13 Reasons Why: Life, High School & Suicide in Dark Netflix Teen Drama
DramaMystery & Suspense
Netflix has become an entertainment powerhouse since it first launched as an on-demand streaming service. While not all its original shows have been hits, Netflix the production house is very much on the rise, with one of the latest shows to get people talking coming in the form of 13 Reasons Why, based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Jay Asher.
The show’s story revolves mostly around Clay; a high school student who receives a box after a close friend of his commits suicide. In the box is a series of 13 audio cassette tapes on which Hana – his friend – has recorded the thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Each tape represents a person who has let her down in one way or another and deserves to share the blame of her untimely death, with the tapes covering topics such as relationships, rape, bullying and of course suicide.
Direction in the show is top notch with each episode concentrating on an individual person and event, making character development a central element.
Possibly the biggest achievement on 13 Reasons Why, however, is the acting. Dylan Minnette plays Clay Jenson as a likable lead who gets thrown into the mess by design and the only one who tries to do the right thing. Katherine Langford’s role as the deceased Hanna Baker is the key, though; she has a revealing face that evokes emotion with just one look.
The show has a received a generally positive critical response, receiving 8.9/10 on IMDB and an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but as many have pointed out, the show isn’t without its problems. The issues that Hana goes through are too deep-rooted in teen-angst clichés to sit comfortably with the dark tone, for example. In addition, the lessons that the characters and the audience are meant to learn through the revelations of the tapes are quite one-note, while the woulda, coulda, shoulda of it all is far too simple.
In the age of TV binging, this is one show that is certainly worthy, thanks to some engaging acting and a format that keeps you wanting to see what comes next. When you step back and look at the whole series, however, it lacks the intelligence and depth to rise above its teen drama setting and is ultimately a couple of clear notches below top Netflix originals such as Narcos, Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black.