I know this particular Netflix series has gained a lot of attention as of recently and I know I must be only one out of millions of bloggers who have made a post discussing the episodes. Be warned, I will be talking about spoilers. It’s difficult to fully review this series since there’s so much within each episode, so I’ll discuss the things that stood out to me most.
I vaguely recall reading the book 13 Reasons Why years ago, and as I have only just finished watching all the episodes in its entirety, I think I just might revisit the book soon as well.
This series gave me a lot of feels. I could relate to some of the things the characters went through and they felt like real people to me. I also liked that not one character was completely good or bad and all have done questionable things. There were points I found myself feeling irritated at Hannah, the protagonist whose side I am supposed to be on. It was then I realized that the fact I could be upset at Hannah and see the flaws in some of her actions and words meant she wasn’t perfect either and that like at least some of the people who didn’t intend to hurt her, she unintentionally hurt people as well. That’s what it means to human.
An example is when Zach was opening up to Hannah about how he hoped she could’ve been his Dollar Valentine. I get that Hannah, at this point, was so disillusioned by any boy being genuinely interested in getting to know her because of bad thing after bad thing happening to her; the photo debacle with Justin and rumors about her looseness, Bryce who sexually harassed her and then Marcus with his asshole behavior. She acted that way because she didn’t want to get hurt ever again, however, she also wasn’t considering Zach’s feelings and how she affected him by humiliating him so publicly.
I’m not saying that justified what Zach did to her as revenge, but simply pointing out an observation about how Zach was hurt by Hannah while Hannah herself acted the way she did out of hurt too. I do think Zach was genuinely trying to give her a compliment, but the way he said it was probably not the best. This is where I felt it was a missed opportunity for Hannah to have ended up differently had things with Zach gone differently. He said he was into her for other reasons, unlike the other guys who like her for her nice ass, was most likely what made Hannah even more upset because that brought everything back to the stupid list and people gossiping about her for something she didn’t even start. Zach lashed out against her for humiliating him by trying to get even with her, except in the way he did it was perhaps the most immature way possible. I mean, stealing her compliment notes week after week? That is so childish.
A recurring theme throughout the series I picked up on was the decisions these teenagers made weren’t always the morally inclined one, which I felt was attributed to the fact they are young teens navigating a complex social world and that they simply hadn’t attained enough experience yet to be mature and rational about all their decisions. Like how Jessica flippantly brushed off Hannah’s concerns to her about Justin when she found out Jessica and Justin were dating. I can see Jessica choosing to trust Justin despite Hannah’s warnings because she’s had more time than Hannah to get to know Justin. Yet I found it disdainful when Jessica basically brushed the photo scandal under the rug by not holding Justin accountable for his part in causing Hannah’s humiliation. After all, it was Justin who shared the upskirt pic of Hannah. Instead, it sounded like Jessica put the blame solely on Bryce for mass texting it to all the students. I also had a serious disconnect with Jessica’s decision to blame Hannah for Alex breaking up with her all because of the list and Jessica’s assumption that Alex naming Hannah with the “best ass” meant that they had f*cked. I have a hard time seeing how she could draw that conclusion, but I guess she was emotionally hurt by Alex apparently breaking up with her out of nowhere and was looking for someone to blame. At the same time, I have immersive sympathy for these kids because I often forget what it’s like to be that young, impulsive and for every little thing in high school to mean so much to them. On one level or another, I was once in their shoes too.
I’m iffy about the school social hierarchy and the separation of students into “classes”, like jocks, nerds, etc. This kind of trope has appeared a lot in film and television and I can never tell if it’s an accurate depiction of social hierarchies in real schools.
The character I had most trouble connecting with is Bryce. I don’t understand him. I’m sure there are real life people out there like him; rich, arrogant, take-whatever-I-want kind of guy, in addition to the biggest douchebag who has no respect or remorse for women and how he’s preyed on them. However, Bryce seen through Hannah’s eyes is nothing more than a bully and rapist, which he obviously deserves to be called for his sordid behavior, but I would’ve liked to see his backstory a little more. A backstory doesn’t necessarily have to make the viewer have sympathy towards the character. I still would’ve seen Bryce has the lowest vermin to walk the earth even with a backstory, but I just didn’t feel it was compelling for him to be a rich kid who gets away with everything because he has everything. It’s hard for me to see substance in that since his character dances so close to the line of being an almost caricature. The only time he seemed to show a hint of regret or guilt or whatever emotion it was when Justin walked off after basically implying he never wanted to see Bryce again. To me, that seemed to come out of nowhere. What was Bryce’s motivation for feeling bad all of a sudden?
Also, since when does everyone in school has everyone else’s phone number to allow mass texting? Are there really schools out where everyone has everyone’s phone number?
Very random to bring up, but I loved Courtney’s Hello Kitty lunchbox. Aaah! I gave an internal squeal of approval overseeing it since I was obsessed with Hello Kitty during my teen years.
Probably the hardest scene to watch after the two rape scenes (both of which made me visibly cringe) was Hannah’s suicide scene. The sight of the razor blades alone made me sick and by the time Hannah was actually moving to slit her wrist with one, I actually covered my iPad screen with my hand so I wouldn’t have to see it. Her agonized scream as the blade cut into her flesh was awful to hear. I believe it was a raw and realistic depiction of pain at its worst, but I do not think I have the heart to rewatch the scene again if I ever revisit the episode. I imagine some might find the scene too graphic to watch and maybe gratuitous too, however, I feel it was a necessary to see the grim and unglamorous reality of how someone who is lost and in a lot of pain can become so desperate to end their own life. Not desperate like it’s pathetic, but desperate like she tried to get help in the way she knew how to and it didn’t work.
I admit I did wonder why she didn’t try to go to someone else, like Ms. Bradley, after Mr. Porter was so unhelpful to her. But that’s the whole point of her story is she wanted to give life one last try by reaching out to Mr. Porter. And when that failed, I sensed she was just tired of everything and didn’t have the will or motivation to turn back again. I think the message about the suicide scene is to show suicide is not a peaceful release beckoning someone into the light of death and that it’s actually a serious decision for someone who believes she has nothing else to live for.
I saw pieces of myself in Hannah behavior when she was sitting in Mr. Porter’s office trying to verbalize what she was feeling, while nervously fidgeting and giving vague wording that cumulated in her sobbing as she admitted she wanted everything to stop. What hit very close to home with me as well is when she spoke of how people will try to look for signs that led up to her suicide but actually it looks like nothing. I’ve never made an attempt to end my life though I know the feeling of putting on the facade of being okay to those around me when every waking moment feels meaningless.
The best part of the series is the end and how inconclusive everyone’s stories are by then. There is no neat bow tying everything up and solving all the characters’ problems in one final hurrah. I can imagine a lot of what-ifs or maybe there is even fanfiction out there about what could’ve happened to everyone, but perhaps all of it is left open for interpretation because life goes on even when people’s stories are left unrecorded.