Thirteen Reasons Why: Season 1 sets an almost impossible standard for what may follow. For YA novels, Netflix has presented an adaptation which is no holds barred and barely snips away at anything. In fact, it does what many don’t think to do. It fleshes out the characters who we heard about in the books, and makes them human, complicated, and makes it harder to just take the protagonist’s side. But what it also does is make its subject, both suicide and Hannah, into something which you develop hard to explain feelings on. For whether you have had suicidal thoughts, know someone who does, or know someone who killed themselves, this series forces you to reflect on your feelings. In terms of what you can do, could do, and trying to understand why someone would do that to themselves.
- Probably the best storyline you will ever watch dealing with teen suicide, and what it is really like to be a teenager since Skins.
- Langford, and most of the lead actresses, will get a response out of you. Langford, as Hannah, especially will as she makes you cry and so emotional that you both want to see what she’ll do next yet feel like you will have to plan out when you see her perform. If only because you know that you’ll likely need a box of tissues, have nothing negative going on in your life, and are ready to connect with another human being. One you can’t comfort, laugh with, but only act as some sort of voyeur.
- It does an excellent job in not using creative liberties so that the adaptor can make the story their own. Instead, it expands on what Jay Asher didn’t touch on and that is the lives of the people subjected to these tapes. The people who, in the books, are just evil and demonized, but in this show they are complicated figures. Some of which, actually most, outside of Marcus, Bryce, and maybe Courtney, you almost feel bad for since you can tell they didn’t actively want to hurt Hannah.
- It shows how complicated suicide is from both points of view. You will not be on Hannah’s side and think her suicide was justified because there was always Clay, Kat, her parents, and because her own insecurities kept her from maintaining a healthy connection with them. Yet, at the same time, you don’t blame her for what she did since the characters show so many reasons why they themselves may contemplate suicide. For whether it is Justin’s home life and losing everyone, Tyler always being the outsider looking in, never being invited to be an active participant, and the rest of the things people are struggling with, it becomes clear the decision isn’t easy. Nor is it easy to deal with your own stuff and attempt to also placate people going through their own thing.
- Being that Jay Asher doesn’t describe a single character in the book, well, outside of noting Hannah has a nice ass, everyone was a blank canvas. Pretty much, outside of their name hinting at their gender, you were given nothing else to go by. With this, the show cast a diverse group in which Asians, Latinx, Black, gay, lesbian, punk/gothic, and more kids are represented. Even kids who aren’t your usual YA novel type who are wealthy, with 2 parents in the home, and etc.However, with that came the need to address the different cultures and how they influenced and affected the characters. This, for some, could be a little polarizing. Well, only if you rely on first impressions. With Tony, we see him and some guys beat up this one dude and with all this talk about how the cops are in his neighborhood and all that, you may think he is a thug. Then with Courtney, you may think she is some overachiever who is perhaps a stereotypical Asian person. Yet, this isn’t the case. With time, what could have been token minorities, actors of color just put in for some shallow sense of diversity get to be more than just actors who just so happen to not be white. From things like Zach’s middle name being clearly Asian to Tony talking about brujas and things belong to Latinx and Hispanic culture, these characters aren’t whitewashed at all. They don’t harp on their cultures or sexuality, but they aren’t devoid of what makes them who they are either.
- Clay can be a very frustrating character to follow. He loses that ability to be someone who acts as a medium for us and now he is a complicated character like everyone else. However, we don’t get time away from him that much and, honestly, with the addition of making it seem Clay has anxiety issues, or perhaps something beyond that, the drama he causes/participates in is almost like what you see on FreeForm.
- The state we are left in when it comes to Alex, Justin and Tyler make it so the show doesn’t truly end. It leaves just enough room for another season, maybe a Netflix original movie. One which could lead us to learn why Alex decided to shoot himself in the head, what ever happened to Justin, or if Tyler did end up shooting the school. All, I must admit, interesting stories, but none of which I feel should be built off Hannah’s suicide.
Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)
Event series have become a thing. From A Series of Unfortunate Events to this, I think it is becoming clear that rather than hoping for a movie, or a long running TV series, this maybe the best way to handle a book. For it doesn’t add extra fat, it leads to just enough episodes, outside of Big Little Lies, to tell the story. And, if we are lucky, when creative license is used, it will be like this show. It won’t be about adding new characters but fleshing out the ones that existed. Showing them as more than how the protagonist sees them but as they see themselves, as they see the other named characters in the story. For that is all any fan wants. To relieve that story which was so special to them and not have it ruined because Hollywood saw a quick buck to make.
Hence why, despite some issues with Clay, at times, and how frustrating it was to watch Hannah look for love and friendship in all the wrong places, on top of the unnecessary sequel bait, this is being marked positive. Hell, why it is being recommended. For it honestly does set a standard I hope more adaptations, be them on Netflix, HBO, FreeForm, or what have you, inspire to. Especially when it is just one single book and not a series or long time property like Gotham. For, with how Thirteen Reasons Why was handled, it shows respect not just to the author, but also the fans who connected to the characters, found the book as an outlet, or simply have fond memories they don’t want tarnished.