Darcy Keenan, Columnist
Before I start this, I have a few disclaimers: First, this does contain spoilers for Netflix’s original show, “Thirteen Reasons Why.” Second, I had such high, maybe even unrealistically high, expectations for this show. I read the book when it hit the Best Sellers List in 2011 but haven’t touched the book since. Maybe I remember the book being better than it was, maybe my memory of the book is not accurate because I haven’t read it in years. I’d have to read the book again to figure that one out, but for now I don’t want to. I like the way the book lives in my memory; I don’t want to taint my memory of this story anymore than the show did.
If you read the book, you know that in the original story Clay did not decide to “take matters into his own hands,” in regards to getting justice for Hannah. That was something that the scriptwriters and producers concocted on their own, and it changes how we, as the audience, view Clay. He became a vengeful and cynical character in the movie. In the original Clay Jensen never would have sent out pictures of Hannah’s stalker and never would have keyed someone’s car. This new Clay from the show is not the Clay that I wanted to hold and comfort when I read the book.
The worst thing about this show was that it somehow turned Hannah into a secondary character. Clay was the main character; the entire show revolved around him. Hannah was only there to give Clay some kind of tragic backstory that makes him more desirable and vulnerable because of course that is the only way to make him, and therefore the show, appealing to teenaged girls. The feeling that I should pity him increased when his visions started. I was supposed to identify with how heartbroken Clay was.
In episode seven Clay goes to a basketball game and midway through the second quarter he has one of his hallucinations. He sees Hannah lying on her back wearing an elegant white dress in a pool of blood in the middle of the court. He jumps up from his seat and demands that everyone stop playing, but as soon as he’s up, the sight goes away. That scene was completely unnecessary; it did nothing to further the plot and was never brought up again. The only thing that vision did was make me start to view Hannah as some kind of ghostly entity; I kept waiting for Kate McKinnon to show up with a ghost chipper.
Even when his visions weren’t heart-stopping shots of Hannah lying motionless in her own blood, they were still too real, which coincidentally caused them to be too fake. As he listens to the tapes he “sees” Hannah walking through town recording her tapes or in the hallways of school just going about her normal life. It just doesn’t make sense. I understand why Clay’s visions were essential; it was the only way to include Hannah in her own narrative, but it was not done well. The recurring apparition is all Hannah was in this show. She wasn’t real to all of us watching. There was no way for us to get attached to her because in our minds she was just a fantasy, an acid trip gone wrong.
As much as I think that film adaptations of books should stay as true to the written word as they can, I do think that this show would have been better if there were some differences. I really don’t think that this version of the story, meaning after Hannah’s suicide, was meant to be received as a show or a movie. This would have been a much better show if the timing was different. Instead of starting with Clay getting the tapes it should have started with Hannah recording the first tape. The flashbacks would have made more sense and Hannah wouldn’t have been a backup character in her own life story.