Annihilation: A film that sucker punches your mind into stepping beyond its boundaries


Alex Garland comes back with yet another intriguing science fiction blockbuster highlighting how sought after technological advancements can take a turn for the destructive. He creates a film that makes us re-evaluate our life choices, should we be encroaching upon curious territory? Should we be delving into the deep dark unknown of our modern world? These are the questions we glance over and sweep under the rug marking them as exaggerated anxieties. But they are real. Garland hits us straight in the mind and in the gut with a mind-blowing envisioning of supernatural life forms and their affect on mankind. With a stellar cast led by a league of superwomen,  Annihilation packs a steady, yet stinging punch in its story of five women entering a mesmerising portal of the unknown in search for answers that may or may not save humankind.

The story centres around a lonely Lena, (Natalie Portman) an ex solider turned biology professor. Her Special Forces solider husband, Kane, (Oscar Isaac) had been away for over a year, but makes a sudden, unnerving return, saying strange things and then falling ill. As a result, we are introduced to a top secret government mission into the ‘shimmer’ – an electromagnetic field within which mutated landscapes and creatures exist. Kane and his team ventured into the ‘shimmer’ to explore how and why it has formed, with just Kane returning, but not to safety. Falling into a comatose state, Lena decides she must enter the ‘shimmer’ in search for answers about her husband’s condition. She is accompanied by a group of women from different backgrounds of science – Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a psychologist and leader of the mission, Anya (Gina Rodriguez), a paramedic, Josie (Tessa Thompson), a physicist and Cass (Tuva Novotny), a geomorphologist.

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The film has been marketed as not your average sci-fi blockbuster movie, it has its fantasy elements, its horror scenes and its psychological thriller breakdowns. But Garland takes it one step further with an unconventional use of time. We are introduced to Lena with a bang – a seemingly calm woman, having just tackled the ‘shimmer’ and won, being interrogated by a group of men in hazmat suits, close enough to unsettle, but far enough to not be in danger. It seems to mean much more than what the surface allows the audience to understand. The film jumps between this present-day interrogation scene, Lena and Kane, the happily-married couple, and the disturbing facts and revelations that lead to her entry into the ‘shimmer.’ With this he creates an atypical science fiction film, bordering on the dark softness a poetic festival indie would deliver. Although this is no coming of age film for one young, lost character, its a coming of age of mankind and planet Earth in the face of supernatural forces, or even a cautionary tale if you like.

The intense performances from the supporting cast are not ones to be missed in this film adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name. Gina Rodriguez plays Anya, a fiery paramedic, adrenaline pumping right down the barrel of her gun towards the ‘shimmer.’ Poles apart from her famed, golden-globe winning role as Jane in TV comedy-drama Jane the Virgin, Rodriguez showcases her acting skills as not just a funny, sweet girl next door. She stands out in this role alongside Oscar Isaac, though they share no screen time, who brings an effortless aura to his role as an untouchable soldier marred by the ‘shimmer’s’ abilities. He is the sole primary male character of the film, sharing secrets and unanswerable questions with the ‘shimmer’, and acting as the motivator for Lena’s descent into the ‘shimmer.’

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Another element of this film not to be missed is its different take on distribution. The film was released to multiplexes in the States but in a unique turn for a major blockbuster, the UK a d other international rights were handed to popular streaming service, Netflix. It was released a few weeks after its US cinema release, a tactic applauded by some for its embracing of the ever-growing streaming zeitgeist, but unappreciated by others, including the director himself. Garland expressed his disappointment, arguing this type of film was made to be seen on the big screen, but highlights this kind of strategic move can have its pros and cons, labelling it as ‘it is what it is.’ Unfortunately, us viewers and reviewers would see this, on face value, as an interesting move that is keeping with modern times, but we would be mistaken. In reality, a deal was struck between Paramount and Netflix to ease the tension between two producers with differing opinions of the films final cut. Maybe the time will come where Netflix or other online streaming platform releases will become a norm in one sense, but that is a story for another day, time and voice.

