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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

TV Series Review

For two seasons, Bryce Walker has served as 13 Reasons Why’s official Worst Person in the World. Now he’s dead—murdered, in fact. And someone is responsible. But who could it be?

Zach, Bryce’s one-time bestie whom suffered a season-and-perhaps-career-ending injury at the hands of his now crosstown nemesis? Could it be Tyler, the disturbed yearbook photographer who nearly gunned down half the student body in Season 2? Or Casey, the politically active dynamo who might’ve hated Bryce less for who he was than what he represented?

Or could it maybe, possibly, conceivably be Clay, the show’s brooding anchor who sent a text to Bryce that read “I want you dead”?

With Hercule Poirot out on the Orient Express or something, it’s up to the students themselves (apparently) to solve this nefarious murder. New kid Ani knows all the secrets, and she plans to let them spill bit-by-bit, episode by episode. If anyone still cares, that is.

Who Shot B.W.?

13 Reasons Why’s transformation from controversial teen touchstone to melodramatic whodunit took three seasons.

The first season (based on Jay Asher’s bestselling book, Thirteen Reasons Why) centered on the suicide of Hannah Baker and the cassette tapes she left behind—tapes in which she blamed a host of folks for her untimely demise. The show quickly drew in scads of viewers and even more controversy. Mental health experts said Hannah’s accusatory cassettes fed an unhealthy suicidal fantasy: “You made me do this!” the show suggested. And then we must mention the suicide itself—showed in graphic and painstaking detail. Asher’s book never described Hannah’s suicide in such specificity, in part because Asher presumably knew it might serve as a sort of twisted inspiration. If only Netflix had been so wise. Critics alleged that the scene amounted to a suicide tutorial and, after some real-world suicides were connected with the show, Netflix finally edited the scene out … more than two years after it first aired.

The second season—which Netflix now peppered with trigger warnings and offers of mental-health resources—continued to explore the aftermath of Hannah’s death. But it turned its attention to other serious issues: A one-time cheerleader named Jessica grapples with the fact that Bryce raped her the previous season. Tyler, the photographer, is bullied mercilessly, and an act of horrific sodomy pushes him to nearly commit mass murder. Only some timely intervention by Clay and his friends prevents Tyler from shooting up a school dance.

Part of Season 3 takes place in the immediate aftermath of the near mass-shooting: Clay, Tony (a former student/current auto repair expert who’s in a relationship with another guy) and several other students conspire to keep Tyler’s actions a secret (in an effort to keep him out of jail). But most of the story unfolds eight months later—in the aftermath of a homecoming game gone terribly awry and Bryce’s unsettling disappearance/murder.

And Hannah Baker? She's mostly forgotten now, other than the cycle of secrets she revealed and recriminations she helped set in motion.

Beyond a Reason-able Doubt

13 Reasons Why continues to aim for topicality and controversy, though not necessarily in that order. Bryce may be dead, but his evil deeds still cast a pall over the season (though in flashback he’s shown on a bit more human terms than he enjoyed before). His former girlfriend, Chloe, aborts Bryce’s baby by the second episode. Steroid use, drug abuse, physical assaults and homosexual relations are all part of the stew, too—efforts to keep 13 Reasons Why on the front-burner of cultural conversation and, perhaps, in the headlines. The program is even introduced by most of its main actors, imploring people who are dealing with these issues to tread carefully.

“If these (themes) are issues in your life, this series may not be right for you,” Justin Prentice (Bryce) tells us. “Or you may not want to watch it alone,” someone else chimes in. “So watch with your parents, your family or your friends.” The stars of the show encourage viewers to talk about what they see on the show—and how they feel as a result.

That’s all good advice, as far as it goes. Like Justin, Plugged In would strongly caution anyone against watching this show. For those determined to view it anyway, we’d also recommend discussing the thing with others. You can’t let this stuff stew in your noggin without some catalyst to process it.

But the show’s introduction feels horrifically two-faced when juxtaposed against the story itself.

Consider, first, that 13 Reasons is rated TV-MA—presumably for both its topics and its mountain of problematic content. F-words are flung about like confetti. Violence (and its aftermath) is frequent and jarring. Sexual content, while not always as graphic as it could be, is a discomforting plot point in every episode. The MA rating itself means that no one under the age of 17 should be consuming show without parental guidance—which makes the introduction a tacit admission that this program’s intended viewership is, technically, too young to be viewing it.

And then there’s this: While again it’s great that 13 Reasons exhorts viewers to talk with parents or school counselors if the content bothers them, it also has spent three full seasons undercutting the authority of the same adult gatekeepers. Hannah’s biggest finger-point in Season 1 was reserved not for her rapist, but for the school counselor whom she deemed didn’t do enough to help her. Parents are shown as well-meaning but ineffectual. And every student here is just filled to the brim with secrets. They’ll tell 'em to each other, but to adults? Perish the thought.

The makers of 13 Reasons Why seem to want it both ways: To be a catalyst for mature conversation while mainstreaming extreme, explicit content and actions to its youthful audience. Forget reasons why to watch. That’s one big reason why not.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Aug. 23, 2019, Episode 13: “Let the Dead Bury the Dead”
Aug. 23, 2019, Episode 2: "If You’re Breathing, You’re a Liar”
Aug. 23, 2019, Episode 1: "Yeah, I’m the New Girl"
Aug. 23, 2019, Episode 3: “The Good Person Is Indistinguishable from the Bad”
Aug. 23, 2019, Episode 9: “Always Waiting for the Next Bad News”

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen; Grace Saif as Ani; Christian Navarro as Tony Padilla; Alisha Boe as Jessica Davis; Miles Heizer as Alex Standall; Justin Prentice as Bryce Walker; Brandon Flynn as Justin Foley; Ross Butler as Zach Dempsey; Devin Druid as Tyler Down; Timothy Granaderos as Montgomery de la Cruz; Brenda Strong as Nora Walker; Mark Pellegrino as Deputy Standall

Director

Distributor

Network

Netflix

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Released

On Video

Year Published

Awards

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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