Netflix's newest original, 13 Reasons Why, is a poignant examination of the all-too-real issue of teen suicide. Based on Jay Asher's bestselling novel of the same name, the show traces the harrowing events that incite Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) to take her own life. It unfolds through a series of confessional cassettes she recorded before her death and sent out to the people she deemed responsible. As the tapes make their way around school, Hannah's classmates struggle to stomach their shame and keep their secrets hidden. But if Hannah's life is meant to serve as a cautionary tale, Alex Standall's story on 13 Reasons Why is its tragic kicker. Spoilers ahead.
In the final moments of the finale, it's revealed that Alex shot himself in the head and is in critical condition at the hospital. It's a shocking gut punch, but one that proves the show's point in a powerful way: Wrapped up in self-interest, the same people that shrugged off Hannah's own depressive free fall neglected Alex's, too, once again failing to recognize someone's silent screams for help. But it's also a warning call for viewers. Was his name the one you expected, when the EMT said someone had been shot? Did you notice him cracking, piece by piece, as the immensity of his grief and guilt closed in on him? Look closer, the evidence is there.
It's in the moment when he loses control at Monet's, shouting so loud that the entire café can hear him. It's in the moment that he floors his car, careening down the road in search of a feeling that might shake him back to life. It's in the moment that he picks a fight with Montgomery in the parking lot, then, desperate for punishment, comes unhinged at the honor board hearing. "So anyone can get away with anything at this school and no one fives a f*ck?" he cries, clearly referring to Hannah's death. "I'm taking some f*cking responsibility." And it's in the moment when he leaps, still clothed, into Bryce's pool, probably wrestling with many of the same feelings Hannah had in the weeks before her own suicide.
But even with the roadmap Hannah so carefully outlined in her tapes, no one takes notice of Alex's erratic outbursts and bitter replies. They're far too concerned with their own problems to open their eyes. It recalls a comment Tony made early on: "You never really know what’s gonna hit how. You never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life." Hannah's story is a plea to look deeper, and what happens to Alex is proof that those involved have yet to learn that inaction can speak just as loudly.
13 Reasons Why isn't so much a PSA as it is a reminder to take notice, to look out for one another, to reflect before you act. And in a world where a carefully crafted online presence can make it easy to overlook real-life hardships, it's a necessary one.