Garland envisioned VanderMeer’s novel on screen in an interesting way, moving away from the typical science fiction movie to create a psychological sci-fi horror forcing audiences to turn to their neighbour and question what is real and what is not. Taking a slower than usual pace and soft tone to begin with, Annihilation attacks the senses with a gripping thread from the opening scene to the final climax. Is this film the future that awaits us? Or is it simply an imagined vision we can overcome? These are the questions we are left with in that final scene, then it cuts to black and we return to reality, while a possible real league of female and male warriors out there try to make sense of these questions.


The Greatest Showman: ‘A celebration of humanity’ in its truest most spectacular form.

Stories circulating the stratosphere in this day and age of a Trump government are ones of political standing – where the concept of equality this world thought it prided itself over has been unveiled, undermined and simply undone as non-existent or at least unfulfilled. Film has the platform to give rise to the liberal voice, evidently it has been scandalised in the last few months by some of its most influential figures, but not all are in the shadow of those select groups. We can see the campaigns for gender equality coming to fruition with the new year ‘Times Up’ movement helmed by many strong and powerful women of Hollywood.

For a film like The Greatest Showman to be released in light of these socio-political movements, it brings forward the easy yet unacceptable oversight of many other leagues of people that suffer ridicule and inequality. Yes, the film is set many years back where the words/phrases ‘coloured’ and ‘the help’ were used without resistance and the primary cast are shunned as a result of their ‘oddities.’ But isn’t inequality all the same, despite creed, colour, shape, size, ability, inability – they all share the common fact that they have been discriminated against because they don’t fit the bill of perfection that once was. As the title of this article reads, a direct quote from the film, The Greatest Showman is a celebration of humanity, the most true and real and inclusive of people and communities.

The story revolves around P.T Barnum, played by the versatile Hugh Jackman, a poor man full of love who just wants to keep his wife and children happy. But with the shadow of the aristocrats looming over him – their judgemental stares and constant hammering that he is not good enough for his wife, the daughter of a high society family – Barnum sets out to create his own fortune and with that he creates a magnificent show of oddities and curiosities. A show that leads him and his family into the life he always dreamed to have, but not without its own darkness. The young boy who captured an affluent girls heart with a tatty tin light show as innocent children bought into the greed of elitism and lost his identity along the way.

He gave a show to the curious, but frightened people of old New York City and formed a family of different communities and walks of life through the art of ‘the show’ – one character of which gave a emotionally powerful performance, Lettie Lutz, otherwise known as the ‘Bearded Lady’ – played by Keala Settle. He battles against critics’ harsh words and the spite of yelling mobs but the only negative voice he cared enough to listen to was that of his father-in-law – a manifestation of all that he has strived to work against, from the woes of his poor childhood to his inability to provide for his family.

It wasn’t just Barnum’s character that had to struggle with the bourgeois high tea society of New York and whether or not he fits or wants to fit in, but also Phillip Carlyle, played by Zac Efron in his return to the musical scene after Hairspray and the High School Musical trilogy – an accomplished, wealthy writer lost in the affluent world his parents, his legacy and his work has revelled. He’s made his millions and all know his name but what he looks for is bigger, and it literally leaps towards him in the form of love with Anne, a trapeze artist in Barnum’s show – played by former Disney star Zendaya who establishes herself as so much more than her portfolio suggests. But the forces are against them as their love takes centre stage as part of the films historical context of segregated America, leaving their budding romance and Carlyle’s identity struggle uncertain.

As Barnum descends deeper and deeper into the elitist silver spoon lifestyle, Carlyle takes the other road and finds himself having to fill his shoes. And with that new responsibility and distance from a life he has grown tired of, he realises love should not be hidden, nor should it be something shameful. With one obstacle overcome, the other sets out on his journey of self-realisation.


With his underlying motivation to prove his father-in-law wrong, Barnum loses the great esteem his wife sees in him and he loses sight of what truly matters. He travels full circle to return to the moment where his life changed and finally realises where he belongs and what makes him feel like he belongs – family, love and the truth of his self. So when it came to standing for what is right and true he only realised later on that you don’t have to be a famed high society member to be happy, loved and surrounded by good friends – you just have to be true and kind.

