ⓘ 13 Reasons Why
13 Reasons Why is an American teen drama web television series originally developed for Netflix as limited series by Brian Yorkey, based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The series revolves around seventeen-year-old high school student Clay Jensen and his deceased friend Hannah Baker, who takes her own life after having to face a culture of gossip, bullying and sexual assault at her high school and a lack of support from her friends, her family and her school. A box of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah in the weeks preceding her suicide detail why she chose to end her life. The series is produced by July Moon Productions, Kicked to the Curb Productions, Anonymous Content and Paramount Television, with Yorkey and Diana Son serving as showrunners.
Dylan Minnette stars as Clay Jensen, while Katherine Langford plays Hannah Baker. Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, Justin Prentice, Miles Heizer, Ross Butler, Devin Druid, Amy Hargreaves, Derek Luke, Kate Walsh, and Brian dArcy James also star. A film from Universal Pictures based on Thirteen Reasons Why began development in February 2011, with Selena Gomez set to star as Hannah, before being shelved in favor of a television series and Netflix ordering an adaptation as a limited series in October 2015, with Gomez instead serving as an executive producer.
Initially launched as a miniseries, the first season was released on Netflix on March 31, 2017. It received positive reviews from critics and audiences, who praised its subject matter and acting, particularly the performances of Minnette and Langford. For her performance, Langford received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress – Television Series Drama. However, its graphic depiction of issues such as suicide and rape along with other mature content prompted concerns from mental health professionals. In response, Netflix added a warning card and from March 2018 on, a video that plays at the start of each season warning viewers about its themes. In July 2019, Netflix edited out the suicide scene in the first seasons final episode.
Despite being initially produced and marketed as miniseries, Netflix renewed 13 Reasons Why for a second season in May 2017 due to the success of the initial 13 episodes; the second season was released on May 18, 2018, and received mixed to negative reviews from audiences. Coinciding with the release of the second season, Netflix released a video with the cast that cautioned viewers on some of the topics covered in the show and provided a support website with crisis numbers for people affected by depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. A third season was ordered in June 2018 and was released on August 23, 2019. In August 2019, the series was renewed for a fourth and final season.
In season one, seventeen-year-old Clay Jensen returns home from school one day to find a mysterious box on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his deceased classmate who killed herself two weeks earlier. On the tapes, Hannah unfolds an intensely emotional audio diary, detailing why she decided to end her life. It appears each person who receives this package of old-style tapes is fundamentally related to why she killed herself. Clay is not the first to receive the tapes, but there is an implication that he should pass the tapes on after hearing them. There appears to be an order to distribution of the tapes, with an additional copy held by an overseer should the plan go awry. Each tape recording refers to a different person involved in Hannahs life contributing to a reason for her suicide mostly referring to both her friends and enemies.
In season two, months after Hannahs suicide, Clay and the other people mentioned on the tapes, as well as close friends and Hannahs family members, become embroiled in a civil legal battle between Hannahs parents and Liberty High School. Alleging negligence on the part of the school, Hannahs mother pursues her perception of justice, while her reluctance to settle pre-trial and her personal circumstances eventually break up her marriage with Hannahs father. The story unfolds with narratives illustrating Hannahs story told by those who were present in court at the trial.
Clay, who perceives himself as Hannahs failed protector, embarks on an investigation using whatever evidence he can find in an effort to impact on the civil case between Hannahs parents and the school. Clay also endeavors to expose the corrupted culture of the high school and its favor of wealthy jocks over the average student, which especially compromises the integrity of young girls such as Hannah.
Season three is set eight months after the end of season two. Clay and his friends are struggling to cope with the cover-up of Tylers attempted massacre at the Spring Fling, while helping him towards recovery. However, acrimonious tensions reach a boiling point during Liberty Highs Homecoming game, which results in the murder of Bryce Walker. The students of Liberty High are once again forced under the microscope as the investigation into Bryces death threatens to expose their darkest secrets.
