Sunday, April 2, 2017

REVIEW: '13 Reasons Why' - Hannah Makes New Friends Who Ultimately Betray Her in 'Tape 1, Side B'

Netflix's 13 Reasons Why - Episode 1.02 "Tape 1, Side B"

Hannah makes friends with Jessica and Alex, two other new students. Justin doesn't show up at school. Hannah's mother finds something troubling.

The premiere of 13 Reasons Why didn't tell the audience who all has listened to the tapes ahead of Clay. The series just starts with him getting them and slowly hearing Hannah's story. It adds a nice level of paranoia to the proceedings. It's unclear which of the people in this story have already heard all that Hannah had to say. Not much time has actually passed since Hannah committed suicide. Parents and teachers are still reaching out to the kids to make sure that they are properly coping with her death. Plus, her homework is still being discovered. Her parents only cleaned out her locker in the previous episode. And yet, this episode confirms that Clay isn't the first person to listen to the tapes. In fact, this episode teases that they need to be kept a secret because of how damaging they could be to all of the people should they get out. It's a nice tease in this episode. However, it could become annoying after awhile with people growing more and more frustrated at Clay for not listening fast enough and agreeing to keep it all a secret.

Clay has been established as a weird outsider. He was close friends with Hannah. That's why he is grief-stricken. She even had a nickname for him based on one of their early interactions - "Helmet." They knew each other before the school year started. However, he wasn't her best friend. In fact, their friendship is barely a component of this episode at all. Instead, Hannah goes into detail about how the two people she quickly befriended at this school ultimately turned her. It could become a predictable pattern for this show to depict a nice interaction with Hannah and someone new only for it to turn tragic. That's the whole purpose of this story. Hannah needs to provide context so that everyone listening understands how the actions hurt her because she was so close to the people. It could be a familiar pattern throughout this season. But after awhile, it will grow predictable. There won't be as much patience for it in later episodes than there is now.

And yet, it's still wonderful to see Hannah make friends at school. This episode continues to show just how unique and funny Hannah was. Jessica is the focus of this tape. She and Hannah became friends because their guidance counselor forced them together. Neither one of them wanted it to happen. But they shared a similar sense of humor. They then brought in another kid, Alex, who was new to the school as well. It's great to see that Hannah had friends. She could make them easily. It was fascinating to see all of them complain about their lives. Jessica was distraught because her father was being deployed yet again but couldn't talk about it. Alex was upset that he had to take remedial math because his old school didn't teach the same information. And finally, Hannah had this support system when the scandal with Justin first broke out. They were there for her even if she didn't want to talk about it. These three friends were strong when they were at the local coffee shop.

This story also highlights how high school relationships can affect friendships. Hannah, Jessica and Alex were close friends. But they drifted apart once Jessica and Alex started dating. They didn't do a great job hiding that fact. They were holding hands in the cafeteria. They went on dates at the movie theater. Even when they got caught, they didn't know how to act. They allowed the relationship to affect their great bond as friends. That's what tore them apart. Jessica and Alex were able to expand to new horizons at school as well. Alex got more friends while Jessica became a cheerleader. But the devastating final note is Jessica believing Hannah was responsible for her breakup with Alex. It's all because of some note. The audience doesn't learn what was on it until the end of the episode when Hannah's mother discovers it amongst her things. It was a ranking of the girls at school. Hannah was voted "Best Ass" while Jessica was under "Worst Ass." That continues to build up the idea that Hannah was a slut. She didn't see herself like that. But it's becoming this rumor and perception that is growing throughout the school. That's probably going to be a huge contributing factor to her suicide. Her parents even note that she was being bullied online and by text.

Clay is an interesting delivery system for all of this information as well. He's not like the other people at school. He's taking his time with the tapes because it's difficult and agonizing to hear Hannah's voice knowing that she sees him as responsible for her death. But he also wants to act on the tapes as well. He wants to know who all has listened to them. He wants to know how Tony is involved in all of this. He wants to know if they should be given to Mr. Porter, the new guidance counselor at school. He wants to do all of this without hearing the full story. That means a lot of the characters who do know the full truth don't take him seriously because he's spiraling with just the littlest amount of information. Jessica and Justin note that he isn't like them. Clay joining the pact to keep it all a secret won't be as easy as some of the others responsible. It's important to see their reactions as well even though the show has to understandably keep things cryptic right now. Justin is missing from school. That's an important story throughout this episode. It's nice that he's okay at home just needing personal time away from the world. And yet, it also feels like he's guilty about something else that could only further complicate this story.

It's also fascinating to see Jessica refuse to accept Hannah's version of the truth. She's dead because of how all these people made her feel. And yet, Jessica refutes Hannah's claims. She tells Clay not to believe everything that Hannah said. She's distraught by all of this as well. Plus, she knows everything that ultimately happened to Hannah. But it's also clear she doesn't want to believe it. It could be a coping mechanism to make her feel less responsible for what happened. A way for her to believe that her former best friend didn't kill herself just because she excused her of sleeping with her ex-boyfriend. She's entitled to her side of the story as well. She may have a different opinion for how the three friends broke up. And yet, it doesn't change the outcome of this story. Just because she refuses to see things the way Hannah saw them, it doesn't mean that Jessica is right. It just shows that these tapes may not ultimately bring clarity and acceptance to the people who listen to them.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Tape 1, Side B" was written by Brian Yorkey and directed by Tom McCarthy.
  • Hannah outlines that the people on these tapes either hurt her directly, saw that she was in pain and did nothing or didn't even know that their actions affected her. When she says that, Clay thinks of distinct times where any of that could apply to his relationship with Hannah. Those are some intriguing teases - including Hannah quitting her job and kissing Clay.
  • Okay, Tony is the one following Clay around to make sure he listens to the tapes and that nothing bad happens to him. But it's even more intriguing that Hannah's mom calls him to tell her what the note she discovered actually means. So, he's clearly more important than he initially seemed.
  • Hannah's mother seems to be struggling much more so than her father. He seems distraught too. And yet, she's the one pushing to understand what happened and punish the people responsible. Meanwhile, he sees the note as a compliment and not bullying - despite all the other evidence out there.
  • Clay was also taking medication for something a few years ago. His parents aren't doing a great job in trying to connect with him. His dad seems distant while his mom is too forceful and blunt. Family breakfast is a good idea but just setting the meds out on the table was awkward and didn't work.
  • The school also has Clay under attendance observation. That's a weird moment. They are checking in on him for some reason. But it's largely just an excuse for him to run into Alex.
  • So, Justin and Jessica have listened to the tapes. The two other jocks in the poolhouse know about them as well. They know what Clay is talking about when he approaches them with questions. It should also be fascinating for Clay to approach someone who has no clue what's going on. That would be an interesting situation for him to deal with.

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.