With this message, The Greatest Showman, tells a story that resonates in all time zones, in all historical eras and in all minds and hearts – a story of acceptance, identity and love, which is delivered in a spectacular fashion through song, dance and most of all, a grand show. The premise is actually a simple requirement of humanity, yet it is something humans lose sight of in their journey for wealth, agency and recognition.

mother! is yet another example of Darren Aronofsky’s evil genius/mad scientist status in the film industry.


The buzz surrounding Aronofsky’s latest has been, lets be nice, interesting, if anything. A film that doesn’t really fall under a specific genre, a poster that forces you to question what he thinks a mother is and a very harrowing comment by the star regarding a torn diaphragm. Hmm, interesting. (That last one is literally the only form of press I let myself look into.)

Yet despite all this I took myself down to my local multiplex, along with an unsuspecting cousin who is not too into films of this caliber, and proceeded to watch mother! The viewing experience itself was questionable….it was absolutely bizarre to say the least, the weirdest chain of events I’ve ever watched. I don’t think I have ever wanted to yell at houseguests in my life as much as I wanted to here…and it wasn’t even real.

*Coughs * get off the freakin sink!

And then everything became messy. That’s the adjective I’m going for, a very messy chain of crazy and disturbing events, but I’m going to be honest, I was waiting eagerly for it, and as soon as it did, my eyes were fixated on the screen. The last 30 mins or so, the films magnificently chaotic carnage of an ending sealed the deal for me and I left the movie raving about Aronofsky’s sheer genius.

Bardem’s character is the husband to Lawrence’s wife, a timid, yet toxic relationship the latter tries desperately to nurture, so much so that she re-built her loves home from nothing after a dreadful fire. When strangers, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer, infiltrate their personal paradise, albeit for shelter, the inevitable cracks, both emotionally and physically – manifested by the house of their dreams – are revealed slowly, yet aggressively. Strange creaks, constant disappearances and an intrusive female polar opposite of Lawrence’s character all become the undoing of the small, quiet life they built for themselves away from civilization and void of reality.


At first it seems the intrusive couple are just a representation of everything Bardem and Lawrence are not: intimate – both emotionally and physically – domineering, flamboyant, loving and here’s the kicker…parents. They are the epitome of the human cycle, the image of Adam and Eve; they communicate, they love, they consummate, they reproduce, But for what good? And that is where the horror reveals itself. Behind their image of a ‘normal couple’ are the destructive forces of their warring sons, selfishness and insecurities overpowering their sound judgment, the most typically damaging concept in families – money, and even bigger than that, entitlement. They are Cain and Abel, their parents Adam and Eve, and what does that make Bardem and Lawrence’s characters – at this point, we have no clue, we are experiencing the story unfolding with just as much confusion as the characters.

From there the story takes it turn towards something of substance, but only do we realize its significance once we ascertain the message within the walls of that doomed house, that of which is within the fingertip reach of its omnipotent owner. After those few days of intrusion and trauma, Lawrence and Bardem’s relationship jumps back to the plastic ‘happy’ it was at the start – he did as we wished and she insured he could, as comfortably and undisturbed as can be. And alongside a baby on its way…yes, the warm hope of Lawrence’s pregnancy as a result of, for lack of a better phrase, hate sex, changed their lives for about 9 months. She was happy to become a mother, and he to become a father. So they get to be the exact same as the ‘normal couple’, or so she thought.

A big, yet subtly referenced, part of the film and detail of Bardem’s character is his writing career. Suffering severely from a bout of writers block, Lawrence’s character leaves him to his own devices, and with the many intrusions, his rage is unlocked. But when the moment comes that he finally jots something down that can propel his career into stardom, he takes it and he triumphs. All the happiness in the world is at their doorstep, and that is the moment the film begins its hugely harrowing climax with the lightbulb moment that details why this film is sheer genius. About to enjoy a beautiful dinner, a heavily pregnant Lawrence become second fiddle to the many adoring fans of her husbands, admirers he cant seem to turn away even when they increase and increase to that of a manic, cult-like following, infiltrating and destroying their perfect paradise. It is happening all over again, Lawrence is left to deal with these strange people and their lack of care for her world as her husband revels in his need to be at the center of creation and adoration – figured it out yet?


