This is a slightly different review, as I’m not talking about a book I enjoyed. I didn’t even read the book that this show is based on. But having both been in similar situations to some of the characters in the show, having a history of mental health issues, and knowing a few people who have gone through what Hannah experienced, I decided I needed to review it, even if it is not a romance that has a neat, happy ending.
I had seen a number of reactions to the show: some praising it, others bashing it for their depictions of issues like suicide and rape, and still more questioning Hannah’s motives (whether she did it for “revenge”). As for the latter two opinions, while I found some aspects of the show difficult to take in, I admired them for not sugarcoating anything, so we can feel the full impact of what these characters go through.
As for Hannah’s motives, while others may have found her a bit overdramatic, I agreed with one of the points the creators and actors made in Beyond the Reasons, about the young mind not fully being developed yet, and not being able to rationalize in the same way an adult might, especially when they feel such intense emotional pain. And while the concept of the tapes do present a sort of revenge plot, there is obviously some baggage that many of these characters have that is not directly related to Hannah, and the tapes make them confront that.
As actors, there wasn’t one person who did not impress me, especially as all of them had to play such nuanced and multifaceted characters, and the opinion you have of them in episode one will change between episodes one and thirteen. Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford are stunning as leads Clay and Hannah, and their friendship which could have grown to be something more is one of the highlights of the series. But one of the real standouts to me is Justin Prentice as Bryce. It is hard to imagine being able to get into the mindset of someone who sees others (especially those of the opposite sex) as objects they can violate in any perverse way they want, but Prentice was able to bring this loathsome character to life and make him believable.
One of the key themes I took from the show was the importance of being kind. While we do mess up on occasion, and we might not always be able to do the right thing in the moment (as this show depicts at various points with both Clay and Hannah), we should always make the effort.
And as a final note, suicide should never be the answer. There are ways to get help. If you or someone you know need help, please don’t be afraid to consult any of the resources here, or with someone you trust.