Why ’13 Reasons Why’ Would Not Work If Hannah Did Not Die [Opinion]

'13 Reasons Why' would not be the same if the novel's original ending was followed.

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

13 Reasons Why, Netflix’s most recent blockbuster series, tackled a severe issue: bullying and suicide. Since the book was published 10 years ago, fans of the tragic story of Hannah Baker dealt with the unalterable fact that the once-promising teen ultimately dies in the end. As it turns out, however, the original drafts of the novel featured an entirely different ending. One in which Hannah survives.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Jay Asher, the mind behind Hannah Baker’s tragic tale, revealed that in the original ending of the novel, the teen lives. According to the author, Hannah was supposed to have swallowed pills but was found in the nick of time by her parents, who took her to a hospital to get her stomach pumped.

“I liked the idea of ‘We’ve learned something from this. And yet, here’s a second chance. Knowing as well that it was going to be difficult when Hannah went back to school to have to deal with those kids. It’s not like everything’s smooth now. In fact, it might be even tenser for her. But now there’s Clay, who’s going to be upfront that he’s there for her.”

While such an ending would have left the story with a more optimistic note, Asher ultimately decided that the themes he touched on the novel, as well as their repercussions, were far too serious to warrant a pleasant ending, according to a Seventeen report. In the interview, Asher stated that at some point, he had to ensure that 13 Reasons Why‘s message was received by its readers.

“Out of seriousness for the issue, we realized we can’t go there. No matter that there were missed opportunities for her. Those opportunities aren’t there if you do this. Once I realized that the message of the story would be stronger and that it would definitely be more of a cautionary tale. I felt that was definitely the way to go. That’s why Skye’s character made a reappearance, which was cool to see her have a bigger role throughout the TV series.”

Overall, it is quite easy to agree with the novel’s author. 13 Reasons Why, after all, deals with a massive issue that very few authors (or TV series, for that matter) actually do tackle in its rawest form. In a lot of ways, viewers of the series and the overall target demographic of the tale needed a tragic ending for the story’s heroine. Otherwise, the message of the story would simply be diluted.

Considering that 13 Reasons Why dealt with suicide as a result of bullying and an overall toxic atmosphere in school, there was simply no way for the plot to have the same impact had it pursued a less tragic ending. The fact that numerous viewers and critics alike have reacted strongly to the final two episodes of the series is proof that the message of the story really did get across.

The final two episodes of 13 Reasons Why were difficult to watch. The rape scene featuring Hannah and Bryce in the latter’s pool was short but raw, disturbing without being exploitative. Hannah’s suicide, shot without censorship whatsoever, was downright frightening. At that point in the series, viewers knew that she was gone, and there was no way for a redemption arc to happen.

Hannah’s suicide is one of the central themes of 13 Reasons Why, and the finality of her death is one of the key reasons why the book became such a success. As stated by Asher himself, the story is a cautionary tale, and the gravity of its message is something that could never be reduced by an ending that takes its central conflict away.

13 Reasons Why is currently available for streaming on Netflix.

[Featured Image by Netflix]