Friday, April 7, 2017

REVIEW: '13 Reasons Why' - Clay Gets Into a Fight While Everyone Else is Scrambling in 'Tape 6, Side B'

Netflix's 13 Reasons Why - Episode 1.12 "Tape 6, Side B"

Hannah winds up at a party after an argument with her parents. The students are served with subpoenas. Justin wrestles with conflicting loyalties.

The closer Clay gets to the end of the tapes, the closer he gets to Hannah's death. Similarly, the closer the season gets to the finale, the closer it gets to exposing all the secrets everyone has been trying to keep in the aftermath of Hannah's suicide. In a lot of ways, "Take 6, Side B" is simply setting the stage for what's bound to be an intense finale. The subpoenas have been issued for the Bakers' lawsuit. All of the parents believe it is simply a fishing expedition to see if they can find any incriminating evidence against the school. They don't believe any of the kids could have anything to do with this. Of course, that's not true at all. This entire series has been about the devastating effects of one's choices. And now, everyone has to decide how far they are willing to take all of this. Hannah chose to kill herself. She did so because she believed the world would be a whole lot better without her in. That was especially clear once she made that outline of her life to figure out how it all went awry in the first place. And now, everyone else has a choice to make. Do they double down on all the lies in order to protect their secrets? Do they try to find their own justice? Do they take matters into their own hands by committing even more crimes? Or do they simply tell the truth and accept the consequences of their actions? All of these are valid reactions the characters are having at the moment. Time is running out for all of them.

In addition to all of this, the episode also outlines the worst day of Hannah's life. It's hard to imagine a worst day than Jessica's party. That seemed to be her breaking point. She could no longer come back from everything that happened that night. And yet, the events of that night happened around her and affected the people she loved most in this world. The events of this episode happen directly to her. She mistakenly loses the bank deposit for the store. That's her fault and is more than willing to pay for the money she lost. But it also establishes a feeling of nothingness within her. She's finding it difficult to feel anything at the moment because bad things keep happening in her life. She sees herself as the only person to blame. She feels like life is chaotic and messy because of her. She goes on a walk not to clear her head but to feel something. What she finds at the end of the journey is a glimmer of hope right before her spirit is broken for good. It's a devastating way for her story to end. It's difficult to watch as she shows up at Bryce's party, reconnects with old friends and then gets raped by Bryce. It's the latest horrifying thing to happen to her in a season of horrifying things.

The show could run into the problem of having so many terrible things happen to Hannah that the audience grows numb to all of it. And yet, the writing and the performances have kept that from happening. The audience wants Hannah to get a win. She really deserves it. And yet, it's futile to think that because it's always been clear where this story is headed. It could also be problematic that the show uses rape twice as a plot device. It's defined two different women on the show. It's the same guy in both situations as well. It highlights just how pompous, entitled and misogynistic Bryce is. He believes he deserves both of these sexual conquests and the women wanted it. From Hannah's perspective though, that wasn't true at all. She felt nothing but found peace when she was simply looking up at the stars while in the hot tub. Like so many moments in her life, it was corrupted. This time it was her being raped. That's the key moment where she just feels lifeless. That's the moment where she realizes she'll never have a long, fulfilling life filled with joy and happiness. It's in that moment where she is devastated and knows that all of this suffering needs to end. It's brutal to watch. Seeing Hannah walk through her life afterwards completely destroyed but still alive is devastating knowing that she's just one move away from killing himself to ensure that no one can hurt her ever again.

Of course, Clay uses all of this as his latest excuse to try to find some justice for all the terrible things that happened to Hannah. He got legal advice on this very issue from his mother a few episodes ago. But now, he actually goes to Bryce's house to try and get a confession out of him. It's a little laughable. Bryce is this confident jock who is used to getting what he wants while Clay is the neurotic loner always in the middle of an existential crisis. A fight between them was never going to end well for Clay. And yet, it still feels like he got a major victory out of all of this. The audience never actually sees Clay record this conversation with Bryce. But that's clearly what's going on. It's Clay trying to do something in the wake of all of the subpoenas being delivered. Time is running out and he feels he needs to do something to honor Hannah. He needs Bryce to pay for his crimes. Plus, Bryce is completely clueless to everything that is really happening right now too. He doesn't know about the tapes. And more importantly, he doesn't think he did anything wrong with either Jessica or Hannah. He's just sad that Justin is no longer his best friend for some reason. And yet, he can't quite understand why. It's also fascinating to see Justin's perspective on all of this. He reveals just how important Bryce has been in his life for so long. Bryce has been there for him while his mother and her boyfriends have constantly abused him. That's what made it so difficult for him to tell the truth to Jessica. And yet, the pressure ultimately got to him and he had to.

The episode ends with a montage showing how everyone plans on addressing their futures. Jessica decides to pour out all of the alcohol she has hidden in her room. That seems like a strong first step to improving her life. Courtney sits her father down to tell him something about her relationship with Hannah. That seems promising as well even though she's the one who still wants to commit to the lies for as long as possible earlier in the episode. Sheri confesses to her crime of knocking the stop sign over unsure of what potential consequences that might bring. That's her continuing to work to be a better person. Alex makes a passionate plea to the rest of the group that they should just tell the truth. He's been in a dark headspace for a long time. And now, he finally expresses his thoughts that if just one of them had been a better friend to Hannah she would still be alive. He truly believes that and wants the truth out there. That makes it so tragic to learn that his police officer father has found a way to keep him from being deposed. That probably won't sit well with him but he also seems unlikely to confront his father. However, the episode actually ends with the reveal that someone has been shot in the head and is currently in an ambulance to the hospital. The easy guess would be Clay. He hasn't returned home from Bryce's yet. Plus, Tyler was seen buying a gun off the street earlier. This could finally be him getting payback for the pain he caused and to help control the narrative. That's what everything seems to be pointing at. Will the show actually commit to that though? Or is it all just a manipulation to raise tension heading into the finale? That would allow someone else to be the victim for some other reason.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Tape 6, Side B" was written by Elizabeth Benjamin and directed by Jessica Yu.
  • Olivia confronts Tony with the piece of paper Hannah had written that basically outlines the story of the tapes. He knows the truth but can't tell her because he feels like it would betray Hannah's wishes. And yet, it only reinforces to Olivia that something more is going on that people are keeping from her and Andy.
  • It's wonderful to see Tony finally confide in his boyfriend, Brad, as well. It's clear there has been growing tension there because Tony couldn't tell him what he was doing with the tapes. Him opening up right now shows that he has love in his life even when he's hurting others elsewhere.
  • When the secret-keeping group meets at Monet's (except for Justin, Jessica and Sheri), Tyler is the one who pushes to make Bryce a scapegoat because he is easily the worst person in this entire community. He's the rapist. He's the true criminal. In comparison, some of the other actions aren't so bad. Of course, the people involved can still be incredibly selfish too.
  • Before Sheri makes her 911 confession, she goes to Mr. Porter's office for advice on how to handle the subpoenas. That's the last person she should go to because he's so bad at this job and is clearly biased in this situation. And yet, him telling her to be truthful does aide in her making the confession in the end.
  • It's tragic to see Justin get choked out by his mother's boyfriend as well because he doesn't understand why the subpoenas were sent out. He's selfish and wonders how this will affect his illegal business. But it's also depressing to see Justin's mom return to the boyfriend and not care for her son. Justin leaves with a bag full of his things. But where is he going to go?

As noted in previous reviews from this show, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.