13 Reasons Why : Season 1 Review

On October 29, 2015, it was announced Netflix and Paramount Television would be taking on the young adult novel ’13 Reasons Why’ penned by Jay Asher to become a miniseries, with Selena Gomez as an executive producer. The series was released on March 31 2017. And shortly after its release, Netflix announced that they’ve ordered a second season of the series due to the instant popularity it had gained.
Well, people who read the novel may already know what to expect, since the series is based on it. A viewer discretion advisement is in its very premise: The plot turns on events set in motion by 17-year-old Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), a beautiful girl who committed suicide.
Hannah was bullied, slut-shamed, scapegoated and relegated to the status of school pariah, and she tells her story posthumously via 13 confessional, indicting accounts recorded on cassette tapes.
The true nature of the mystery remains ambiguous through most of “13 Reason Why,” and that carrot-and-stick element of the plot is a prime motivation to gorge on one episode after another.
Hannah’s tapes allow her to achieve a sort of immortality along the way. The dead can tell tales, but the fact that they’re not available for follow-up questions or cross examination can be problematic. Hannah might also be an unreliable narrator the best type for a show like this one.
The plot, the story, the soundtrack all add to the mysteries leading to Hannah’s death.
Indeed, “13 Reasons Why” is a story about mourning and regret but the mystery is the main engine.  It commences when Hannah’s tapes turn up on the porch of Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette), a friend and classmate at Liberty High who quietly nursed a crush on the girl. Curious to listen to artifacts of a distant past, he’s instead horrified to hear the recently departed Hannah’s voice explaining that each story she tells represents one of the reasons she killed herself. Not only that, each chapter is dedicated to a person behind one of those reasons and, since he’s received the tapes, that means Clay is one of them.
This somewhat cruel task makes Clay curious to find out what he did and who else contributed to her death. And as difficult as Clay’s journey through the recent past and Hannah’s reasons turns out to be, his quest also makes “13 Reasons Why” highly addictive.
Both Langford and Minnette are the magnetic core of this drama. Separately and together, they have a dynamic chemistry that glows when they share the screen and energizes their scenes with others. In Clay, Minnette captures a blend of awkwardness and sensitivity that makes you pine for him to get the girl even though it’s clear that can never happen.
The pair leads a racially diverse cast, all of whom deliver formidable performances with few, if any, weak spots. Kate Walsh effectively plays Hannah’s bereft mother as if everything bright has been scooped out of her. Christian Navarro also stands out as Tony, one of those cool high school guys (with an impeccably restored vintage muscle car, no less) who holds no firm allegiances, and who happens to be a connoisseur of obsolete machinery — including cassette players. Tony has his secrets, as does everyone else at Liberty High, and Navarro makes him a crucial pillar of calm for Clay and the narrative, especially once the maelstrom of paranoia created by Hannah’s tapes grows furious.
An impressive team of producers and directors brought “13 Reasons Why” to television, including director Tom McCarthy and Selena Gomez, who serve as executive producers alongside co-showrunners Diana Son and Brian Yorkey. A Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright has written the dialogues.
Or maybe the cassettes deserve some credit for that feeling. Asher’s combining of a popular, personal teenage ritual of yesteryear — recorded journaling — with the perils that instant communication and fast, shallow connection visit upon today’s teens, is a fabulous conceit. On the page, it allows Hannah to control the flow of information, a grace she was not granted in life.
This collusion of details makes “13 Reasons Why” acutely appealing on an inter-generational level, capturing the dual and dueling frustrations of youth and adulthood (a warning to parents who want to view it with their children: there’s a fair share of sexual content and violence that is difficult to watch).
Yorkey shuffles these old-school rituals and details into the lives of modern characters effortlessly and with a few purposeful winks. Tony, who serves as Clay’s Virgil as he blindly lurches through Hannah’s ghostly world, refers to mix tapes as a lost art. The post-punk soundtrack hammers that point home by shuffling together tracks by The Cure, Bob Mould, Protomartyr and Eagulls, among many others.
Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” plays over one episode’s end credits, and taken in the context of the story, it’s a sublime choice. It is not the usual high school drama that we have seen in the past. This is a much more haunting , slow motion drama of a high school tragedy.
Hannah Baker never made the connections she needed to survive the hell that adolescence can be. Clay and others realize far too late all that they could have done with her, and for her. It’s a tough story. An honest story. And a story that beautifully connects its Baker’s dozen of tales and characters with each other, and the audience, even though there are some bumps and missteps along the way.The whole thing is gorgeous, and it’s a lot to take in. Be careful.