“Hey, it’s Hannah, Hannah Baker.”
13 Reasons Why is the latest Netflix hit that’s based off the bestselling novel of the same name by Jay Asher. When Hannah Baker killed herself, she didn’t leave a note. She left cassette tapes, and on those tapes, she explains how thirteen people played a part in her decision to take her own life.
The rules are simple. You listen to the tapes, and you pass them on to the next person. As Clay Jensen quickly learns, listening isn’t as easy as it seems.
Below, some of our writers share their thoughts on the first and maybe only season, but more on that in a bit. You can join the discussion by leaving a comment.
Our panelists are:
- Erin Allen, staff writer for Tell-Tale TV
- Christine Laskodi, contributing writer for Tell-Tale TV
- Shadia Omer, staff writer for Tell-Tale TV
- Ali Hanford, staff writer for Tell-Tale TV
On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the season overall?
Christine: 11. (Yeah. I went there.)
What was this season’s biggest mistake?
Erin: Making Clay go through the tapes so slowly. Most of Clay and Tony’s interactions were:
Tony: Have you finished the tapes yet?
Tony: Finish the tapes and we’ll talk.
It got somewhat tiresome, and it made me kind of dislike Tony even though I think he is a good character.
Ali: I agree with Erin that Tony’s character was problematic. He was more of a plot device than a human being, which is a shame because he was great in the later episodes when he was given something to do other than be a weirdly omniscient guardian angel for Clay.
Shadia: The way that Clay went through the tapes dragged for me. It became frustrating at one point.
And Tony’s character was just…there. I wanted to see more flashbacks scenes with Hannah and Tony, given he was her neighbor, and she was cool with him. It would have given us more emotion towards Tony. And his scenes with Clay felt repetitive.
Christine: See, I didn’t mind that pacing! I think Clay kept asking over and over because he was legitimately confused. I was, too. I think Tony had to keep reminding him that he needed to know the whole story because WE needed to know the whole story.
If Clay just heard his tape, he’d have been done with it. So would I. I admit too, I was tempted to just skip to Clay’s tape. I’m glad I had those reminders from Tony to keep going. Hannah planned it all perfectly.
What worked really well this season?
Erin: The acting across the board was excellent. The young cast and the adult cast gave wonderful, honest performances. Katherine Langford took the big responsibility as the lead and shone.
Ali: The show did an amazing job of slowly building the relationship between Hannah and Clay through the flashbacks. I was shipping those two so hard. Even though I knew how it would end, a tiny piece of me was hopeful that everything would be fine, and they would end up at prom together.
Shadia: Phenomenal, emotional, and raw acting on everyone’s part. It felt real, it felt triggering, and it just made you really, really invested. The way that they executed each episode to focus on one tape was good. It gave you time to really dissect how much each and every person on each tape really hurt Hannah.
Christine: I don’t think I’ve ever watched a teen drama that had such a superb, and I mean SUPERB, cast. If those young people are glimmers of what we’re getting from this generation of actors, then I’m completely excited!
What was the biggest surprise of the season?
Erin: The 13th tape surprised me. I thought it was good to show how adults, even in a position to help, can miss the signs or handle information wrongly. Some of the things of which Hannah herself is guilty surprised me.
Ali: I was surprised by the graphic portrayal of Hannah’s suicide and sexual assault. So often in TV and film, the camera pans away or only shows a distant look on the woman’s face — but in 13 Reasons Why, viewers got a close look and were left just as upset and disgusted as Hannah was when she saw Bryce attack Jessica.
The portrayal of Hannah’s suicide was just as unflinching and heartbreaking. It was hard to watch.
Shadia: I agree with Erin and Ali on this one. The 13th tape being the counselor was shocking. I kept getting so irritated about the counselor prior to Episode 13 because he was just so useless to me.
And the graphic scenes of the sexual assault and Hannah’s suicide absolutely BROKE me. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t cry as much as I did in those scenes. It hurt because this is something that actually happens to real people in real life. Also, I didn’t think the show would actually show those scenes, given most TV and other movies steer away from showing you something so graphic and explicit.
Christine: The writers went there. The directors went there. They weren’t afraid to show it all, and make the reality of the characters’ choices visible. There wasn’t any dancing around it, or making it less graphic.
They held nothing back and I think that’s exactly what’s hitting home with so many viewers. The harsh realities are leaving lasting impressions, and I think that’ll be the show’s legacy.
Should there be a second season? Make your case as to why or why not.
Erin: No. Hannah’s story has been told. The message was put across. I think it was done very well, and anything more would take away some of the magic that is the 13 Reasons Why series.
Ali: It’s obvious that the writers were trying to leave some plots dangling – Alex’s condition, Tyler’s collection of weapons, Jessica coming to terms with her rape – but without Hannah, it would be an entirely different show.
The story of her suicide told through these tapes was unique. Without that plot point, it would just be a particularly depressing teen drama.
Shadia: No, I don’t think there should be a second season. Hannah got to tell her story. We went through all of the emotions of her story and making a season two would just take away the real reason behind this show.
However, the ending did leave a lot of plots open for discussion, making you in some way wanting to know what happens next. I wish they didn’t keep it open like that, though.
If they were to make a season two, it’s going to have to be different from season one. But I don’t know, it’s like I don’t want a season two, but, at the same time, I would want to know what happened to some of the characters.
Maybe it would have been better if they made the last episode a little longer, that way we would all have closure, not just for Hannah’s story, but for the other character’s fate as well.
Christine: No. I think sometimes a show is just perfect. And I think this one was.
There doesn’t need to be more, because they told their story and told it in an amazing way. It’s not something that has a happy ending. I don’t need to follow these kids in their futures, because I feel like I know how the tapes will lead them through the rest of their lives.
I think sometimes perfect doesn’t need to continue. That’s part of the perfection.
13 Reasons Why is currently available for streaming on Netflix.
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