If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering.
Since it’s release on March 31 of this year, Netflix’s TV series 13 Reasons Why has become one of the most-talked about and binged series.
The story focuses on the turmoil that protagonist, Clay Jensen, endures while discovering the 13 reasons why his crush, and fellow Liberty High School classmate, Hannah Baker, ultimately decided to take her own life. And although there is a need for books, and television series, that discuss serious topics like suicide, sexual abuse, mental health, and bullying, the series was also extremely frustrating to watch due to it's rage-inducing inconsistencies. Below are 15 reasons why 13 Reasons Why had us pulling at our hair and shouting at our laptop screens!
15 Can you really trust Hannah?
Over the course of the series there are many times when you are left asking yourself if Hannah Baker (who is played by Australian actress, Katherine Langford) is justified in her decisions, and whether she can be trusted with everything that she says in her tapes.
One of the most damning examples of this can be found in Episode 7 (Tape 4 Side A), when Zach Dempsey (played by Ross Butler) reveals to Clay that he did not throw away the letter Hannah wrote him -- in fact, he still carries it with him in his wallet. This proves that Hannah is at times an unreliable narrator, which results in the viewer doubting not only what she says about Zach, but also questioning much of what she says in her other tapes.
14 Tyler’s tape is filled with contradictions
Tyler Down, played by Devin Druid, is number four on Hannah Baker’s list (Tape 2, Side B), and this is a particularly disappointing and difficult tape to break down!
Tyler is perhaps one of the most lonely characters in the series; an outcast, who looks at life through his camera lens. He is also a peeping tom, and someone who Hannah accused of stalking her and making her feel unsafe, but this tape is unlike the rest for one big reason: The series has a strong message of anti-bullying, yet it seems to forget this when Hannah speaks about Tyler. Hannah seemingly encourages the others to taunt Tyler by deliberately leading them to his house, where they proceed to take turns throwing rocks through his window.
For someone who has experienced bullying herself, this seems like a cruel punishment to inflict upon someone else.
13 Lainie Jensen is used to speed the plot along
Among the many frustrating moments in the series is the way contradictions were used to move the plot along. An example of this is when Clay Jensen’s mother, Lainie Jensen (who is played by Amy Hargreaves), told her son that she was unable to discuss Hannah Baker’s case (which her parents filed against the school district, accusing them of failing to prevent their daughter’s death).
However, Lainie changes her mind when it’s necessary to speed along the plot, as she later decides to open up about the case with her son. It was glaringly obvious that Clay did not want his mother to take on the case, but she does so anyway, only later telling Clay that she would be willing to the drop the case if it hurts him. Um, what?
12 The school district's choice of lawyer makes no sense
This just seems like a no-brainer, but we have trouble with the fact that Liberty High School decided to use Lainie Jensen as their lawyer. First, Clay and Hannah were friends and he has been deeply affected by her death. But putting this point aside for a second and assuming that Lainie really was as oblivious as the series would like us to believe, even if Clay and Hannah were not friends, the school’s decision to use Lainie as their lawyer is still a clear conflict of interest since the case was about bullying at the school -- a school which her son attends.
Later in the series the school’s choice of lawyer once again proves to be a poor choice when Lainie and Hannah’s mother (played by Kate Walsh) find themselves in the same bathroom during a break at the civil hearing -- shortly after Lainie has offered the family a $200,000 settlement. Lainie then tells Mrs. Baker that her son is "worth everything" to her. Hypocrite, anyone?
11 The script is way too drawn out
Jay Asher’s best-selling book, Thirteen Reasons Why, is only 288 pages, and the series could have been compounded into much fewer episodes -- although director, Brian Yorkey, clearly wanted to create a series with 13 episodes (no doubt to match the title).
While the reason behind making 13 different episodes is clear, several of these episodes felt drawn out and unnecessarily long (50 minute episodes that could have easily been 30 minutes). Viewers were forced to wait until the very end of the episode to discover the relevance of the tape, and this was not only frustrating, but also boring.