Lawrence goes into a traumatic labor and gives birth to a son, the son of her husband, the husband who believes he is the leader of these people, the one true creator. The undertones of Bardem’s omnipotence overshadows any recollection of his love and loyalty to his wife, and his narcissistic actions cause Lawrence’s mother to finally burst, and that is when death literally becomes her. At the end, her loving husband allows an onslaught of harrowing violence befall her and her newborn son, to the point of the audience wanting to look away but can’t, for their eyes are wide in shock and fixated in intrigue. The visual presentation of violence is so potent you feel yourself being pulled limb from limb alongside Lawrence – an immersive irreality of sorts. She and the house lost the will to live, her face battered and bruised, and the latter ready to crumble; Lawrence beat her husband’s vicious revelers to the punch and ended the massacre for them all.

Bardem’s character is the Dorian gray of them all – predicated on the self-narcissism of his work and his ‘fans’, he saw his world come to an end, he drove the woman who loved him and only him to her demise, and all for nothing. He is the true creator, the one and only Him, and his loving companion, mother to his Son, and mother to the surrounding nature and world became embroiled in his endless cycle of death and life, love and self-love and destruction and reconstruction.

This film speaks to the mind and shakes it awake to the multitude of problems our world is facing or has faced in its vivid & clever subliminal messages. The images on the surface may be traumatizing to watch but they show a scenario of lucid stability this world we live in is unfortunately becoming accustomed, in the face of many dangers and even the dangers they themselves harbor. It’s a cautionary tale aimed at each and every one of us and we don’t even realize it.

What a film!

Margarita with a Straw: Indie Gem of Pure Content and Character with an Empowering Social Message

A lot of Indian films don’t stretch to address the wide scope that diversity stands for. Yes we have characters of different backgrounds and heritages, and yes we have stories pertaining to them, but it is very rarely seen for issues like disability and sexuality to be in the forefront. Margarita with a Straw brings it to the forefront, showcases it in its entirety and doesn’t sugar-coat the important aspects, it doesn’t brush it off with a comic interlude, it deals with it, in all the negative and positive reactions it would receive within a working class Indian nuclear family. And that is just one half of the film and story, the primary showcasing of disability and sexuality is boiled down to how the main character, Laila, holds herself and discovers who she is as a girl in a wheelchair who may or may not be bisexual. The film is a social commentary on the beauty of relationships and self-discovery; it is a voice for the marginalised and stigmatised, and taboo communities in a country yet to reach the highest point of a representative, progressive social and cultural order.

Laila, played by Kalki Keochlin, is a girl with cerebral palsy living in New Delhi, India, with her primary caregiver and mother, father and younger brother. They are a close-knit family with nothing but love and acceptance for Laila and her condition, something that is rare and or difficult to do in most families across the world. Her family as a whole exudes an image of cultural progression as her parents hail from differing background; her mother from South India and her father from the north. They are supportive in her desires to live as normally as she wants to, for instance her interest in music, her role in a college band and her choice to move to New York for studies. The only exception that her mother feels strongly about is the notion of love, to which she attributes being in love with boys, something she wants for her child someday but knows that it will be a hard path.


Feeling the pain of her first heartbreak over a boy in her class, Laila decides to transfer her studies to America, where she meets Khanum, played by Sayani Gupta, a blind girl from Pakistan, with whom she falls in love and thus believes she is a lesbian. She goes through the tumultuous stages of her youth life like any other young girl would, and one prevalent part of that is sexual discovery. Her realisation of her bisexuality, after becoming intimate with a classmate, called Jared, Laila enters that realm of ones youth where confusion settles and overtakes ones moral code. She doesn’t know how to deal with her feelings for boys and girls, she doesn’t know how to tell Khanum what she did, or even her family about who she is. The film beautifully picks up on these rites of passage moments all the while taking our focus away from her disability, sending the message to its viewers that her cerebral palsy does not stop her from living and discovering sexuality, love, relationships and ultimately her identity.

