Thirteen Reasons Why - Final Season
I did it again. I watched the whole season over a weekend... well, actually this time it was more like over 32 hours.
Thirteen Reasons Why could definitely been seen as problematic, triggering and insensitive. While I acknowledge the potential problems, and they are there, Thirteen Reasons Why is a big deal for me and for society, here's a few 'reasons why'.
*Trigger warning: this post will discuss the topics covered in Thirteen Reasons Why, including self harm, depression, anxiety, gun violence, sexual abuse and discrimination. Please only read this if you feel safe to.
*Also SPOILER warning for all four seasons, though I'll try and be vague where possible.
For me Thirteen Reasons Why is hugely emotive and engaging, it raises and focuses on topics so important in today's world. The topics are framed as being particularly troublesome for younger people, without confidence or knowledge on where or who to turn too. However, the programme also accurately shows adults don't have all the answers or always make the right decisions.
Slight side note: I have to say I loved Gary Sinise in season four his character and his acting in this role... amazing.
Some scenes still have me rolling my eyes, with certain 'tropes' or cliches. But in general I love that this show puts the focus on serious topics and forces us to acknowledge that these things do happen. Sexual assault, self harm, suicide and gun violence does happen. We must, must do more to stop this, and to acknowledge that people, maybe some of our friends, family, colleagues could have been affected by some of these experiences.
Thirteen Reasons Why is a show, and needs to 'put on a show'. But how many times have you read news articles, or seen media reports on one of these stories? And those are the times we know about.
Thirteen Reasons Why isn't a 'fun' watch or particularly 'enjoyable'. But it is such an important show. Not for the messages, learning points or the endings. But because it shows these things are real, they happen, and they happen way more than we know. And while we don't talk, while we don't seek support, while we don't share, people are hurting and dying.
The show, for the most part, doesn't wrap things up in a nice bow and finish on happy ever after (though the ending to the final season is a bit idyllic for some characters). Through the four seasons we have seen the fallout and the repercussions of actions. We have seen that, as much as one person can be the villain or the hero, there is always a bit of both in everyone. No one is all good or all bad.
Issues such as sexual assault, racial discrimination, sexually transmitted diseases and gun violence are focused on in the later seasons. They are given time and depicted in a way that doesn't shy away from the topic, or have it as a random side story, or something to be ignored three episodes later.
Yes, these scenes may not be how it is every-time or like the experience you had. But I feel confident in saying, it will be how someone has experienced it.
The first season of Thirteen Reasons Why received mainstream attention for its focus on mental health, on sexual assault and suicide. It received its share or criticism and I feel there have been changes since that first season. Particularly in regards to warning viewers of the type of content the show has, but also in signposting to support. I think it also has to be said, most people would likely watch Thirteen Reasons Why now knowing the type of show it is. You don't have that with the first season of any show really.
Watch the below video to get a 1 minute insight to Thirteen Reason's Why season one.
I feel like part of the reason Thirteen Reasons Why received so much attention after that first season was because it focused on something most shows don't. Then some people went through and picked out all the bits they personally didn't like or found hard to watch. Which is fine, but be clear, that's your opinion. Some people can look past those things to see a show they need. A show that says, you are not alone, there is support and it can get better. A show, that for all the secrets it involves, actually shows that it's much better to talk, to tell people and to access support.
Personally, I also think, most of the topics covered/ focused on should not be easy to watch. They should be fucking hard to watch. Because this is hard, its very hard. But talking about these topics, shining a light on them (and the support available) is important.
Maybe this show isn't for you, maybe you don't need it. But some people do. I think in my own way, I needed this show.
I needed to see the falling, the struggle and the crap show life can be. And to be shown that there is a way out, there is support, there are people that care. This isn't the end.
There is part of me that would have liked this show to end after one season. That was the most impactful. But seeing the repercussions and the other characters stories evolve and continue has been something I have valued; even if they almost feel like a second show (if that makes sense). Like season one is THE show, then season two to four is the spin off... kinda.
The fourth season developed some characters and added in some interesting and insightful aspects for me, including:
Clays dissociating - This kinda felt dropped in the final scenes, but I also think the last scene with Gary Sinise showed Clay will continue to need and access support. Clay has been an interesting character to follow through the seasons, his actions are not always the best/ correct ones. And he is shown to definitely have some negative behave while dissociating. This echoed his inclusion in the original season tapes left by Hannah (for me). Clay is played as the 'good guy' but shown to make mistakes and to struggle with decisions and reacting to situations. I'm not sure if Clay would be many people's favourite character, but he feels like one of the realest. At the end of season four he is also one of the main characters who doesn't finish on a 'and it's all good'. And I like that.
Everyones approach to Justin's recovery when it's going well - this seemed so strange, it was kind of not celebrated at much as I would expect.
Justin's death - I understand the way this story went, but Justin was one of the most in depth characters and had a great story arc. It was disappointing to see his story end in a slightly stereotypical/ outdated view of same gender sex and HIV. It did feel a little like he died so my mate Gary could have the good line to Clay about making the same choices to push people and support away and not feel worthy.
The Sheriff's decision and knowledge of Bryce's death - a really nice wrap up to the investigation with Alex's dad. Again some may not like it, but it made sense and was a believable decision to drop the case.
The Principal's actions to make school safe - by the end of the season they are well rounded decisions. Agree with them or not, I understand why he takes the actions he does.
Zach's self destruction - Here I actually liked that this seemed to be ignored by his friends, his struggle was overlooked and ignored by his peers. But we see the adults in his life offer support and guidance.
Ani still feeling like a spy for the Director and Producers - though this maybe my view of her in season three continued, she seems to do/ say things because they are needed for plot points rather than because someone would do that.
Alex and Charlie - I really liked the slow gradual story telling with Alex and his self discovery of his sexuality and Charlie being super excited and having to manage his desire with Alex coming to terms with their relationship. Accepting love and being happy is hard, I really liked this thought and interpretation of a new relationship (regardless of gender and sexuality).
Diego - An interesting addition to the 'main cast' in season four. The real disappointment for me was the show hinting at racial discrimination with Diego and Justin, leading to a protest. But then it felt dropped for the Justin HIV storyline. This feels really noticeable now given the current world protests. I would have noticed this anyway, but it definitely it would not have resinated with me as much. Which it should have, we can all be better, and should be better at noticing this and calling it out. I wish the show had done more with this story arc.
The other characters seemed to move along similar lines to those previously set in place.
Image from thetecheducation.com
So as I said, I'm not sure you can 'enjoy' Thirteen Reason's Why, but I have hugely valued watching the show through the last four seasons and have been gripped by it each time I have watched. Resulting in watching each season completely in the first few days of its release.
This season has been a strange one, with the show cancelation at the end of season four being announced around the time of the season three release and then this weekend the final season being released without any promotion from Netflix. It really feels like they will be glad for the show to be 'off their books'. Which is a real shame because it's been, and is an important show.
If you would like to access support related to the topics discussed/ shown on the show, there is a support website - 13reasonswhy.info Through the website you can access support and signposting relevant to your country.