2.1. Cast and characters Main
- Grace Saif as Ani Achola, a new student at Liberty High, who has an unknown prior criminal history and is close to Clay and Jessica season 3
- Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker, a teenager whose suicide and recorded audio cassettes spark the events of the series seasons 1–2
- Miles Heizer as Alex Standall, a student at Liberty High, the ex-boyfriend of Jessica and a former friend of Hannah
- Devin Druid as Tyler Down, a bullied student at Liberty High and an avid photographer
- Timothy Granaderos as Monty de la Cruz, a bully who is a student at Liberty High. Like Bryce, he is also a rapist. season 3; recurring seasons 1–2
- Alisha Boe as Jessica Davis, a student who starts attending Liberty High at the same time as Hannah
- Amy Hargreaves as Lainie Jensen, Clays attorney mother
- Brian dArcy James as Andy Baker, Hannahs father and Olivias husband season 2; recurring season 1
- Brandon Flynn as Justin Foley, a student at Liberty High who comes from an abusive family and is in a relationship with Jessica. He is responsible for setting the events of the series into motion by being the first person to humiliate Hannah after their first date. At the end of season two, Justin is adopted by Clays parents and now lives with Clay as his brother.
- Ross Butler as Zach Dempsey, a kindhearted friend of Justin and Bryce at Liberty High
- Christian Navarro as Tony Padilla, Clays best friend at Liberty High who tries to help him deal with Hannahs death
- Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen, a close friend of Hannah who becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her
- Derek Luke as Kevin Porter, a guidance counselor at Liberty High seasons 1–2; guest season 3
- Kate Walsh as Olivia Baker, Hannahs mother and Andys wife, who is determined to uncover the truth about the events leading to her daughters suicide seasons 1–2; guest season 3
- Justin Prentice as Bryce Walker, a student from a rich family and the captain of the football team and pitcher on the baseball team at Liberty High. He is a notorious serial rapist, known to rape unconscious girls and also assaulted Hannah in his hot tub. He is murdered between seasons 2 and 3; his killers identity and motive being the seasons main conflict. seasons 1–3
- Brenda Strong as Nora Walker, Bryces mother season 3; recurring season 2
2.2. Cast and characters Introduced in season one
- Matthew Alan as Seth Massey, a drug dealer and Justins mothers live-in boyfriend, who is abusive toward Justin
- Gary Perez as Arturo Padilla, Tonys father
- Tom Everett Scott as Mr. Down, Tylers father
- Jackie Geary as Amber Foley, Justins mother, a drug addict seasons 1–2
- Alex Quijano as Steve Crimsen, one of Courtneys fathers
- Brittany Perry-Russell as Tracy Porter, Mr. Porters wife
- Ross Turner as Mr. Wood, Liberty High School math teacher seasons 1, 3, and 4
- Joseph C. Phillips as Greg Davis, a member of the United States Air Force and Jessicas father
- Robert Gant as Todd Crimsen, one of Courtneys fathers
- Andrea Roth as Noelle Davis, Jessicas mother
- Michele Selene Ang as Courtney Crimsen, a closeted student at Liberty High who is responsible for spreading rumors about Hannah to protect the secret of her own sexual orientation. In the second season, she comes out on the stand during the trial of Hannah Baker, confessing her actions against Hannah that landed her on the tapes.
