LOS ANGELES, April 3, 2017 — “I’m about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. And if you’re listening to this tape, you’re one of the reasons why.” This is the opening gambit Netflix’s newest addictive show “13 Reasons Why.”
It’s the story of the late 16-year old Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) and her fellow classmate Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette). Jensen is forced to dig through 13 cassette tapes that may help provide the answer the simple yet burning question haunting Hannah’s school. “Why?”
Each episode of this new, original series focuses one side of each tape. Yet as the story develops, it becomes an increasing challenge to answer the show’s central question. While there are those who truly want to know, however, the school is currently facing lawsuit over Hannah’s suicide, which complicates matters further.
As we move through the tapes, Hannah, “live and in stereo,” gradually reveals the reasons behind her unexpected suicide. Some of her revelations seem minor, almost shrug-worthy, and can rightly be considered as part of the standard American high school experience. Others appear more darker and sinister than one might expect.
The new series boasts an impressive supporting cast, and includes strong performances by Ross Butler (“Riverdale”), Miles Helzer (“Parenthood”) and Derek Luke (“Empire”). Young viewers may be drawn to the thriller/melodrama aspects of the series, but parents need to be aware that various episodes contain graphic depictions of rape and suicide.
Based on Jay Asher’s eponymous debut novel, the Netflix series is drawn out to make the story stretch into several episodes rather than resolving the story in one sitting. In the book, Clay actually listens to all the tapes in one sitting, the other characters do only gradually throughout the show.
While the show digs deeply into a disturbingly dark story, the overall message of the series is one that should appeal to teenagers and viewers in the younger demographic.
The central topic itself is an interesting and challenging choice for a TV series, illustrating once again how the streaming format is revolutionizing what can be viewed via this once network-dominated medium. But it’s also a timely one as this country begins to turn its focus toward the increasing problem of cyber-bullying and other social dislocations as well as how to resolve them.
For a preview, check out the streaming series trailer below.