‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ sweeps away audience
Melissa Nunez – Opinions and Features Editor
In the thematic murder mystery that is “Thirteen Reasons Why,” the series plays off clues left behind by the deceased herself, Hannah Baker, played by Katherine Langford, and will have audiences thirsting for more with every coming episode.
In this Netflix original, viewers follow high schooler Clay Jensen in uncovering the mystery behind Baker’s death. Within the first few opening sequences, the only thing audiences can tell is this high school is in mourning and the lead seems to be dejected as he wraps his head around the tragedy himself. But Jensen will soon realize that while Baker is dead and gone, she is not nearly finished with him yet and will take him on a journey of rumors, scheming and betrayal that can only personify the ferocity that is high school.
One of the most significant aspects of the series is the remarkable casting.
Jensen, portrayed by Dylan Minnette, is no stranger to suspense as his most recent flicks suggest, with the newly released 2016 horror phenomenon “Don’t Breathe,” where he starred as Alex, and his role as Zach in the 2015 adaptation of “Goosebumps.”
In “Thirteen Reasons Why,” Minnette persuasively plays a socially awkward, anxious Jensen as he steers the mysteries behind Baker’s death. While Jensen is a regular high schooler navigating the treacherous waters of adolescence, audiences of any age can relate to Minnette’s rendition of the teenager’s efforts to bring justice to a friend that perished too soon.
Baker’s mother, played by Kate Walsh, flawlessly represented the grief stricken, determined mother ceaselessly fighting to ensure her daughter’s death will not remain a faceless tragedy.
Walsh’s success in envisioning strong, resolute women on screen is evident as from her most prominent role as Dr. Addison Forbes Montgomery-Shepherd on “Grey’s Anatomy,” from 2005 through 2012 and from “Private Practice,” which aired from 2007 through 2013. Walsh represented a mother’s grief in the only way it should be—gritty, unfiltered and tragic. Audiences look to Mrs. Baker and feel the crushing gravity of a mother’s loss as she desperately searches for the “why” in an endless sea of questions.
While audiences become swept away in the details that is Baker’s demise, they also get a harsh look into the reality of the modern teenager.
In “Thirteen Reasons Why,” as a new student, Baker adapts to her new school as any would expect: she makes friends, crushes on classmates and deals with new dramas. But as quickly as Baker seems to find her footing, she is knocked off balance as she becomes the target of ridicule and rumours, even from those closest to her. Suddenly those who are her allies, become bystanders.
From the outside of the conflict, school administrators and parents remain oblivious to the ongoing battles Baker faces in her day to day. It is not until after her death that parents throughout the school become curious about their children’s well being.
While the conflict that precedes Baker’s death is as intense as it is turbulent, it is in no way unique to the high school experience where relentless taunting and sexual violence can become a reality to some.
The allure in Baker’s journey is not an imaginative narrative, rather one that is representative of a larger, regular problem that teenagers are often faced with every morning when they go to school.