Title: “13 Reasons Why”
Year it began: 2017
Where it can be seen: Netflix
Who’s in it: Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, Justin Prentice, Miles Heizer, Ross Butler, David Druid, Amy Hargraves, Derek Luke
Typical episode length: 49-61 minutes
Number of episodes to date: 13
Brief plot description: Based on the 2007 young adult novel by Jay Asher, viewers are taken for a journey inside the mind of Hannah Baker (Langford), a high school girl with a shady reputation, as she decides to take her own life. Along the way we meet some of those she holds responsible.
Why it’s worth watching: Was the reputation deserved? Was the suicide preventable? Was any one person responsible? A better question might be: Could one (or more) of 13 people be held accountable? Which brings us not only to the show’s title, but the premise of the story.
Sometime after Baker’s death, a mysterious package is delivered to fellow high schooler and former local movie house co-worker Clay Jensen (Minnette). In the nondescript shoe box are 13 cassette tapes.
We find out as the series opens that the tapes are Hannah Baker’s hours-long narrative, recorded before her suicide (obviously). Because I’m a bit dense, I was confused right from the get-go, as the show’s narrator is Baker — whom we just learned, after the opening theme, is dead and is being mourned by her schoolmates. (Some more than others.)
But it doesn’t take long to figure out that the tapes -- which provide the episodes’ narration -- are meant to expose those whom Baker felt contributed to her miserable (to her) life. Jensen soon learns that he’s not the first one to receive the tapes, and he’s to pass them on to another of the 13 when he’s done listening.
By the time the 13th tape is listened to, we have a pretty good idea of what was inside Hannah Baker’s head. That being said, there are still plenty of surprises to keep you watching through to the conclusion — a conclusion which we’ve learned isn’t the final word, as 13 Reasons Why has been renewed for a second season.
A lot of teen-appropriate topics are covered during the first season, including suicide, bullying, underage drinking, drug use, sex, rape, LBGQT issues, and last but not least — big box store takeovers of small mom and pop businesses. Whew! That’s a lot of territory.
Not surprisingly, the musical soundtrack of 13 Reasons Why is a bit of a downer, moodwise. Not awful music, mind you, but a healthy dose of such bands as The Cure, The Call, and of course, Joy Division; as well as remakes of songs from the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen, Neil Young, and Yazoo. Call it angsty or brooding, but it certainly fits.