This is just one part of the film, where she immerses herself into the ups and downs of youth. The other parts demonstrate the relationships she has with her family and then the subsequent affects of her life in New York upon her family. The bond Laila shares with her mother, Shubhangini, played by Revathi, is one of two best friends more than a caregiver and patient, or mother and daughter. The attachment and love between them is so strong and warm that it becomes something of a curse when troubles knock on their door. Laila plucks up the courage to come out to her mother and is met with disapproval, but it is not about Shubhangini’s acceptance for her daughter’s sexuality, it is about Laila’s revelation. Whether or not you are accepted, you should reveal your true self because if not, it becomes a hindrance when trying to live your life happily, thus her coming out represents one step in her journey to taking control of her life and completely opening herself up to her loved ones. She doesn’t come out to her father or brother, just Shubhangini, and that bears a significant message in itself as she is the one person that understands her most, she is her right hand and the woman that has stood with her since birth. Later, Shubhangini falls ill and Laila discovers that she has relapsed from fourth stage colon cancer, of which she had no knowledge. From there Laila realises that there will be a time in her life, in the near future, that she will have to take control, lead her own life and become accustomed to being by herself, and she does just that. After her mother’s death, Laila understands and embraces the next chapter in her life, and with whom does she choose to celebrate? Herself. And how does she celebrate? With a margarita and a straw.


The film is a humanist approach to enduring life in all its good and bad moments, and coming out at the end having found a way to be content with life and all it throws at you. Laila lives without a care for the stigma and taboo connected to her condition, she kisses boys, she has crushes, she curses people who only see her chair and not her, and she feels heartbreak. She is no different, but her condition made her so. Personal freedom was replaced by dependability, but the end scene changed that and you see a young girl just taking off in her new life. The story is so pure and raw that you don’t have to directly relate to Laila, yes you could be LGBT, have a disability, or be Indian, but you don’t have to. You can just be a person trying to find yourself, your identity or your path in life. Escaping into this film for those few hours’ grips you enough to strike a change in yourself, or ignite the urge for change in general.

Sitcoms can be serious too: One Day at a Time…


Comedy is such a difficult feat at the best of times. You can have a solid ensemble cast and a series of scenarios in which they live, act and stumble, but if the comic dialogue, action and timing is not correct and is not welcomed with the reaction you need and want, the show will suffer. Look at some of the long-running classic sitcoms to grace our screens like Friends or The Big Bang Theory – ten or more seasons, characters that live on and peek into our day-to-day conversation, I mean, there is a friends quote for almost every story or situation. Then you have shows like Baby Daddy and New Girl, which are hilarious in their own rights, but have not had the same effect, the former having been cancelled a few episodes before its current season is to end, and the latter to end after its limited episode seventh season to air later in the year. Comedy is tough to execute, you must have the right characterization, the right scenarios, and most important of all, the consistency to pull it off throughout the season, and future seasons it may or may not have.

So when you throw in some hard-hitting socio-cultural content in the mix, writers have got to have some serious skill to keep audiences attracted to this new age sitcom, or they are just brave and hopeful in their experimentations with a classic form of television. One Day At A Time pushes the boundaries with this classic television show remade and revamped with a fiery Cuban family of three generations; grandmother, mother, and two kids. With jokes, gags and one-liners welcoming audiences into the crazy home of a traditional catholic Cuban abuela, a spunky ex-army turned nurse mother, her 21st century cause of the world ringleader daughter and apple of everyone’s eye tweener son, the show then snatches us away from the standard light heartedness of comedy by lulling us into a false sense of security and dropping huge emotional monologues on us like a tonne of bricks. And it sure as hell grips you.

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Anecdotes about the army, PTSD, religion and God, sexuality, absentee father, and the big ones; love and family, take us on journeys with the characters that you would ditch for a slapstick comic scene in the typical sitcom. This show does funny, jumps to serious and then spins us back in a tizzy of cackling laughter all in the space of thirty minutes. And in all of that we get widespread character profiles, heaps of cultural context into one nook of the vast Latin community, Cuba in particular, and the addressing of important themes and issues being tackled in todays real world. You hear one-liners and jokes in 80s/90s sitcoms, sometimes even the current ones, where significant issues like gender power roles, homosexuality and race/ethnicity labeled or even stigmatized as the subsequent ‘butt.’ Eric were always teased about his role in his relationship with Donna in That 70s Show, Chandler in Friends was always anxious about being assumed gay, and Raj in The Big Bang Theory experiences the ill-advised ‘brown dude’ jokes. Now we all know comedy is not meant to be taken seriously, the comic content is not a reflection of society’s views and/or actions, yet it is refreshing to see a group of writers poking fun at the abuela’s accent, or the daughters goth best friend, or even the extensive topic of religion and then stripping it all back to touch upon the other side to these social, cultural and political matters. Some may love, some may hate it, some may say it’s a fresh outlook of comedy, some may say if I wanted serious TV I would’ve watched Line of Duty, but you can’t please everybody, and if you tried, you will be stuck in writing and development stages until the end of time. It is a different side to comedy, sometimes serious, but it still abides by the primary function – being funny.

