I can agree with, or at least sympathize with, every single criticism I’ve seen leveled against this series. Is it sometimes unrealistic? Yes. Does it strain to fill all thirteen hours of story? Definitely. Is the writing sometimes weak? Yup. Are there problematic elements of the premise and the way it approaches its serious topics? Of course (what it says about revenge and guilt in particular is something to be discussed). However, it’s compelling–addicting, almost–in a way that few shows manage to replicate. It’s not just teenage angst and plot devices. I finished it in a day and a half, and it impressed me because it got me to care about these characters. It allowed me to understand them on some level. I’m not sure I’ll ever form a solid opinion about the show’s sensitivity, its nuances, and its impact on its viewers, but I do hope it helps more than it hurts.
Katherine Langford is a revelation, Dylan Minnette continues to impress, and Kate Walsh gives one of the most heartbreaking portrayals of grief that I’ve seen. As for the suicide scene, you might feel like you’re prepared for it, but you most definitely are not. It’s gut wrenching on a physical and emotional level. It’s nearly unwatchable, but it’s necessary. It’s awful and sad and it will impact you no matter how you feel about the rest of the series. And thankfully, I don’t get the sense that the show is trivializing or romanticizing suicide in the end. Anyone who swears off this show due to its premise or approach or subject matter is completely within his or her right, but I, for one, am glad I spent the time I did. It’s not perfect, but trying to handle these topics is an extremely difficult task, and I think the creative team truly cares about these characters and issues. For a show about death, it has quite a bit of life in it. And both the best and worst part of it is: for thirteen hours, you watch that life crumble.