A-Drama: 13 Reasons Why (8.6/10)

Trigger warning: This show and therefore this blog touches on suicide and other topics that are sometimes hard to talk or hear about.

I had no idea what this show was about when I started it. It was on Netflix and at some point I had added it to my list, based on whatever description of the plot that they gave.

The summary did not accurately reflect the plot. It turned out that the show was about a high school girls suicide and the 13 reasons she gave for why she made that terrible decision. The show is about many of the things that teens / young adults go through in school and with their friends that traumatize them and lead them to make terrible choices.

The first episode was a bit of a lift to get through because the writing was very teenybopper, and I was also surprised by the subject matter, which was somewhat dark. From watching so many dramas though, I’ve learned to push past to the next episodes if there seems like there’s any hope for a show.

It turns out that was a good decision because I really enjoyed the show despite the depressing overtones.

The main characters the first season are Hannah, who died but narrates her life from before and beyond the grave and Clay her work and schoolmate who is clearly crushing on her. Other characters include a few popular jocks, the friends Hannah first met when she started at her high school, and a bullied yearbook nerd. There are also parents, a mom grappling for answers about her daughters death and others concerned about their own children, as well as the principal and high school counselors.

It didn’t seem to me that people were all that broken up about Hannah’s death until they found out they personally contributed to it. Some started to care a little and some began to mourn for her after that. Maybe this is natural, but it was sad to see. Hannah’s death was a tragedy and the show does a good job of pointing to all the little cuts she got from her peers that eventually became a very big wound, large enough to make her feel like life was not worth living.

Viewers also learn that Hannah would have had more love than she knew if she had lived.

Hannah’s character was interesting to watch, although I did not always agree with her choices, especially the big one. After considering it, I didn’t really love any of the characters. Like people in real life there were glimmers of good in everyone but a lot of self absorption too. Some just had more than others or handled situations with a little more kindness or grace.

Clay, the male lead was very loyal, but he was also on his high horse all of the time. There were stereotypical jocks, too entrenched in sports hero culture, students who were bullied, and others who were in between. Most of them, no matter how popular or unpopular were secretly insecure, some of them facing family problems, issues with their cliques, high school gossip or worries over growing into men.

“Clay”

Most of the time I was riveted by this drama. Sometimes I felt pretty sad or frustrated while I watched. It is especially sad that all the issues this show pointed to are the same ones so many kids have in real life. Some of the characters were struggling to redeem themselves after making really bad choices and the show gives viewers the space to grapple with their humanity and what types of consequences they deserve.

I don’t know if the acting was good. I think it was a mixed bag, but the show was intense and interesting enough that it didn’t really matter.

The show has a lot of trigger warnings and disclaimers before the episodes started, which makes sense. Most had the actors speaking in them, including the girl who played Hannah. She is apparently British, which is weird since the show is meant to be at a high school in California and she is meant to be all American. Could the casting director not find one actual American girl for this part?

Because I’m me I managed to watch a show filled with traumatic themes and still spend a good portion of it wondering which people I considered the most attractive lol. The guy who plays Clay is very much my type looks wise. Blue eyes and dark hair are my kryptonite, along with dimples and razor sharp cheekbones. His character was not my type, it was too judgey and too broody for my taste. Many of the guys and girls on the show are pretty people, although everyone is distinct and thankfully there is diversity among characters.

Watch this show, if you haven’t already and you can handle themes of teen suicide, sexual abuse, guns and drugs, to name a few. If any of these are too upsetting to you, then I recommend giving it a pass.

K-Drama: Itaewon Class (7.9/10)

This drama had promise. So much promise. If you have ever read my blog posts you know that I love Park Seo Joon’s acting. I will ride or die for him if anyone questions his artistic talent. That’s why it’s hard for me to say that despite his acting this drama made me mad and I wouldn’t watch it again if you paid me.

The acting by Park and the rest of the cast was good. The production value was also high. And the beginning was interesting and made it seem like the drama would be a good one. These are the reasons why I have rated it as high as I have.

Here is a summary of the show from Mydramalist:

Park Saeroyi’s life has been turned upside down after he gets expelled from school for punching a bully and his father is killed in an accident. Following his father’s steps, he opens a pub named “DanBam” in Itaewon and, along with his manager and staff, strive towards success and reaching greater heights.

What the summary fails to mention is that this show is about revenge.

The first quarter of the show centers on what happens that makes the lead character Park Saeroyi want revenge and who he wants it against. And his crush on a girl that he gets to know.

The next quarter is about how he works towards getting revenge which involves opening a pub that he staffs with a motley cast of characters, one of whom is in love with him.

The third quarter is about his growing revenge success and the forth is the culmination of all of this.

I was fairly into the show, although not addicted until quarter three when I wanted to throw it out a window. Basically the beauty of Park Saeroyi, that made him worth rooting for was that he was ethical and principled and would adhere to his principles no matter what it cost him. He loyally loved the same woman for over a decade, he stood up for anyone he felt was oppressed and he chose people over immediate revenge.

Then all the sudden he threw that side of him away, except that I can’t tell if that was meant to be a moral to the story. It doesn’t seem like it. More like the writers had him transition to be an unethical disloyal, revenge over everything type person while pretending he wasn’t. I haven’t read the manga it is based on, so I don’t know.

Worse than all of this, the lead/second lead female was AWFUL. I don’t know if I have ever disliked a character more, outside of some really evil sageuk ministers or evil moms of chaebols. She was described as a sociopath, which seemed right based on her behavior. She was a fairly bad friend, bigoted, although she would eventually see the error of her ways, but only because of Park Saeroyi who she was in love with.

It wasn’t really clear, minus his strong sense of ethics, why the ladies liked Park Saeroyi who wasn’t a great communicator and had one of the worst haircuts I’ve ever seen. And he didn’t disrobe like Park Seo Joon’s other characters have, so it wasn’t about his muscles. But they did like him – a lot. What is less clear is why anyone in their right mind would like this girl. She was a 20 year old running after a 30 year old, crossing serious boundaries to do it and being a godawful human the rest of the time. How any writer, director or producer thought that I would ship her with this guy or even root for her is beyond me. She is the kind of person that I cross the street to avoid IRL.

All I can say is that I ended this show after episode 14 of 16. Near the end of the episode I actually thought that I wouldn’t fault a guy for pushing Park Saeroyi into a street and in front of a speeding car. In fact, the show could have ended like that and I would have given it a better rating. That’s when I knew I was done.

I read the summary of the last two episodes, which helped validate that I made the right choice.