This is an important subject, one that could no doubt have filled 13 full-length episodes, but the series failed to achieve this. Instead, it simply felt as though script writers were trying to flesh out the original story to fill a time slot. And the worst part is that some of the impact of the story was lost because of this.
10 The book version of Clay vs. the Netflix version
Clay Jensen, played by Dylan Minnette, is the protagonist of the series: He is teenage boy who had a crush on Hannah and is, for the most part, kind, albeit socially awkward. However, if you read the book prior to watching the series you may have felt very annoyed by how long it took Clay to listen to the tapes.
In the book, Clay listens to all the tapes right away (the entire story takes place in a single night), while in the series he takes his time. Clay loved Hannah, and yes, listening to someone you love express their pain and knowing that in some way you were apart of that pain, must be unimaginably difficult to hear, but the whole tape-listening process is infuriating.
The script for the series has altered the character and how he would react in the circumstances, and this again feels as though it was a ploy to draw out the series so that there could be 13 episodes.
9 The tapes got passed on -- but why?
The characters who Hannah mentioned on her tapes all want to stop Clay from finishing the cassettes for fear of how he may react, specifically whether he will take the tapes to the police, thereby implicating them. However, prior to Clay receiving the tapes (and his tape is near the end of the list on Tape 6 Side A), the other teenagers all made the decision to pass on the tapes.
If they didn’t want Clay to have the tapes, then why didn’t one of these prior recipients simply destroy them? Yes, they were told to follow instructions and that a copy of the tapes existed, but it seems a bit far fetched that every person would simply follow along instead of trying to figure out if another version of the tapes really did exist.
Why are all the characters following the instructions from Hannah so intensely? Is it because they are all just pawns in her game, or is it because at some level they are all deeply impacted by her death? Whatever the reason, the subplot that involves the characters meeting up and trying to determine what to do with Clay is extremely confusing.
8 Alex's ending should not be quite so dramatic
Hannah Baker’s attempt to educate people about the harms of bullying, or sitting idly by, actually resulted in one of the recipients of her tape attempting suicide themselves: Alex Standall.
Or did he?
In the penultimate episode we discover that a young male has been rushed to hospital with a gunshot wound to the head, and it is only in the finale that it is revealed that that young male was in fact Alex (played by Miles Heizer). This moment has been widely discussed among fans of the show: some believe that Alex shot himself while others feel Tyler could have been the culprit (especially after the scene with his scary weapon collection).
However, the most frustrating part about Alex's injury is not that we don’t know exactly what happened, it’s that the cliffhanger was purposefully created to give way to a second season. Thereby producing an ending that is very different from that of the book -- because in the book, nothing happens to Alex.
7 Why is Sheri not named Jenny?
In the series, popular cheerleader Sheri Holland, played by Ajiona Alexus, is likeable, despite her failure to take action after crashing into a stop sign -- which may have later resulted in a fatal car accident between Jeff Atkins and an older gentleman named Mr. Cantrell.
Sheri tries to atone for her sins by helping Mr. Cantrell in his recovery, but she is haunted by the guilt of whether her crash was the cause of Jeff's death. However, the character does not exist in the book, at least not by that name, because for some reason the director made the annoying and seemingly unnecessary decision to change the name of Asher’s character Jenny Kurtz, to that of Sheri Holland.
Sure, it's not a major thing to alter a few names here and there, but it does cause frustration among fans of the book.
6 Jeff was not Clay’s advisor and friend
While Sheri Holland was based on the book’s character Jenny, in the book, Jeff Atkins, played by Brandon Larracuente -- and possibly the nicest character ever -- is actually an unimportant character who was not someone close to Clay.
The series version of Jeff makes him out to be a really nice guy with a bright future ahead of him. His role in the series is also far more crucial, because he tutors Clay in matters of the heart, and just life in general (because Clay is awkward AF) -- in fact, there was even a Twitter outcry following his death, with the trending hashtag #JeffDeservedBetter gaining momentum worldwide.
