(Minor spoilers. Read at your own risk.)
Recently, a new binge-inducing TV series has debuted on Netflix: 13 Reasons Why. My husband and I spent a few days watching it in our spare time, getting an episode or two in when we could.
There are enormous things I like about the series- the freshness of delivering the story through cassette tapes was great, and that soundtrack is probably the best of any TV show I’ve ever watched.
The acting is believable for the most part, the characters coming to life and being painted in a dynamic light. We’re offered a few decent backstories, especially for people who aren’t the true “main” characters. It’s easy to form emotional attachments to the characters, and I had a few that I liked.
And you’re defnitely there with Hannah, all the way through.
The writers understood the complexities and dynamics of interpersonal relationships; the problems of one set of people would bleed into the problems of others in a way that didn’t come across as forced.
More importantly, that overall message concerning bullying, suicide, and the connection between the two is something that can’t be overstated in this day and age. As a survivor of bullying myself, I felt like I would have a connection with this series.
But I didn’t.
The series is too long. 13 half-hour episodes would’ve been more appropriate than 13 hour-long episodes. Several episodes seemed to drag on, and the justification that appeared in the series is that our protagonist (Clay) was so emotionally traumatized that he couldn’t make it through the tapes in one long listening session.
I didn’t find that realistic or believable at all.
The most unbelievable character is Tony. He doesn’t seem like a teenager or someone who should be in high school, and people across the internet have aptly dubbed him “Plot Device Tony.” His accent is wrong, his speech patterns are wrong, his random appearances are wrong for him to be a teenager. I’m also not sure he was set in the correct era as he seems more like someone you would find in a 1950s.
Then comes the diversity issue. While I’m glad the series added more characters of different backgrounds, they all end up kind of being in the circle of the bad guys or as side characters- the same problem that we see in Riverdale.
Worth of note is that Ross Butler, who plays the asshole jock Zach Dempsey in 13 Reasons Why, also plays the asshole jock Reggie Mantle in Riverdale.
The next issue is the main antagonist doesn’t have a backstory that forces us to consider showing him empathy. He’s just an asshole jock among asshole jocks. He’s easy to hate.
Contrast that with the character Courtney, her story, and why she does what she does- her actions are compelling. They don’t justify her, but we can understand her.
And then there was the lack of any twist or real crescendo. The series fizzles out. We don’t have a real resolution, only Clay finishing listening to the tapes. No justice is seen, no closure is reached. I was really, really waiting for some major plot twist to appear and completely throw the series and make me fawn over the true brilliance so that I could recommend the show to anyone and everyone who would listen, but I was not granted that.
And then there was the lie. The lie my husband and I both picked up on, the lie that was nothing but characters saying and doing things that contributed to the lie. And I can’t forgive the series for that.
Will there be a season 2? It’s wide open for that. But I won’t be watching 13 More Reasons Why.