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Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why first six episodes recap and review

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Warning: This review contains a profound amount of spoilers as I do a play-by-play of my emotions through each episode. You have been warned. Do not read on if you don’t want things spoiled. Do not blame me. 

The official synopsis of the book Thirteen Reasons Why is “Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life.”

To start this out, I should say that I read the book back in freshman year as a time passer for GPS. I hated the book up until tape nine or so, then I fell absolutely head over heels in love with it. You understand from the beginning that the story is of a dead girl and it contains her final thoughts on why she didn’t want to live anymore, but honestly, I didn’t think it was anything too intense until then. Maybe it’s because it was Clay’s tape and finally it felt really personal, I’m not sure. Then it only got harder and harder to read. You felt Hannah’s pain. It was crazy. I wanted to see it adapted.

I remember reading afterwards that a movie was going to come out with Selena Gomez playing the lead role of Hannah Baker. I was devastated because I think I’ll only see her as Alex Russo and Justin Bieber’s ex for the rest of forever. I dropped the thought and figured I’d still check it out when it came to theaters. So, imagine my surprise and delight when I found out it was dropping as a Netflix series at the end of March with Gomez only credited as a producer.

So on March 31, Thirteen Reasons Why dropped on Netflix and I started it in between events at Science Olympiad the following day. First off, let me just say all the actors totally fit their characters. I loved Dylan Minnette as Clay straight from the beginning, and Katherine Langford is a perfect Hannah. I really liked how they brought out other less-meaningful characters and turned them into their own beautiful story arcs like Jeff and Alex.

My first reviews will be short for the most part on these first six. I decided to split up the season in two so I could really dive into the last four, without making it too long of a read at once.

Tape 1, Side A

Recap: You get the opening telling you about Hannah Baker’s suicide and the introduction to our protagonist, Clay Jensen, who was head over heels for Hannah. We see Clay get the tapes, have a total freak out and start listening. The first tape is about Justin, Hannah’s first “boyfriend.” The funny thing is, Justin was freaking out earlier in the episode about what Clay had heard. There’s a reason why (ha.). Basically Hannah and Justin sneak out to a park and she has her first kiss. If that’s where the story ended, it’d be fine. Thing is, Justin had taken several revealing photos during their little trip. The cellphone snaps were of Hannah going down slides and her skirt coming up, revealing underwear. The jock then sent the upskirt shots to everyone in school and it caused a big ordeal of Hannah basically being labelled as “easy.”

My response: Oh, Justin. The misunderstood, bad-boy jock who starts out the snowball of doing Hannah dirty. Not sure why he felt the need to take and save those pictures on his phone but to me it just felt like a “boys will be boys” situation. (Of which I will never support, boys should be held accountable for their actions.) I feel like the whole park incident and the sending around of photos is just a really common occurrence, sadly, in a high school setting. Especially the spreading rumors that they did more than what actually happened. I’m not saying Justin isn’t a total turd for what he did in his first tape, but it really doesn’t live up to the later episodes. I’ll cut him some slack, I guess. I’m a firm believer in the idea that there aren’t many bad people in this world, only good people who make some bad decisions.

Tape 1, Side B

Recap: Jessica’s tape. Jessica and Hannah became best friends over a mutual understanding about being the new kids in town, as they both were that year. They met up for regular coffee dates and eventually added another new kid, Alex, to the group. They all three become the best of friends until Alex and Jessica start dating and cut Hannah out of the equation. The whole situation is put on simmer until Alex publishes a hot and not list with Hannah labelled for best butt, and Jessica labelled as worst. Jessica causes a scene in the coffee shop and slaps Hannah, accusing her of being a dirty mistress, essentially. The show then flashes back to the present and shows Jessica now dating the Justin Folley from Tape 1, Side A. They suggest there are much more sinister things to come on the tapes. Clay is just trying his best to listen to the tapes and is taking his sweet time. Meanwhile, Hannah’s mom finds Alex’s list in one of Hannah’s old notebooks and starts talk of a lawsuit.

My response: Seems like a normal high school fall out, quite frankly. I’d say the real star of this episode is Kate Walsh as Olivia Baker. This may also just be because I flat out am in love with Kate Walsh. Anyways, pretty average episode.

Tape 2, Side A

Recap: The episode starts with Hannah describing the Butterfly Effect and how it applies to her. That’s when we find out it’s Alex’s tape. It’s all about the list and the effects it had on Hannah this time. How it opened her up to blatant objectification of her body. The worst incident being shown, a guy named Bryce grabbing Hannah’s backside while she’s just trying to get a candy bar.

My response: Alex is seriously beaten up by knowing his effect on Hannah. He obviously is having suicidal thoughts of his own as shown in certain (the pool) scenes. He pulled a pretty crappy move but he can’t necessarily hold himself too responsible for others actions (Hannah or Bryce). I don’t know. I felt worse for Alex, honestly.