- Steven Weber as Gary Bolan, the principal at Liberty High seasons 1–3
- Ajiona Alexus as Sheri Holland, a student and cheerleader at Liberty High who forms a bond with Clay but is also on the tapes when her actions result in Jeffs accidental death seasons 1–2
- Henry Zaga as Brad, Tonys boyfriend. In the second season, it is revealed that the couple broke up sometime between the events of the first and second seasons. season 1
- Cindy Cheung as Karen Dempsey, Zachs mother
- Sosie Bacon as Skye Miller, an estranged friend of Clay. In the second season, Skye and Clay date for while before she leaves for a "fresh start", following another self-harm incident which resulted in her bipolar disorder diagnosis. seasons 1–2
- Anna Zavelson as May Dempsey, Zachs younger sister
- Wilson Cruz as Dennis Vasquez, the lawyer representing Hannahs parents seasons 1–3
- Kimko Gelman as Jane Childs, the vice-principal at Liberty High
- Dorian Lockett as Patrick, the basketball coach and history teacher at Liberty High
- Tommy Dorfman as Ryan Shaver, a student at Liberty High who betrayed Hannahs trust seasons 1–2
- Brandon Larracuente as Jeff Atkins, a kind-hearted student at Liberty High and friend of Clay who died in a tragic car accident season 1; guest season 2
- Steven Silver as Marcus Cole, the self-centered student body president at Liberty High, who is responsible for humiliating and attempting to sexually assault Hannah on a date. In the second season, he is suspended from school after lying on the stand during the trial and following the leaked release of the tapes soon after. seasons 1–2
- Maria Dizzia as Mrs. Down, Tylers mother
- Keiko Agena as Pam Bradley, the Communications teacher at Liberty High season 1; guest season 2
- Giorgia Whigham as Kat, a friend of Hannah and her former next-door neighbor season 1
- Mark Pellegrino as Bill Standall, a Crestmont deputy sheriff and Alexs father
- Josh Hamilton as Matt Jensen, a college professor and Clays father
2.3. Cast and characters Introduced in season two
- R.J. Brown as Caleb, Tonys boxing trainer and boyfriend
- Spencer Moore II as Michael, one of Ninas friends
- James Cretan as Eric Cox, one of Cyrus friends
- Keon Motakhaveri as Chad Moore, one of Cyrus friends
- Kelli OHara as Jackie, a passionate advocate for victims of bullying
- Chelsea Alden as Mackenzie, Cyrus sister, an artsy and witty girl who is not afraid to speak her mind. In the second season, she briefly develops a relationship with Tyler, though the latter breaks it up.
- Parminder Nagra as Priya Singh, the school counsellor at Liberty High season 3; guest season 2
- Jake Weber as Barry Walker, Bryces father season 2; guest season 3
- Ben Lawson as Rick Wlodimierz, the baseball coach at Liberty High, who supports and protects his players
- Brandon Butler as Scott Reed, a student at Liberty High who is on the baseball team
- Samantha Logan as Nina Jones, a well-respected track star who befriends Jessica over shared sexual assault pasts
- Mikko Edwards as Jada, a cheerleader at Liberty High
- Bryce Cass as Cyrus, an edgy, cynical mischief maker who serves as an unexpected champion of the downtrodden. He befriends Tyler and the two together embark on smear campaigns against bullies.
- Meredith Monroe as Carolyn Standall, Alexs mother
- Mason Guccione as Toby Fletcher, one of Cyrus friends
- Allison Miller as Sonya Struhl, a smart and ambitious young litigator, who defends the school during the Hannah Baker trial season 2
- Anne Winters as Chloe Rice, a smart, clueless, popular girl at Liberty High and the new head cheerleader who is also Bryces girlfriend. At the end of the second season, it is revealed that she is pregnant. seasons 2–3
2.4. Cast and characters Introduced in season three
- Brandon Scott as J. J. Kerba, a football coach at Liberty High, who is hard on the players to get them to shape up
- Raymond J. Barry as Harrison Chatham, Noras sick father and Bryces grandfather
- Bex Taylor-Klaus as Casey Ford, a member of HO and Jessicas friend
- Tyler Barnhardt as Charlie St. George, a jock at Liberty High who is friends with Montgomery but kind at heart
- Blake Webb as Tim Pozzi, a drug dealer who sells cheap steroids at the local gym
- Austin Aaron as Luke Holliday, a jock at Liberty High
- Marcus DeAnda as Mr. de la Cruz, Montgomerys abusive father
- Benito Martinez as Sheriff Diaz, the head police officer in Bryces murder case
- Deaken Bluman as Winston Williams, a student at Hillcrest who hooks up with Montgomery
- Ron Rogge as Morris, the head football coach at Liberty High
- Nana Mensah as Amara Josephine Achola, Anis strict mother and the Walkers nurse and housekeeper
- Hart Denton as Dean Holbrook, a student at Hillcrest who does not like Bryce
3.1. Production Development
Universal Studios purchased film rights to the novel on February 8, 2011, with Selena Gomez cast to play Hannah Baker. On October 29, 2015, it was announced that Netflix would be making a television adaptation of the book with Gomez instead serving as an executive producer. Tom McCarthy was hired to direct the first two episodes. The series is produced by Anonymous Content and Paramount Television with Gomez, McCarthy, Joy Gorman, Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Mandy Teefey, and Kristel Laiblin serving as executive producers.