So to review, One Day at a Time is new age sitcom, a drama for the family, and a new take on an ever-growing, soon-to-be crowded industry predicated on form and genre. So they turn the tables and instead of having another dark fantasy, or crime drama (which are still awesome) they give us a tough, gritty, real comedy show, and a damn simple one at that. After all it is a show about a family merely going about their day-to-day business, you don’t need to look farther than the title to see that much. It gives us well thought out characterisations, and interesting scenarios and situations, but will they be able to keep a hold of them through to the second season? The real test is not how the first season is received, but how they can top it with the second, third, fourth and so on and so forth, if they are lucky enough to see an abundance of network renewals.

Here’s hoping because the first season had me from the get go.

Rita Moreno

13 Reasons Why – A Story Tragic In Its Content But Strong In Its Message

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For the most part, people watch television for a bit of entertainment, to escape their daily lives and live vicariously through an array of characters, like badass police officers in NCIS or rulers of a kingdom in Game of Thrones, or maybe something lighter like awkwardly funny scientists in The Big Bang Theory. But this show is not among that list; it is much more than an escape into a different world. It is a powerful portrayal of a girl, Hannah Baker, played by Katherine Langford, tormented by bullies and loneliness eventually driven to suicide, and her explanation of why she did it, through a collection of mysterious tapes, each one dedicated to a person and what they did to her. 13 Reasons Why (B.Yorkey, Netflix, 2017) is a story about bullying, isolation, fear, and drunken power, presenting a widely prevalent and important social message that we must open our eyes to the destruction the halls of a high school can house and the teens that think they are above the law, both written and unwritten.

This show, based on the novel of the same name by Jay Asher, is a brutally truthful depiction of the damage that can be done by high schoolers, unto their fellow peers, because they have been conditioned to believe certain behaviour is normative or correct. You have two groups: the ones who act so because they are scared of the kings and queens of the school, and the kings and queens themselves, who believe they are immune to the rules everyone else must follow. This unwritten clique is the reason – housing the 13 reasons Hannah discusses on her tapes – why high school is such a menacing place. Asher’s novel released ten years ago, and the television adaptation just released on Netflix last week, but these issues have been circulating for years and years, and this story has been long overdue. Though, it has come at a time where bullying has taken many forms and faces, its almost as if the world is making it easier for bullies to do their dirty work, and even more so fearsome for victims to come out against it. But with the arrival of this show, all should watch and take the necessary action to make sure there is not a real-life depiction.

Asher went on record to say he wanted the graphic scenes in the novel to be truly represented in the television adaptation, thus, it is certified with an 18 rating, and may be distressing for young audiences. But a huge portion of the demographic aims itself at the parents, teachers and other school staff, older siblings/relatives of these children and/or teens. By association and word of mouth, the social message of 13 Reasons Why can enter the  of almost everyone and the issue of bullying, depression and suicide can be discussed and hopefully dealt with instead of becoming labelled with the dreaded word, ‘taboo.’ After watching all thirteen episodes in the space of a week, I was moved and disturbed by the story, characters and themes, episodes 9-13, in particular, where I actually found myself hating a few characters. It was a tough watch, every scene that conveyed an unsettling tone and displayed a character severely wrong in their action led to a reaction where I gasped or yelled, or even cried. It was a tough watch, but necessary indeed to deliver the message of the story, as Asher has recently argued himself.

