Top TV Episodes of the Month: 13 Reasons Why, Girls, and The Americans

Deception, lies, and harsh truths were all the rage in April


    If there’s one takeaway from April, it’s that there’s not enough time in the world for television. Whether you’re tuning into cable networks like FX, HBO, and AMC or streaming the goods on Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix, there is arguably something good at your fingertips at any given minute, and yes, those minutes start piling up.

    In addition to must-see carryovers from last month — stuff like Girls, The Americans, Crashing, and Riverdale — April saw the hotly anticipated returns of Better Call Saul, Fargo, Rick and Morty, Veep, and Silicon Valley alongside the premieres of newer fare like 13 Reasons Why, The Handmaid’s Tale, and American Gods.

    Basically, we said goodbye to the outside world…

    This may be a tad hyperbolic, but whatever, here we go: It’s almost as if a trip to the couch these days is work in itself. Clearing the DVR or the queues has never been more difficult, and while watching television is hardly an arduous task, it still requires heaps of time. And as most of you know, time is a very lucrative thing.


    The good news is that May looks to add even more madness to the chaos, what with Master of None, Sense8, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Casual, House of Cards, and, yes, even Twin Peaks set to return. But as Special Agent Dale Cooper once told Sheriff Harry S. Truman, “every day, once a day, give yourself a present.”

    Just know that “present” might take up your entire night … every night.

    –Michael Roffman


    “What Will We Do This Time About Adam?”

    It’ll be a great relief in a few years when Girls is just Girls, with all its imperfections and moments of brilliance and memorable performances and butts and boobs and many, many run-on sentences. When we’ve left its lightning-rod era behind and can look back on the final season with fresh eyes, it’s likely “The Bounce”, “Hostage Situation”, or “American Bitch” that will get the most love. For this writer’s money, however, the loveliest of the bunch is the Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham-penned “What Will We Do This Time About Adam?”, a reunion between the two halves of the romantic relationship that most defined the series. The answer to the titular question is a simple one: say goodbye, for good.

    It’s a hell of a trick, made possible by the fact that these two people are so often irrational. Adam (Adam Driver) finds Hannah (Dunham) with her head all the way inside a convenience store freezer, a good way to both get the maximum number of popsicles home in a timely fashion and to cool off (a busted AC unit means Hannah and Elijah’s place is basically a furnace—not a great situation for a pregnant woman.) On the spot, he tells her he wants to be with her and to help raise her kid, and after a quick “I’m, like, so confused right now,” they’re having tender make-up pregnancy sex and Adam’s talking to her belly.

    Seem ludicrous and overly convenient? Yes, it does. It also ignores all the ugliness of their history and directs the pair to a completely pat and lazy ending. That’s why “What Will We Do” doesn’t actually do that. In one of Dunham’s best moments of the series—it’s a long list, but this would be near the top—Hannah watches this fantasy, that they’ll find a new place and he’ll build furniture and they’ll join a food co-op—run out of steam. A lovely idea, and a bad one. Her face crumples, his grin fades, and without a word, they let it die. She’ll go home and try to write. He’ll go grocery shopping. Maybe they’ll never see each other again.


    It’s Girls in miniature—funny, foolish, and sad. May it rest in peace. –Allison Shoemaker

    13 Reasons Why

    “Tape 7, Side A”

    For all of television and film’s milking of high school drama for entertainment, it’s most often given a light tone. After all, it’s called entertainment. But nothing about 13 Reasons Why is light. It’s a story centered around the suicide of a young woman, and how the cruelty of high school led her to do it. We see the effects of bullying in increments, and how lapses in judgement both big and small can have great consequences. And it is all portrayed with few punches pulled. Leading up to the finale, there are a pair of hard-to-watch rape scenes that are appropriately presented with disclaimers. They are horrific acts given the treatment they deserve. It should be hard to watch. It should feel painful and disgusting.

    And in the finale, when Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) is driven to kill herself, the audience is again shown the act in harrowing detail. We’d seen all the actions that had driven her to that moment, so it made sense that we’d have to witness her death and her parents finding her body without a cushion, either. Even though it was a moment that the show told the audience would happen, that didn’t make it any less emotional. But even harder to watch was Hannah’s last cry for help, to school counselor Mr. Porter (Derek Luke). It’s her last attempt to live and it’s treated with haste, with an adult served a chance to save a young person’s life and failing.

    For a show with wide commentary (about how young people treat each other, about recognizing signs of trauma in young people, about accepting responsibility for actions), 13 Reasons Why can’t even account for all the fish trapped in its net, with many storylines left unresolved. But at its heart, it is the story of Hannah Baker, and with the aid of Angel Olsen’s “Windows” (pretty much the best song ever) for its climactic moments, 13 Reasons Why closes with numerous punches to the gut. It’s not an experience anyone would want to repeat, but it is surely worth the ride. –Philip Cosores