On May 7, 2017, it was announced that Netflix had renewed the series for a second season, which was released on May 18, 2018.
On June 6, 2018, Netflix renewed the series for a third season, which was released on August 23, 2019. It was dedicated to executive producer Steve Golin founder and CEO of Anonymous Content, who died of Ewings sarcoma on April 21, 2019, four months before the third seasons release.
On August 1, 2019, it was announced that the series had been renewed for a fourth and final season.
3.2. Production Casting
In June 2016, Dylan Minnette, Katherine Langford, Christian Navarro, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, Justin Prentice, Miles Heizer, Ross Butler, Devin Druid and Brian dArcy James were cast as the main leads. In September, Amy Hargreaves, Kate Walsh and Derek Luke were cast. Langford exited the show after the second season.
In September 2018, Timothy Granaderos and Brenda Strong were promoted to series regulars for season 3 after recurring in the previous seasons. On September 5, 2019, Gary Sinise was cast as a series regular for the fourth season. On February 11, 2020, JanLuis Castellanos joined the cast as a series regular for the fourth season.
In August 2017, Jake Weber, Meredith Monroe, R.J Brown, Anne Winters, Bryce Cass, Chelsea Alden, Allison Miller, Brandon Butler, Samantha Logan, Kelli OHara, and Ben Lawson were cast for season two.
3.3. Production Filming
Filming for the series took place in the Northern Californian towns of Vallejo, Benicia, San Rafael, Crockett and Sebastopol during the summer of 2016. The 13-episode first season and the special were released on Netflix on March 31, 2017. Therapy dogs were present on set for the actors because of the intense and emotional content of the series.
Filming for the second season began on June 12, 2017, but was briefly halted in October in response to the then-ongoing Northern California wildfires happening around the areas where the series was being filmed. Production on the second season wrapped in December 2017. The second season was released on May 18, 2018.
Filming for the third season began on August 12, 2018, but was halted due to another wildfire until December 17. Filming was scheduled to be completed on February 6, 2019.
4. Release and reception
Initially intended as a miniseries, the first season was released on Netflix on March 31, 2017. It received positive reviews from critics and audiences, who praised its subject matter and acting, particularly the performances of Minnette and Langford. For her performance, Langford received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress – Television Series Drama. However, its graphic depiction of issues such as suicide and rape along with other mature content prompted concerns from mental health professionals. In response, Netflix added a warning card and from March 2018 on, a video that plays at the start of each season warning viewers about its themes. In July 2019, Netflix edited out the suicide scene in the first seasons final episode.
Despite being initially produced and marketed as miniseries, Netflix renewed 13 Reasons Why for a second season in May 2017 due to the success of the initial 13 episodes; filming of the second season began the next month and concluded that December. The second season was released on May 18, 2018, and received mixed to negative reviews from audiences. Coinciding with the release of the second season, Netflix released a video with the cast that cautioned viewers on some of the topics covered in the show and provided a support website with crisis numbers for people affected by depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. A third season was ordered in June 2018 and was released on August 23, 2019. In August 2019, the series had been renewed for a fourth and final season. Critical and audience reaction to the series has been divided, with the program generating controversy between audiences and industry reviewers alongside acquiring a loyal following.
4.1. Release and reception Audience viewership
The marketing analytics firm Jumpshot determined the first season was the second-most viewed Netflix season in the first 30 days after it premiered, garnering 48% of the viewers that the second season of Daredevil received, which was the most viewed season according to Jumpshot. The series also showed an 18% increase in week-over-week viewership from week one to week two. Jumpshot, which "analyzes click-stream data from an online panel of more than 100 million consumers", looked at the viewing behavior and activity of the companys U.S. members, factoring in the relative number of U.S. Netflix viewers who watched at least one episode of the season.
