“I’m about to tell you the story of my life – more specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to this tape, you’re one of the reasons why,” explains high schooler Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) in the first episode of Netflix’s newest original drama, 13 REASONS WHY. Netflix’s newest series is based on the novel by Jay Asher – about a young girl who was there and then suddenly gone, through the eyes and ears of her classmate Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette). He’s a very important character in the 13 episode series and just one person of many trying to put the pieces together and find out why Hannah killed herself. We first meet Clay lost in a memory about Hannah Baker that will literally stop you in your seat. Enter her distraught parents who walk down the long hallway to clean out their daughter’s locker as their lawyer instructed them to read everything. This is very important and propels her parents to attempt to dig deeper into who their child really was. Clay finds a tape left by Hannah which exclaims that she’s going to tell the story why she ended her life and that if you’ve received a box you’re part of the reason why. Her words “Don’t take me for granted, not again.” Clay replies, “I never did” as he gets side-swiped on his bike going home. She tells him to do what she says, not more, not less.
He goes home only to rush back out as his worried mother hands him his helmet. We flash back to a moment with Hannah making a comment about his helmet, one that we callback to throughout the first episodes, as it’s the moment she gave him a nickname “helmet”. They both worked together at the movies and she invites him to a party at her house. As we jump back to the present he’s following directions on a map lead by Hannah’s first tape, a place she refers to as the beginning of the end. As the party unfolds it becomes clear that they’re are friends and he has a crush on her. Hannah’s voiceover haunts the story like a ghost lurking above so awry but innocent and always speaking only when necessary to drive the story forward. We learn that Justin, school jock, was her Kryptonite as she used every opportunity to get closer to him. Like most girls experiencing their first crush, she made him notice her and even pretended to enjoy the same things to get on his radar. Her plan worked and perhaps it worked too well as their love story unfolds beat by beat. We flashback to her kiss with Justin it was so young and presumably innocent but she hints that it was just a kiss and nothing more than what you’ve heard. You quickly realize that these tapes won’t only tell you why she killed herself but it’s her final opportunity to tell the truth against all the rumors and all the lies that have been told about her. Justin in a group of his friends shows a picture of what he “did at the park” with Hannah. A rumor based on a kiss ruined a memory that was supposed to be special for Hannah but quickly unravels her life.
In the next installment, we find her next reason: Jessica. The pair becomes friends when they have to get counseling. Mrs. Antilly thinks they could be friends. A friendship that began over hot chocolate. It’s been two weeks and a new guy appears, one that could be crushing on the both of them. A trio of friendship ensues as the three become best friends but eventually breaking up – well at least with Hannah. The second installment proves its thesis that friendship is complicated, over complicated almost never simple. Their friendship was broken when two became three, and as their relationship disappeared things not only got complicated but messy. Jessica and Hannah have a very different point of view on the demise of their friendship, but who can we believe? It’s clear something is bothering Jessica as she’s noticeably off from her previous self in the flashbacks. I think the truth will lie somewhere in the middle, but for now, I’m going with Hannah as Jessica is about to lose it at any minute.
Hannah Baker’s third tape is embroiled in raw, honest truth about boys who disrespect women’s bodies.This episode proved to not only be the strongest but rawest thought-provoking episode yet, as the series goes deeper into a disastrous high school atmosphere that led to Hannah Baker’s suicide. There were a few light moments between Hannah and Clay but that quickly died when it was clear everyone had a guilty conscious. Alex is on Hannah’s list because he put her on a list for having the ‘Best Ass’ in the year. Hannah quickly reminds you that it’s only “a little thing”, in such a haunting way that calls back to the cruel high school atmosphere she encountered before taking her own life. How much is Alex to blame for Hannah’s death? He know’s something we don’t yet as he’s listened to all of the tapes. All of this shows the very real and ugly gender politics in this third episode, from the clichéd locker room moment to Hannah being worried she’ll be dismissed as a “stupid girl”. We however know Hannah is not stupid. Alex could not have known that he set a hurricane in motion, but it’s no surprise he feels guilty. At the end of the episode, he jumps into the pool, for a moment he falls to the bottom only to resurface.
The meaning of Hannah’s final message of last episode reveals that Hannah had a stalker. The tapes send Clay to Tyler the yearbook photographer’s house, he confronts Tyler about the picture, who reveals his love for her. Tyler believed that Hannah wasn’t like any other girl he’s ever photographed, she was different and to him that made him fall in love with her. Clay demands he destroys the photos he took of Hannah, and Tyler shows him one that he took of Clay walking with Hannah. Clay caught all of their nice moments and we can begin to see that he was also in love with her. Meanwhile, Hannah’s parents are dealing with their own loss, rightfully so as each of her parents go in different directions to grieve their daughter. It’s Hannah’s mom who wants to continue the fight to find out what was really happening to her daughter.
Overall, the first four episodes are more than binge-worthy. It’s necessary viewing, with a raw opening up dialogue and sequence of events that so clearly open up sore wounds of lost friendships, failed romances and broken relationships. This honest portrayal of what exactly it means to be in high school and how it can affect your wellbeing when good meaning people can but won’t do anything to help is bold and thought-provoking. It’s rare to find a show so open, honest, and timely but 13 Reasons Why hits the nail on the head with each episodes propelling you down a roller coaster of emotions with the question, Why did Hannah Baker take her life?
Season 01, Episode 1-4 (S01E01-04)
13 Reasons Why airs on Netflix
Jerrica Long | Contributor