Launching its 13-episode first season at midnight on Netflix, 13 Reasons Why — written by Brian Yorkey and executive produced by Selena Gomez — is really quite well done and worth watching. Based on Jay Asher’s bestselling 2007 YA novel, the small-screen adaptation powerfully and astutely addresses the many unseen and/or overlooked reasons behind the suicide of 17-year-old Hannah Baker and its consequences.
Following Hannah’s death, 13 people in her life are delivered cassette tapes and essentially blackmailed to follow the map she has laid out for them — or risk their own dirty secrets being exposed. Amid all of it is the misfit-of-sorts Clay, who had a seemingly mutual attraction to Hannah and who finds himself trying to put the pieces together, even when some are trying hard to stop him.
Amid jumps back and forth in time, perspective and perception, topics including sexual assault, shaming, depression, jock culture, outsiders and more are weaved into what is a truly compelling and emotionally impactful tale. As I say in my video review above it is made all the more engrossing by its two leads — relative newcomer Katherine Langford as Hannah and Dylan Minnette as Clay. In a genre that regularly provides new faces but often the same old approach, they are true breakouts who carry the weight of what is for the most part a heavy load in the series directed by the likes of Spotlight’s Tom McCarthy, Jessica Yu and Mysterious Skin’s Greg Araki. There is also a solid performance by Kate Walsh as Hannah’s devastated and angry mother that might be the best thing the Private Practice alum has done.
No spoilers here — even for those who read the book — but as anyone who has seen Heathers, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Riverdale or River’s Edge or certainly from their own experiences knows, high school can be a leg-hold trap at the best of times, even for the popular kids who seem to be breezing through. Yes there is some unnecessary padding and filler in 13 Reasons Why, but the series opens that locker and take a good look at the cumulative humiliations and hurts we too often ignore until we can’t look away – the reasons that pushed a 17-year-old girl to kill herself.
Watch my video review above for more on why I think 13 Reasons Why is so good, and a show you will want to watch this weekend, then tell us what you think.