Tony In the '13 Reasons Why' Book Vs. The Show: He Was Even More Mysterious On The Page
For the most part, Netflix's 13 Reasons Why stays faithful to its source material: Jay Asher's much-acclaimed YA novel of the same name. The recently unveiled high school drama unfolds through the eyes of Hannah Baker, a struggling teen who commits suicide and leaves behind a collection of cassette tapes detailing the events — and people — she holds responsible for her death. But the TV adaptation also fleshes out many of its supporting characters, including one of its most enigmatic: Tony (played by Christian Navarro). His purpose is the same in each version, but the Tony in the 13 Reasons Why show vs. the book has a much larger role. SPOILERS AHEAD.
In both the novel and the series, Tony is the keeper of Hannah's second set of tapes, and she entrusts him to release them to the public should any of her recipients fail to follow her instructions. But in Asher's story, he's more of a peripheral figure. Clay doesn't realize that Tony is the one following him until he's on cassette four, while in the Netflix take, he finds out Tony is watching him in the very first episode. While Tony was always a reassuring character, his increased presence positions him as a guiding force, always stepping in to get Clay out of trouble or encouraging him to press forward with the tapes even when it's hardest to listen.
It also gives viewers a more in-depth look at who he is. He comes off as mature, trustworthy, and yes, a little aloof, but overall a kind and supportive kid. He's a rock for Clay when he needs him the most, and seems to have a loving relationship with his boyfriend, Brad (in the book, Tony's sexuality wasn't specified.) He doesn't really fit into any of the stereotypical high school cliques, but appears to be liked by those he does decide to befriend.
He also sparks up a close relationship with Hannah's parents after her death. They frequently turn to him when trying to understand why Hannah killed herself, and though it remains unclear why he didn't do it sooner, he does eventually transfer his copy of the tapes into audio files and hands them off to Mr. and Mrs. Baker.
Like many of the people portrayed in 13 Reasons Why, he's certainly made his own mistakes. In one scene, he's shown beating up a guy with his brothers, and sidesteps the question when Clay asks why. And though he was probably just trying to honor Hannah's last wishes, he doesn't come forward — or do anything about them at all, for that matter — after learning of Sheri and Bryce's crimes. But his faults aren't any less important. In the book, he's mostly a plot point, but in the show, he's a fully realized person — flaws and all.