But for those purists among us, it would have been nice if the director could have just stuck to the original story.
5 We’re constantly given clues about Jeff’s death
And if that wasn’t enough to make you rage, the fact is, as much as we liked Jeff -- and can acknowledge that in many ways his character was an important part of the story -- we could never truly get onboard with him because we always knew the outcome.
Jeff, the cool older jock, was going to be killed off. In fact, he was already dead, and this was something you were made aware of, even if you hadn't read the book. While present day scenes never showed Jeff hanging out with the jocks or Clay, the most obvious clue that led to his impending doom was the fact that he was only ever seen in flashbacks.
Could the show’s creators be more subtle in Season 2, please?!
4 The way Clay reacts just seems odd
Yet another inconsistency with Clay comes in the form of his reactions to the tapes; reactions that don't always make sense.
Clay goes through times when he openly grieves, and other times when he seems to be more interested in trying to hold others accountable for their actions -- including humiliating Tyler Downs with a naked photo.
Clay tries to become the vindicator and the hero after listening to the things that happened on Hannah’s tapes, but he does this all before even listening to his own tape and understanding why it is that he has made the list. Given how Clay was so emotionally invested in Hannah, would it not make more sense for him to first discover what it was that he did that left her so distressed?
Of course we later learn that although Clay is a big part of Hannah's story, he did not do anything horrible to her, but we've got to say, Clay's self-righteous attitude is super aggravating!
3 The first half and second half of the series are too different
The episodes in the first half of 13 Reasons Why have a constant tone as Hannah Baker reveals how the actions of her peers created an unsafe and unfriendly environment for her at high school. But there’s a sharp contrast between the first half of the series and the second, with the latter coming off as a tad melodramatic.
While the first few episodes seem to have been slower moving and more about the individual characters and their lives rather than Hannah's story, the second half comes crashing down as we are suddenly confronted by topics that deal with sexual abuse, alcohol abuse and death (among other things) without prior warning. The result? The transition is not an easy one to make and the viewer feels uneasy and the series inconsistent.
2 Something about Hannah’s personality just doesn’t add up
Hannah Baker is one of the two main characters of the series, and she’s a complicated, sensitive and extremely lonely young woman who is riddled with conflicts, but it seems odd that Hannah’s personality changes so dramatically throughout the show. While at times she seems unfazed by the harsh actions and comments of her peers, other times even the smallest thing, like the anonymous publication of her poem in the school magazine, triggered her into an emotional downfall (which can be seen on Tape 4 Side B).
That’s not to say that most us of, especially teenagers with heightened emotions and raging hormones, do not experience a rollercoaster of emotions. And the unwanted publication of something personal is no laughing matter, however, the juxtaposition in Hannah’s emotions are baffling. She was clearly suffering from a serious mental health condition, but yet the series did not seem to openly address this.
1 Hannah entrusted Tony with her tapes, but why?
Tony Padilla, played by Christian Navarro, is perhaps one of the most complicated characters in the series. He is trustworthy, helpful and always there to guide and protect Clay from the other teenagers who were the recipients of the tapes. But he is also flawed and has made his own mistakes, evident by the scene in which he beats up a man alongside his brothers -- which is distracting from the main narrative.
However, the inconsistency is not so much with Tony’s character, but his relationship with Hannah Baker: They appeared to be friends because she entrusted him with her tapes, he also wasn't on them. So, why did Hannah trust Tony so much? And was she really as alone as she thought? These are two major questions we wish the series would have answered, because it could have gone a long way in explaining the inconsistencies.
Conclusion: However, none of these aforementioned points should undermine the importance of the show. This is a show that could potentially help individuals to realize that their words and their actions can have devastating consequences, and there is a need for these sensitive topics to be shown and discussed by mainstream media.
Despite the obvious inconsistencies, which had us at times in a bit of a rage, the series is worth a watch: it was mostly well-executed and superbly acted.