4.2. Release and reception Season 1
The first season has received positive reviews, with praise for the acting, directing, story, visuals, improvements upon its source material, and mature approach to dark and adult subject matter. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an 79% approval rating with an average rating of 7.14/10, based on 62 reviews. The websites critical consensus reads, 13 Reasons Why complements its bestselling source material with a gripping look at adolescent grief whose narrative maturity belies its YA milieu." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 76 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating generally favorable reviews.
Jesse Schedeen of IGN praised 13 Reasons Why, giving it a 9.2 out of 10, "Amazing", stating that the series is "a very powerful and hard-hitting series" and "ranks among the best high school dramas of the 21st century". Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe gave a glowing review for the series, saying, "The drama is sensitive, consistently engaging, and, most importantly, unblinking." Maureen Ryan of Variety asserts that the series "is undoubtedly sincere, but its also, in many important ways, creatively successful" and called it "simply essential viewing". Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly gave the entire season a score of B+, calling the series "a frank, authentically affecting portrait of what it feels like to be young, lost and too fragile for the world". Daniel Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter also praised the series, calling it "an honorably mature piece of young-adult adaptation", and citing its performances, direction, relevance and maturity as some of the series strongest points.
The acting, particularly Katherine Langford as Hannah and Dylan Minnette as Clay, was frequently praised in reviews. Schedeen of IGN praised the cast, particularly Minnette and Langford, stating: "Langford shines in the lead role. truthful stories about things that young people go through in as unflinching a way as we can".
4.3. Release and reception Season 3
Season 3 received overwhelmingly negative reviews by both critics and audiences, with criticism aimed at the lack of necessity, poor execution of its topics, including the rape of Tyler in the final episode of the previous season, the new character of Ani, the sympathetic redemption of Bryce and conclusion. However, some praised the technical aspects and the performances particularly that of Prentice, Druid and Granaderos.
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 12%, with an average rating of 1.43/10, based on 17 reviews. The sites critical consensus reads: 13 Reasons Why attempts to break away from its first two seasons only to become a melodramatic mess of a murder mystery."
On Metacritic the season has an average score of 23 out of 100, based on 4 critics, indicating "generally unfavourable reviews".
4.4. Release and reception Controversy
Some medical professionals, school officials, and others who work with youth said that the series violated guidelines for depicting suicide in the media, and was resulting in an increase in suicidal and self-harming behavior. Netflix responded by adding strong advisory warnings prior to the first, twelfth, and thirteenth episodes.
The superintendent of Palm Beach County, Florida schools reportedly told parents that their schools had seen an increase in suicidal and self-harming behavior from students, and that some of those students "have articulated associations of their at-risk behavior to the 13 Reasons Why Netflix series".
The Australian youth mental health service for 12–25 year-olds, Headspace, issued a warning in late April 2017 over the graphic content featured in the series, due to the increased number of calls to the service following the series release in the country. Netflix however, demonstrably complied with the Australian viewer ratings system, by branding the series as "MA15+" when streamed via its own interface. They accompanied its presentation with additional warnings and viewer advice, and ensured that counselling referrals were included and not easily skipped at the conclusion of each episode. Each warning voice over is read by a different cast member at the end of the episode, with Katherine Langford reading in her native Australian accent in her voice-overs.
In response to the graphic nature of the series and New Zealands high youth suicide rate, which was the highest among the 34 OECD countries during 2009 to 2012, the Office of Film & Literature Classification in the country created a new rating, "RP18", allowing individuals aged 18 and over to watch the series alone and those below having to watch it with supervision from a parent or guardian.
In April 2017, the National Association of School Psychologists NASP in the United States released a statement regarding the series, saying: "Research shows that exposure to another persons suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of death, can be one of the many risk factors that youth struggling with mental health conditions cite as a reason they contemplate or attempt suicide." NASP sent a letter to school mental health professionals across the country about the series, reportedly a first for NASP in response to a television series. The following month, the United States Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology SCCAP released a statement also noting how strongly the series may serve as a trigger for self-injury among vulnerable youth. They lamented the depiction of mental health professionals as ineffective for youth who have experienced trauma and may have been considering suicide. The statement implored Netflix to add a tag following each episode with mental health resources, and a reminder that depression and suicidal thoughts can be effectively treated by a qualified mental health professional, such as a clinical child psychologist, using evidence-based practice.
