Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” (stylised as “TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY”) is not just any other high school drama. It is one of the most gripping and honest television series we’ve seen in a long time.
Based on Jay Asher’s 2007 best-selling young adult novel of the same name, the highly-anticipated suicide drama has a total of 13 episodes, featuring brilliant line-up of young actors including Dylan Minnette (“Grey Anatomy”, “Goosebumps”), Katherine Langford, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, and Ross Butler (“Riverdale”).
Just in case you haven’t read the book, the title refers to the 13 reasons why a high school girl named Hannah Baker (played by Katherine Langford) decided to end her life.
The plot is as follows:
“Clay Jensen (played by Dylan Minnette) returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide 2 weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are 13 reasons why she decided to end her life and Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list. However, what he discovers changes his life forever.”
Having binge-watched the whole season over the weekend, here are some reasons why everyone should watch “13 Reasons Why”:
1. Selena Gomez served as executive producer
Selena Gomez executive produced the show along with her mother, Mandy Teefey. Although she was originally cast to star as Hannah in a movie adaptation of the novel back when it was first optioned by Universal Pictures in 2011, she didn’t accept the offer and decided to stay behind the cameras. The pop star, who took a break from her career due to depression, revealed that she sees herself in the main character.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reported, she explained, “A book is frightening for me because I know the cult following it has, which is the reason why I didn’t want to be in it. Originally, my mom and I found the project because I wanted it to be a transition piece. From that point on, a lot of people wanted to make it something that it wasn’t. It can teeter on the line of being a little too preachy. Jay (Asher) knew that my mom and I would be behind it for years, no matter how long it took to take it to that place.”
2. The series explores real-life social issues
Jay Asher’s powerful story addresses real-life social issues such as sexual harassment, bullying, mental illness, rape, drunk driving, and teenage suicide. To make it even more realistic, the drama added several elements which weren’t featured in the novel. This includes a lawsuit against the school, drug abuse among high schoolers, and domestic violence. Besides that, Hannah’s death was shot in an extremely graphic way. While she died after “swallowing a handful of pills” in the book, the series shows her slicing her wrists open with a razor blade. Truth be told, it was extremely difficult for us to watch her end her life that way.
“Everyone really wanted to show it as truthful as possible. We realise that (suicide) is an important issue. The way it’s being represented in past popular TV shows, it has romanticised it and used it as a plot device. When we shot that scene in particular, I had been playing her for 6 months and had gone through everything she had gone through up until the point, and I realised that this isn’t just a story about Hannah. This girl represents so many people. And this story belongs to everyone who is watching it,” said Katherine Langford.
3. Kate Walsh from “Grey’s Anatomy” is in it too
“Grey’s Anatomy” fans, rejoice! Kate Walsh, who played Dr. Addison Montgomery in the medical drama series, stars as Hannah’s mother, Olivia Baker, in “13 Reasons Why”. Although she isn’t the lead, she won our hearts with her genuine and powerful portrayal of a mother who lost her daughter to suicide. It was really heart-wrenching to see her cry :(
Aside from Walsh, television junkies will also get to see other familiar faces. This includes Hawaiian actress Keiko Agena from “Gilmore Girls” and Brian d’Arcy James from “Friends With Kids”.
4. The soundtrack is amazing!
Music can make or break a television show. In this case, we think that whoever chose the soundtrack for the “13 Reasons Why” deserves an award!
The series features various iconic tracks including Lord Huron’s “The Night We Met”, Elliot Smith’s cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen”, Woodkid’s “Run Boy Run”, Meadows’ “The Only Boy Awake”, and The Cure’s “Fascination Street”, just to name a few. But the most important track of the drama is none other than Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. The 80s track sort of reflects Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis’s battle with depression and suicide, which is something Hannah is struggling to overcome throughout the series. Also, the music in the drama pays homage to filmmaker John Hughes, who wrote and directed numerous teen movies like “The Breakfast Club” and “Pretty In Pink”.
P/S: Selena Gomez also recorded a cover of Yazoo’s hit song “Only You” for the series. Listen to it here.
5. The few bittersweet “what could have been” moments
“13 Reasons Why” focuses on Clay Jensen as he unravels the mystery behind Hannah’s death. Clay loved Hannah deeply, so listening to Hannah detailing why she died is no easy task for him. He often imagines what would have happened if he was brave enough to tell her his feelings or what could have changed if he reached out to her when she needed it. Honestly, we love those scenes and we like to think of them as alternate “happy endings” – albeit a little bittersweet.
But like what Clay’s best friend Tony Padilla (played by Christian Navarro) said, “We didn’t let her know that she had a choice. Maybe we could have saved her life, maybe not. It’s impossible to know.”
6. The ending is more satisfying and complicated than the book
The book’s ending is very straightforward: After listening to Hannah’s tapes, Clay reaches out to a fellow schoolmate who has been showing signs of suicide and depression. But it doesn’t just end there in the series. We don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but let’s just say that justice is almost served at the end of the show and there are some emotional scenes from other characters.
7. There’s likely going to be a season 2!
There are so many cliffhangers at the end of the series, so fans were ecstatic when Selena Gomez and Katherine Langford hinted that the series might come back.
Even the book’s author said he would love to see it happen. Jay Asher told Entertainment Weekly, “I’d just like a continuation of all those characters. What happens to Clay? How do people react to what Alex did at the very end? What’s going to happen to Mr. Porter? I’d thought of a sequel at some point. I’d brainstormed it, but decided I wasn’t going to write it. So I’d love to see it.”
All 13 episodes of “13 Reasons Why” are currently available on Netflix.