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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 19, 2019   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why'” has killer dramatic presence

13 Reasons Why: Season 3

Netflix

“13 Reasons Why” is a thrilling Netflix series about life, death, truth and lies. The students of Liberty High School have already encountered far too many traumatic events during their high school careers in the first two seasons, but the consequences are only starting to be revealed in season three.

In season one, Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) attempts to understand what led his friend Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) to commit suicide. Before her death, Hannah recorded 13 audio tapes, each dedicated to a different classmate who she said contributed to her tragic decision. The tapes were sent to each person she spoke about, including Clay. In season two, classmate Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice) is sentenced to only three months probation for sexual assault. In season three, eight months after the trial, Bryce is reported missing and later found dead. Since Hannah’s tapes recounting her sexual assault were released, there is ample motive for many characters to want him dead.

This season shifts between last spring during the homecoming game at Liberty High School and the presentday during Bryce’s murder investigation. Throughout her testimony at the police station, newcomer Amorowat “Ani” Achola (Grace Saif) narrates the events leading up to Bryce’s death. Ani provides a riveting narration that helps the viewer understand the characters’ intentions and recognize what scenes took place before and after Bryce’s death. 

“13 Reasons Why” deals with heavy topics like suicide, murder and sexual assault. Although these topics are difficult to watch, the mystery and suspense do contribute to the binge-worthy quality of the series. Every episode reveals clues that indicate a new suspect, and every character seems guilty because everyone has a reason to want Bryce dead. For example, Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe) runs for student president by publicly announcing Bryce raped her and promising to take down the jocks of the school. Even Clay threatened Bryce’s life, landing him a spot at the top of the suspect list — but the series leaves the viewer guessing until the very end.

“13 Reasons Why” is exhilarating and captivating. As Ani acts as an amateur detective, she uncovers more secrets about her classmates. Although the viewer might expect all the characters to turn on one another during police questioning, the students of Liberty High remain loyal to a fault. Every episode intensifies as the viewer becomes more invested in learning the truth. Although viewer is supposed to suspect the characters, the character’s pain when dealing with their grief is apparent.

Although “13 Reasons Why” is controversial for its glamorization of suicide in season one, the series has grown in the later seasons. There are trigger warnings before the episodes, and a website was created with mental health resources called 13ReasonsWhy.info. The series addresses difficult topics while keeping the viewer interested throughout the season. And though the authorities were able to close the case based on undisputed testimony, the season finale suggests an equally exhilarating season four.