Tape 2, Side B

Recap: This tape is about Hannah’s stalker, Tyler. Turns out, after Clay confronts him, that Tyler was in love with Hannah, not trying to harm her. But, he does. Essentially, Tyler ends up taking a semi-homoerotic photo of Hannah and a girl named Courtney. He gets upset with Hannah and sends the photo around the school, hoping to hurt her. Courtney, not wanting to come out as queer, tells Hannah to never speak to her again after the photos are released. (I should clear up that Hannah is not super into girls, Courtney dared her to kiss her. Obviously there are some undertones but, Courtney is the one who is a lesbian.)

Other than this situation, we see a lot of Hannah’s parents in this episode. How their lives are just going more and more down hill, but how they feel they need to fight back for their daughter.

Oh, and Clay takes a pic of Tyler naked and sends it around school as revenge.

My response: First of all, Clay is awesome. Second, Hannah’s parents are the most heartbreaking part of this show. Honestly, they really sell it. Fantastic acting. (I’m looking at you, Kate Walsh.) On Tyler, I’m infuriated by this situation. He followed around Hannah for God knows how long and did some seriously illegal things to her. And, anyone who watched the show knows that Tyler only gets worse and creepier. Dude is seriously screwed up. On Courtney, she is a turd. I understand the being scared of you sexuality coming out if you are not heterosexual but she is still a very annoying human and, as Tyler, this only becomes more exaggerated throughout the show.

Tape 3, Side A

Recap: What up, it’s Courtney’s tape. They made up, she and Hannah. They even go to their winter dance in a group together. Only thing is, Courtney is spreading rumors about who is with Hannah in the photo because not everyone has picked up yet and she’s trying to save her own butt.

This whole episode is the dance, though, for the most part. We see Clay asking Hannah to dance and they’re having a seriously good time until they see Jessica. Jess is extremely intoxicated (due to the Alex sitch) at the dance and Hannah ends up giving her a ride home to make sure she’s safe, leaving her knight-in-shining armor on the dance floor.

Back in the present, we see Clay get extremely fed up while listening to this tape and ends up getting Courtney to ditch school with him to “talk.” He ends up taking her to Hannah’s gravesite so she can see the full of what she’s done. He also forces Courtney to talk about the fact that she has gay dads and that’s why she doesn’t want to come out. She kind of has a break down and runs off.

Some of the boys on the tape find out that Clay is basically out for revenge and decide they’re gonna deal with it before it gets out of hand. They essentially kidnap Clay and scare the crud out of him, only to be pulled over by a cop, but it’s Alex’s dad so they get away with it. When Clay gets back home, his mom tells him that she is now the defense lawyer for the school in the Hannah Baker case.

My response: I really was a fan of Clay taking Courtney to Hannah’s grave. Thought it was a good clapback. The whole episode left me longing for more Clay and Hannah moments, though. Instead I got to watch Clay get bullied by the same people who bullied Hannah. It stinks. Also, what the heck Lainie? Taking on the case for the school? You’d think it’d be in a parents best interest to not get involved and maybe be skeptical of the school. Anyway, as you can see, we’re starting to pack more action into episodes, and it’s only episode five.

Bonus: The song Hannah and Clay dance to is The Night We Met by Lord Huron. It’s perfect.

Tape 3, Side B

Recap: Remember when Hays High did those match-o-matic things? That’s what they did in this episode. A really popular guy named Marcus (it’s his tape) gets Hannah as a match and asks her on a date. She waits in a diner for hours for him. When he finally arrives, he tries to put his hand in places where his hand shouldn’t go. Hannah shoves him out of the booth, Marcus exclaims something along the lines of “I though you were easy.” and he and his friends bop out of the place. Hannah is left embarrassed and broken-hearted.

Present day, Clay is hanging out with this girl named Sheri who seems really interested in him. She comes over and they kiss and things seem to be going far until she asks Clay not to “listen to her tape.” This obviously sets Clay off as it’s obviously a bribe situation.

Meanwhile, Alex gets into a pretty serious fight. While others are concerned with Clay, Alex is definitely showing the most self-destructive tendencies.

My response: Marcus. He was a good reminder that just become someone is the golden boy of the school, doesn’t mean that they aren’t tarnished underneath it all. We all know those people who look perfect on the outside and to adults but are seriously not the best to everyone else. You wonder how they keep getting what they do, and know they’re just good at charming people into doing what they want. I’m glad Hannah didn’t. Dude’s a skeeze.

I didn’t care as much about the Clay hookup. I almost felt betrayed for Hannah’s sake, though. I don’t know. You can’t date a dead girl but it totally felt like cheating.

But, Alex. I have a serious soft spot for Alex and I wanted someone so badly to reach out and help him but they just aren’t at this point.

Stay tuned for episodes seven through 13.

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