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The structure the show takes is clever and artistically strong. Each episode is dedicated to one side of a tape, each side detailing the transpired events between Hannah and her perpetrator, a classmate or supposed friend. Therefore the past/present timeline of sophomore year, when Hannah started at Liberty High and junior year, the year she committed suicide is runs right through the first season, the difference noted by a slight change in filter. The past is brighter and tonally warm, while the present is dampened by a grey, blue tonal shift, symbolic of a before and after Hannah period in the lives of her classmates. I praise the cinematography of the entire season, it was well shot and transitioned, a clear-cut, simplistic justification of the two timelines, as well as including some artistically-motivated scenes, like the revert to present day, with the entry of a solemn Clay listening to Hannah’s voice, while she relays the events of a tape, in the past. The story follows one classmate in particular, Clay Jenson, played by Dylan Minnette, a shy introvert who was hopelessly in love with Hannah but never acted on it, worked with her at the local cinema and one of the rare ‘nice guys’ at the school. Next in line to listen to the collection of thirteen tapes, Clay presented himself as the only student with a heart, a conscience, to approach the contents of the tapes for what they were, dark secrets and incriminating behaviour. And from there it unfolds to reveal a year of rumours, harassment and destruction at the hands of people she thought to be her classmates or even her friends which led to suicide.

The first season ended in a number of ways, and without revealing too much, if there is a season two in the works, it would either be pretty dark or just become a different show. If events of the finale episode are picked up and developed then Hannah becomes a name in one huge investigation into Liberty High and its bleak attempt at being an establishment working to educate kids, both academically and socially. The hook that enticed audiences to the show would just disappear. And leaving that to one side, Clay’s character was left ambiguous in his connection to the tapes and their contents, but his own personal battles and persona in high school seemed to find closure, learning from Hannah’s last words, as he skipped class and just drove off to a day of hanging out with Tony, Skye and Brad. The final episode doesn’t resolve any of the issues that reveal themselves throughout the season one run, so a return for a second season is possible, but there are mixed reviews as to the point of it.

Therefore, if there is any criticism of the show it lies with the ‘too much too soon’ parallel – should the writers and producers have stretched the stories of the tapes across a number of seasons consisting of fewer episodes? Or is the show not expecting a season two at all, is it looking to enter the mini-series territory, despite bearing the bulk of thirteen, not 3 or 6, episodes. The question 13 Reasons Why leaves with its audiences is this; what is next?

Is British TV Underrated?

That all depends on what you class as ‘British TV’ and what does that even mean? Is there a bad connotation attached to the word ‘underrated?’


America has given us a long list of greats when it comes to TV, covering a wide array of genre and form, from The X Files to Dallas, Cheers to Charmed and Twin Peaks to Seinfeld. And we cannot argue that the profundity of Hollywood has sent the film industry straight into our hearts, minds, and, of course, our pockets. In the face of film, TV always tended to drop and play around in the shadows, with a crossover between the two, in terms of story, cast and crew, just not being feasible and/or desirable. But now, TV has risen out of those shadows and made its own majestic mark in the showbiz, entertainment world, striding alongside film, shoulder to shoulder, stealing its actors, actresses, directors and producers, re-building film’s failed attempts into shows followed so intently by audiences it becomes part of their daily life to catch the latest episode. Now lets not diminish the power of the movies just yet, everyone wants to be a big-time, a-lister movie star, but what will they always remember? Where they got their start. For most of the latest crop, and even some from the past who always found their way back, that start was in TV! Just look at Julia Louis-Dreyfus; found fame on Seinfeld, went on to star in her own sitcom, The New Adventures of Old Christine which was cancelled after a very successful five seasons and once again rose to undeniable, unbeaten fame with the still going strong, Veep. She had film roles in between her TV, but always came back, that’s true loyalty to an industry still trying to flourish in the background of Hollywood. There are many more actors and actresses like Louis-Dreyfus, and because of them, the incredible talent in the writer’s rooms, and most notably in this era, the different viewing platforms, TV has risen to become one of the biggest, baddest industries across the world.


But, is it all because of American TV? Not a chance.


