13 Reasons why is the currently most talked about series on TV. It is a teenage morality tale about a 17 year old girl who has committed suicide in the weeks before the series begins. She has left behind a suicide note, in the form of 13, C60 audio cassettes, each one naming a different person as having a hand in causing her to take her own life. Each cassette states what this person did to affect her and she has arranged that the whole series of tapes is delivered to each of the thirteen people in turn.
So far, so dark – a horrible premise of a teenager’s suicide and the ultimate naming, blaming and shaming fantasy. This could have been so awful that I almost gave up watching after each of the first three episodes.
However, Hannah, the girl who killed herself, is a likeable, witty, attractive personality and we want to find out what drove her to despair. She mostly avoids playing the blame game and the series is really a universal tale about the complications of dealing with serious and difficult problems, often for the first time, as a teenager negotiates the change from child to adult.
The characters are well written and well rounded. The story is told half in the current timeline and half in flashback, this is clever, as we can see the change that Hannah’s death has brought to each person. There are stereotypes, in that they fit into their groups at the school but each individual is given a three dimensional personality and the only caricature is the one who does not get to listen to the tapes.
The acting is great, everyone talks about how good the two leads are – they are excellent. Christian Navarro is also very good as Tony, who serves as a kind of nuanced narrator. Kate Walsh is brilliant, playing two parts really, as Hannah’s mother, before and after the suicide.
I liked the fact that the show concentrates just as much on the devastation left behind as the reasons for the death. It is a thin line between negating the reasons for Hannah’s suicide and justifying them, the show manages to realistically state the reasons for her actions but never says that she was right to do so. There is talk of a second series because of the success of season one, and possibly because of the unresolved nature of some of the issues. I believe that the show had to leave these issues open because to close them would have implied that her killing herself would have achieved a closure that might not have been attained had she lived.
I enjoyed this series very much but I hope they choose not to film a season two, either to resolve these issues or to follow the lives of some of the other characters, 13 Reasons Why, is all about Hannah, let’s keep it about her.