By Emily Weikl
Many stories, regardless of medium, begin with an inciting action that moves it forward. The hero learns their secret origins, or a sister volunteer to take the other’s place in a dystopian spectacle, for example. This story, though, begins with an end – the end of a life.
The narrator, Hannah Baker, committed suicide recently when “13 Reasons Why” opens. Baker leaves cassette tapes to those people she considered reasons for taking her life, totaling to be 13 reasons. The majority of the people were friends, love interests and classmates. And one was a close friend of Baker’s, Clay Jensen, who was also in love with her.
The thirteen-episode series chronicles Jensen’s experience going through each of the tapes while an elusive figure and friend of Jensen’s, Tony Padilla, keeps tabs on him to make sure he’s listening.
The present day intermingles with the past as Baker’s voice shows viewers what her life was like in the months prior to her death. Jensen imagines her frequently while listening, all the while getting more and more emotional as he forgets she is really gone. Artistically, this e ect was well done on the part of those involved in “13 Reasons’” production. It shows how she lingers and how she still affects the lives of those she cared about after death.
“All of them [the directors] found interesting ways to show the merging of the past and the present, like Clay reaching out to feel Hannah feeling her heartbeat outside Tyler’s window in the fourth episode,” entertainment website Uproxx reported. “Every scene felt intimate and honest and real, even the ones that were clearly dream sequences like the first time we see Clay and Hannah dance together at the winter formal at the start of episode five.”
A main conflict in this involves a group of who are on the tapes that think Baker is lying on the tapes and want to stop Jensen from finishing them and spreading what is on them. But the truth always comes out and dramatically alters the lives of the those in the tapes as the story continues to unfold.
Jensen was unsettled knowing that he was on the tapes since he and Baker knew each other well. Their friendship blossoms into more through the flashbacks leading up to his tape. This makes it all the more heartbreaking being a reason she killed herself. The episode in which he learns what he actually did is perhaps the one that elicits the most emotion in the series.
There are viewer warnings in the episodes 9, 12 and 13 for the content in them. Viewers should watch these episodes with caution and consider if watching certain scenes will be traumatic for them. “13 Reasons” does not shy away from the world as it is by any means. Baker’s suicide is one of those scenes. It cannot be stressed enough that the scene is graphically shown and should be skipped for those who feel they cannot watch it.
As a whole, “13 Reasons” is far from a perfect show, due to some forays into melodrama and its handling of some subplots, yet these drawbacks don’t eclipse the show’s strengths.
“But even its flaws help to mimic the show’s ultimate goal: to paint a gorgeous, and terrible tapestry of what it means to live on this planet – and what it means for those that stay behind when we leave it,” according to Collider.
Some conflicts are unresolved by the thirteenth episode’s close, and a second season is uncertain. As the credits role, a viewer might feel dejected or disheartened at how cruel people can be. They might think that justice was left unserved to certain characters. They possibly could reflect on what they have said, what they have done, and how both can affect people that they know or have known.
What Jensen says to guidance counselor Mr. Porter at one point during the last episode serves as a lesson for the viewer. It is also a hope for the future, a hope that more people know that there is someone who cares about them.
“It has to get better. The way we treat each other, and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow.”
“13 Reasons Why” is now streaming on Netflix.