TRIGGER WARNING: This series covers topic ranging from suicide to rape. Proceed with caution.
When I first read the book somewhat 7 years ago, I never envisioned that any form of adaptation could live up to the book. Then came a barrage of poorly produced series and films based on highly successful books and I was further convinced, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher was as best as it could be.
Come 2017, I was proven wrong. All 13 episodes of the series adaptation were released simultaneously on March 31st, 2017 and although it started out pretty similar to how the book did, the plot quickly intensified, bombarding the viewers from one serious issue to another without diluting or watering it down. For those of you who don’t know, 13 Reasons Why tells the story of Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) as he deals with the suicide of a classmate and crush, Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). The story starts two weeks after Hannah’s death when Clay receives a box of 13 tapes recorded by Hannah listing out the 13 reasons why she killed herself and the people she holds responsible for the reasons. This is not a light story.
Everything… affects everything.
It is a well-produced series, full of talented casts and amazing story-telling, but as fans of the book will notice; the series added a lot more substances that are not part of the book. 13 Reasons Why, the series, not only tells Hannah’s story; it also shows the viewers the story of Hannah’s family, classmates, adults, school faculties and most prominently, the story of the people she holds responsible for her death. Her parents are seeking answers and retribution, her school is facing serious accusations but most importantly, the people to whom she attributed the 13 reasons why she killed herself, are falling apart.
This is where the series go beyond the book.
Almost all the characters in the book are pretty straightforward, easily classified into terms and stereotypes, but the series build more on that and this is something I truly appreciate. It did a good job of painting a realistic picture of how the tapes had affected them and how they reacted to it; some blamed Hannah while some blamed themselves, her 13 ‘reasons’ are falling apart at the realization of what they’ve done; some wanted to come clean, some didn’t. This accumulated in the second half of the series when a shocking secret was revealed, pitting the characters against each other. The characters, unlike their book counterparts, are flawed and real and the casts did an amazing job at bringing that to the screen, with special applaud going to Minnette and Langford at their brilliant portrayal of Clay and Hannah respectively.
The way the story is constructed is another thing that I personally appreciate. Hannah’s story was told alongside Clay’s, two timelines that intercepted at the places Hannah mentioned in her tapes. The two timelines are separated with Hannah’s story being told in a warmer and brighter tone while Clay’s is accompanied with a colder and darker tone, painting a stark contrast between the two timelines and the irony when compared to how the story ended for both of them. The series effortlessly alternates between timelines, bridging the two through imagined conversations and interactions between past Hannah and present-day Clay. The multiple points of view is also another refreshing change from the book. This is where we get to know a little bit more about the different characters and this is where they became more than just the bad guy; this is where they became human in the mistakes they made.
Of course, 13 Reasons Why is not perfect. The flashbacks can be a bit aggravating, especially towards the end. The series could be slightly draggy; Clay, unlike his book counterpart, spent days listening to the tapes and confronting the others (probably a ploy to produce 13 separate episodes for the series). He spent his time retracing Hannah’s story from tape 1 all the way to tape 13, which might cause some frustrations for us viewing at home who just want him to listen to the tape and get it over with. Then again, perhaps that is the story telling us that we can never get over it. Certain issues are repeated over and over again but the brilliance of the story and character development themselves more than makes up for it.
The series ends on a high note, leaving viewers with several unanswered questions which open room for speculations. It would definitely leave the viewers on the edge of their seats. Beware, the last scene could be a bit too much for some of you.
Geek Motivation rating: 5! 13 Reasons Why is a great series that leaves the viewer very satisfied!
By: Faz Dzulkefli