Similarly, clinical psychologists such as Daniel J. Reidenberg and Erika Martinez, as well as mental health advocate MollyKate Cline of Teen Vogue magazine, have expressed concerns regarding the risk of suicide contagion. However, Eric Beeson, a counselor at The Family Institute at Northwestern University noted that "its unlikely that one show alone could trigger someone to attempt suicide." Mental health professionals have also criticized the series depiction of suicide itself, much of which violates widely promulgated recommendations for reporting on actual suicides or not depicting them in fiction, in order to not encourage copycat suicides. The season finale, which depicts Hannahs suicide in graphic detail, has been particularly criticized in this regard. Nic Sheff, a writer for the series, has defended it as intended to dispel the myth that suicides "quietly drift off", and recalled how he himself was deterred from a suicide attempt by recalling a survivors account of how painful and horrifying it was.
The NASP statement also criticized the series suggestion that bullying alone led Hannah to take her life, noting that while it may be a contributing factor, suicide far more often results from the bullied person having a "treatable mental illness and overwhelming or intolerable stressors", along with a lack of adequate coping mechanisms. Alex Moen, a school counselor in Minneapolis, took issue with the series entire plotline as "essentially a fantasy of what someone who is considering suicide might have - that once you commit suicide, you can still communicate with your loved ones, and people will suddenly realize everything that you were going through and the depth of your pain. That the cute, sensitive boy will fall in love with you and seek justice for you, and youll be able to orchestrate it, and in so doing kind of still be able to live." Other counselors criticized the depiction of Hannahs attempt to reach out to Mr. Porter as dangerously misleading, since not only does he miss obvious signs of her suicidal ideations, but says he cannot report her sexual assault to the police without her identifying the assailant. School counselors are often portrayed as ineffective or clueless in popular culture, Moen says, but Porters behavior in the series goes beyond that, to being unethical and possibly illegal. "Its ridiculous! Counselors are not police. We dont have to launch an investigation. We bring whatever information we do have to the police", she told Slate.
In May 2017, the Canadian Mental Health Association CMHA along with the Centre for Suicide Prevention CSP released a statement with similar concerns to the ones raised by NASP. CMHA believed that the series may glamorize suicide, and that some content may lead to distress in viewers, particularly in younger viewers. Furthermore, the portrayal of Hannahs suicide does not follow the media guidelines as set out by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention CASP and the American Association of Suicidology. CMHA and CASP did praise the series for raising awareness about "this preventable health concern," adding that, "Raising awareness needs to be done in a safe and responsible manner. A large and growing body of Canadian and international research has found clear links between increases in suicide rates and harmful media portrayals of suicide." Ways in which the portrayals of suicide may cause harm, according to CMHA and CASP, include the following: "They may simplify suicide, such as, by suggesting that bullying alone is the cause; they may make suicide seem romantic, such as, by putting it in the context of a Hollywood plot line; they may portray suicide as a logical or viable option; they may display graphic representations of suicide which may be harmful to viewers, especially young ones; and/or they may advance the false notion that suicides are a way to teach others a lesson." A 2019 study showed the overall suicide rate among 10- to 17-year-olds increased significantly in the month immediately following the release of the series.
The release of 13 Reasons Why corresponded with between 900.000 and 1.5 million more suicide-related searches in the United States, including a 26% increase in searches for "how to commit suicide," an 18% increase for "commit suicide," and a 9% increase for "how to kill yourself." After an initial spike in calls to Crisis Text Line after the first episode, there was an overall reduction in crisis call volume for the remainder of the series. Although the link between searching for suicide information and suicide risk is unclear, increases in self-harm admissions to one childrens hospital were observed.
5. Beyond the Reasons
With the release of the first season of the series, Netflix also released 13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons, an aftershow documentary television film. The 29-minute documentary featured cast and crew of the series, and mental health professionals discussing their experiences working on the four series and dealing with different issues, including bullying, depression and sexual assault. Two more Beyond the Reasons specials were released with the second and third seasons respectively.