Summary: Hannah Baker committed suicide and left 13 tapes behind which she has sent to 13 people who she believes were responsible for her death. Clay Jensen receives the package of tapes and begins to listen to them. He was a friend of Hannah's and isn't sure why he was on the tapes. Clay listens to the first tape and learns that Hannah dated a boy named Justin briefly but when Bryce sent a lewd picture of her around school, she was hurt by it.
The Good: This is an extremely unique concept for a show. While I do have some reservations (see: The Bad), I think that the idea of having these tapes is a really clever way to look at the theme of suicide in a new light. This kind of approach should make it really easy to explore the lead up to and the consequences of suicide at the same time and it should make for some truly fascinating television viewing throughout the season if done correctly.
The biggest hurdle for this show to overcome would have been the teenage characters. I have seen so many films and TV shows completely butcher teenagers and make them all seem like brain-dead idiots. So I'm really pleased to say that this show seems to have hit the nail right on the head when portraying teenagers. While I haven't seen a whole lot from these characters yet, the show has already presented them to be relatively rounded out characters with different personalities while also portraying that obvious rebellious teenage spirit without ever going too far overboard on it like so many other shows. These teenagers feel like real characters and I'm glad that the show chose to go through with this approach.
I thought that our 2 main characters, Clay and Hannah, were pretty likable so far. They are pretty different but don't seem at all like bad people. Just 2 different teenagers trying to get through life in their own ways. Clay is a nice take on a teenage introvert (there are lots of them around despite what is shown in media), while Hannah is an appropriately toned down teenage girl who isn't portrayed as an over-the-top smitten girl who does stupid things. So far I really like these 2 and I think that watching their stories unfold in the past and present will be very interesting. Furthermore, I think their relationship in the past was developed extremely well in this episode and I completely understand how their friendship works in just a few scenes.
I did enjoy this episode's story of Hannah's relationship with Justin. There were a lot of nice touches which helped me buy into Hannah being totally smitten by him and starting a relationship. I also loved how the show really demonstrated how this hurt Hannah so much, as her best moment swiftly turned into her worst nightmare as even Clay was turned against her by everything that happened.
The Bad: Of course, writing a show about suicide can be difficult, and when being creative with the format, it could very easily provide a bad view on suicide. I feel like the creators of this show have unintentionally done this with the existence of the tapes. It's extremely hard to buy into the idea that Hannah would put together this plan to make everyone in her life feel guilty about what they did to her before committing suicide. Realistically, if somebody commits suicide, they wouldn't be doing something like this and would just take their life. Since Hannah is doing this, the show may have unintentionally given Hannah the trait of being somebody who wanted more attention, which is the wrong way to look at somebody who is suicidal. Yet the evidence in this episode suggests that it wasn't because Hannah wanted attention, it's just that her behaviour in leaving the tapes may have unintentionally proven that. It's an unfortunate misstep and I feel that it may be one that affects every episode of the show if the writers aren't careful.
I don't like the idea of Clay having that bike crash. At first I questioned why that happened, but now it's clear to me that it's only there so we can easily differentiate between present Clay and past Clay. It feels like a pretty lazy way to establish that and shows a severe lack in creative filmography. Also isn't anybody going to ask Clay about that huge shiner on his head?
Of course the show has some issues with its current time period. It's portrayed to be taking place in the present day, but that's a bit troublesome because of the heavy reliance on tapes and maps which are explained in a vague piece of dialogue which I guarantee was just crammed in there in a lazy attempt to explain why tapes are being used. Additionally, the dialogue has been modernized, but it's done so in a pretty weak way, making it come off as clunky, choppy and unrealistic at times.
It's a bit hard to believe that Bryce sent the messages to everyone on Justin's phone without Justin getting upset about it. It's even harder to believe that nobody puts their damn phones on silent so they can all just receive the message at the EXACT same time.
The Unknown: How did Clay make it onto the tapes? It doesn't look like it was from the events in this episode so I'm assuming that they made up later on. He seems genuinely lost about why he's on the tapes, so I'm very curious to find out what it was that he did.
What were all the events which led to Hannah's suicide? Why did she decide to leave the tapes? How did she organize everything?
Hannah said somebody was watching. Did she mean that literally? Did that have something to do with Tony who was following Clay for some reason? Or is he following Clay just because he was on the tapes and is just really curious? Or some other reason?
Best Moment: I really enjoyed the scene with everyone getting messages in the classroom. While I did criticize it earlier, I think it did a tremendous job of portraying the fear and pain in Hannah as everybody she knew got the picture of her and sent her some judgemental looks.
Character of the Episode: Clay.
Conclusion: This was an enjoyable and gripping pilot. It was very flawed and had some big problems, but I enjoyed watching the episode and was never bored by it. I'm excited to watch the next episode which I hope will continue this interesting take on suicide, and perhaps it will fix some of the issues I had with this episode.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.