Some would believe it to be so, especially with most of Britain’s talent jumping ship and finding work across the pond, but that’s their prerogative, a person has to build their career somehow. Even writers, directors and producers have to join forces with their American counterparts in order to make their dreams a reality. It’s all part of the big rat race that is showbiz, and, to put it simply, life. This article isn’t predicated on picking at America’s successful TV industry and all the people behind it like a ratty child throwing their toys out the pram. No, it’s about the other successful TV industry and the many other people responsible for doing it – British TV. It is transcending boundaries and pushing past limits to create and present great stories, characters and messages to its viewers. Some examples are; Midsomer Murders, Peaky Blinders, Prime Suspect and Spooks, Goodness Gracious Me, Cold Feet, Only Fools and Horses and Absolutely Fabulous. These shows all represent Britishness – a way of life Britons can identify with, stories that most can discuss with friends or at parties and say; ‘did you see the latest Cold Feet? That reminded me of the time I…’ or even ‘just re-watched the first series of Spooks, it puts things into perspective…’ They are all still talked about, watched and enjoyed, but if you were to mention one of these names to someone abroad, would they know them straight off the bat? Maybe not these examples, but I can bet any money that if a person dropped these show titles, they would know: Downtown Abbey, The Night Manager, The Crown, Doctor Who, Sherlock, The Office, and why is that? Two words. US backing. So the moral of this article is that British TV has become lost to the power of the American dollar, and the solely British TV of today, like Mrs. Browns Boys, Citizen Khan, Mount Pleasant, Victoria, Death in Paradise and Vera, are going unnoticed by most of the world despite being brilliant in their own right. Thus, wouldn’t you say British TV is underrated?


Victoria (2016-present)


Only Fools and Horses (1981-2003)


Spooks (2002-2011)

We can’t fault those British TV shows that are backed by the States because they are brimming with all the good things TV has to offer; immersive storylines, identifiable characters, socio-political and cultural messages the world needs to have thrown in their faces. And a bonus perk is that these American-backed British shows are winning in the critical acclaim race, with The Golden Globes, SAGs and Emmy’s opening their doors to these British actors/actresses and creators by awarding them with the highest honours. Claire Foy is a recent Golden Globe winner for her work in The Crown, as is Tom Hiddleston for The Night Manager, and in the past years we have seen Wolf Hall win best Mini-series. We know it’s not all about accolades and critics and ratings play a big role in the success of a show, and from pulling in a viewership of 1.6 million, The Night Manager brought a surge of 70% since its premiere. So there work is obviously good as its applauded by the bigwigs and the people tune in to watch. But it’s not completely British, and the ones that are just seem to be hovering in and out of the shadows. Whether they want to come out of the shadows or not, whether they want America to shuttle them towards the limelight or not, they are definitely deserving of worldwide recognition, slots that are being filled up by other shows, and all because they have a foot in its success. Does that sound slightly nepotistic?


The Crown (2016-present)


The Night Manager (2016-present)

This may sound like an ‘axe to grind’ article against America and its TV industry but it is actually a call for the hidden gems of British TV to be understood and recognised as primetime players in the big game that is entertainment. And one way that it has already happened is through the art of streaming, where Netflix UK & Ireland stream a wide array of inherently British TV shows, for instance, The Thick of It, Top Boy, Skins, Benidorm, Outnumbered, Blackadder, Whitechapel, the list is endless. It is a big step, but it makes you wonder if all these shows are on the US Netflix, or the European version, and the people who get to watch need to have a subscription, so is it a big step after all?

To counter my own point, is it better for these shows to remain as they are, because if they were to lose their underrated status, would they still be those very British TV shows they started out as? If the whole world knew about them, and they became high-ranking entertainment shows, would the market of British TV cease to exist as just that, British? A market of its own? These conversations tend to strike a chord, but they are also a double-edged sword. So what is the right answer? Is there a right answer? No, there is just an opinion, a POV, and this article is mine. I believe the un-Americanised British TV is underrated, but I also don’t have a solution that won’t taint its reputation as good, solid entertainment, so maybe being underrated is its power, its tool to be a constant in the industry even after its airtime has concluded, because they are the ‘indies’ of TV, the hidden gems that just need to unearthed by the lovers of Television. I mean, even America must have its own version of this; it can’t all be surplus ratings, prestigious honours and huge fan-followings.

There has got to a balance.