Sunday, 9 April 2017

13 Reasons to Watch 13 Reasons Why

Follows teenager Clay Jensen, in his quest to uncover the story behind his classmate and crush, Hannah, and her decision to end her life.


This might be cliché, but the title of this series was just begging for this type of treatment. The questions raised by this show are: Is Hannah Baker's fate something that happened to her? Something she put into motion herself? Or something that was done to her? 


Here are 13 reasons to watch 13 Reasons Why:  

      1. It Looks and Sounds Fantastic
There is plenty to admire and the aims of this show are undoubtedly ambitious. This series is superbly shot and thoughtfully scored with both appropriate and intriguing music that only adds to the wonderful imagery of the series.  

      2. The Use of Non-Linear Storytelling in an Intriguing Fashion
 This is a prime example of a narrative that really could not have been shown as an episodic drama.


      3. Excellent Example of the "Novelisation of TV" 
The source material for 13 Reasons Why, the book of the same name written by Jay Asher, clearly provided a suitable foundation for the series; but it is still a challenge to take a 288-page book and make it compelling enough to carry 13 episodes. Here the process is well thought out and as far as my reading went on the subject, the original material is fairly intact; while the addition of new explanatory elements serves only to enhance the narrative. Bringing novels to TV is nothing new and when it is well done, it is like unwrapping a great present little by little. 13 Reasons Why is undoubtedly sincere, but it is also, in many important ways, creatively successful: it uses some of the TV's most popular forms and accessible strategies - the love triangle, the coming-of-age story, the murder mystery and the grounded high school drama - to pull viewers into a suspenseful tale that will keep them engaged until the final scene fades out.    

      4. A Realistic Examination of the Teen and Adult Thought Process
Teen stories often fall flat. Usually, they become victims of creative types.  This often causes the focus of the narrative to be lost. This is not the case here; while teens are at the centre of the story, their emotions and actions seem to be age-appropriate. What happens through the drama is not specific to one generation. And this makes for a story about how unfamiliar sensations can be and are experienced at every age. In its examination of the ways, we hurt each other, deliberately or casually, knowingly or otherwise, the adult edges to this story ring with honesty and truth. Because sometimes, the only way to feel something is for it to hurt. Teens are clearly the intended audience of 13 Reasons Why, but this is a show that believes teens are capable of watching the things teens are capable of doing. Now, let's talk about Hannah's mother. Oh Lord, Kate Walsh! She is simply brilliantly heartbreaking. If her reps are not planning an Emmys push for best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, they are all asleep, or blind.    


      5. About the Fragility of It All 
This is probably the toughest part of 13 Reasons Why. Watching everyone, and yes, I mean everyone, really struggle to not feel as though everything was falling apart. This says a lot about how fragile people feel, all the time, it is incredibly realistic. Moreover, Katherine Langford and Dylan Minette both give career-making performances as the two central characters. Hannah and Clay recognising each other as shy outsiders create a formidable but complicated bond. There is not one false note or even the slightest attempt at manipulating from either actor; the honesty and transparency of their work are jaw-dropping. The darkness entering the lives of these characters is constantly linked with the natural resilience and questioning optimism of adolescence, until darker qualities come creeping on them.    

      6. You Can Binge the Hell Out of It!
This might feel like a fairly light reason on this list, but still, a good one because you don't have to wait for any of it. You make the call. This does not necessarily make for a pleasurable viewing experience but it has some power.  


       7. The Creative Team Behind the Series is Golden
These days it takes a village to make anything good and this series has the perfect crew to make this right. With a Pulitzer-winning book, a Tony award winning writer (Brian Yorkey), then produced by Selena Gomez and directed by Oscar winner Tom McCarthy (Spotlight). It is pretty obvious that these people know the drill. 

      8. The Series Tackles Timely Issues
From the beginning, viewers know that Hannah committed suicide, which, sadly, is always a timely topic to tackle. But what 13 Reasons Why does is show that there is never just one reason so that someone goes down this irrevocable path. There are many contributing factors. Unfortunately, those factors know no time barriers, they are the kind of factors that can worm their way into any age group at any time. 13 Reasons Why wisely humanises and contextualises grief, depression, suicide and the aftermath of sexual assault through characters and scenarios that viewers will be unlikely to forget. It also offers a great deal of thinking about the kind of individual passivity and group denial that give protection to predators and enablers. The series is particularly brave in its depiction of the behaviour of young men, both towards women and with each other, if its intended audience comes away with the recognition that this is not normal and does not have to be normal, that can only be positive.   


      9. The Steps to Mystery are Perfectly Plotted
While part of the ending is known right from the start, the journey to get there is well worth the time it takes. There are an appropriate amount of twists and turns so you die to know what is next. In novel terms, it is a page-turner.

      10. Offers an Interesting Take of Technology
Hannah left her message behind via cassette tapes, which seems a little weird and kind of funny given all the advances in voice recordings nowadays. This original device was kept in the adaptation. Thankfully, the TV series kept it and by doing so, a younger generation will be (rightfully) exposed to the Walkman, an almost forgotten piece of audio equipment, as well as the beauty and limitations of the cassette tapes. Along with this, the series addresses just how some advances in technology - camera phones, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. - have radically changed the ways in which people (and particularly, young people) relate to each other. How some quick decisions are met with devastating consequences. Looking both back and forward at technology adds another layer to this drama. Plus, the novel was written a decade ago and has, if anything, become more relevant. We have only become more entrenched in a social media world that gives the illusion of connectivity but can just as easily be isolating.   


      11. Everyone Has Their Own Story
While Clay, the latest recipient of the tapes and therefore the filter through which the audience takes the information in - along with Hannah - are the most central characters in 13 Reasons Why there are many peripheral storylines. Each and every one of the characters involve has a personal story that is illuminated via Hannah's story.   

      12. Not Your Usual Happy Ending...
Yes, there are messages, some are openly clear, some a little less obvious. There is an end, that is for sure. But the ending is not completely final and neat. It has an ending that will have viewers convinced that everyone, except Hannah, will be around tomorrow and the day after that - living, struggling and learning. 


      13. Worth Your Time.  
I often ask myself when I watch a series or a movie: "Why should people spend their precious time watching this?" After awhile, the answers all start to sound the same - "It's a new world, one you've never seen, with intriguing characters, in a new situation that makes for a compelling story" or something like that. 13 Reasons Why breaks this mold in a unique way, it is a world you have seen before, with characters that are actually and sadly, in a familiar situation; but the story is told in a not so obvious way that it makes for a more than just compelling story. This show is worth your time, even if the lows are low, the highs are very high and truly affecting.   

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