open, but that’s almost too perfect. The show acknowledges itself and the world in such a smart and reflexive way. It’s a bold choice to leave open ends because you can make your audience upset, but they went for it, and it worked for me. I also think they were smart in deciding what they did and didn’t show. A lot of the way the show is shot and directed is through the art of perspective and reaction. We see an event, we see the repercussions, we see the reaction. Sometimes what is implied suits the show perfectly, but other times they face their subject matter head on and dare us to look at what’s on-screen.

I loved the show, and I think it’s great, but I did have a couple of problems with it. First of all, though the show is very grounded and depicts reality well for the most part, kids retain and spread information a bit differently than the kids in the show do. I know that this wouldn’t have worked for a television show, so it’s tough to fault them, but if someone at a modern high school received these tapes, everyone at the school would have the rundown in a matter of hours, maybe minutes. It wouldn’t take anyone a very long time to know exactly what was happening, and the distribution would be much different. Many characters are very secretive, and it works to an extent, but it also made me wonder if kids would actually do this as compared to just telling others. Next, a lot of the writing is either stating the obvious or extremely secretive. As far as stating the obvious goes, it felt out-of-place for a show that feels so smart and addresses issues such as suicide. Sometimes the show wants me to interpret this information, but other times it is laid out for me on a silver platter.

Overall, I think that this show is so smart and socially relevant, and it addresses the problems it faces in such a real way that conveys a message that needs to be sent in this day and age. The performances are brilliant, and they really bring the depth out of these characters who are facing one of the most traumatic moments of their young lives. The characters are anything but flat, and we see them at every stage of their lives. Often they seem to be difficult to read and silent because the show revolves around a scary silence. The scariest things aren’t the things we see. They’re the things we don’t see and can’t prepare ourselves for in the future. I was completely sucked in the entire time, and it’s storytelling is so bold. The bold risks work for the best, and they make this look at the way suicide effects an entire community so visceral and real. I’m going to give 13 Reasons Why an 8.8/10.

Have you watched 13 Reasons Why? Unless you’ve been stranded on an island, you’re probably thinking that I’m crazy for even asking, but I still want to know if you have or are as well as what you think about the show! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!

Justin Lyons

Hey, it's Justin Lyons! I am the Chief Film Critic for The Pulse. Have any questions for me? Please feel free to email me at [email protected]