Review | ’13 Reasons Why’…Not?

We’re finally here. The controversial series, 13 Reasons Why, has offered its chaotic, final season. While only four seasons, 13 Reasons Why feels almost twice that long. It wears on you. It really does, but in a good way. You know? Ultimately. I’ve always felt the show does a great service to teens everywhere shedding a seriously bright light on what goes on behind their watery eyes and closed mouths.

It’s a show that parents should watch closely. There are many traumatic events that unfold in the students’ lives that easily fly under the radar. You get to see the before, the during, and the aftermath of such events. The flip side here is there are some traumatic scenes that can trigger people who have experienced such events personally. Discretion is advised.

Some scenes are tragic, and it hurts to write about, let alone see. Ultimately, this show is desperately needed today and should be appreciated for its impact into the lives of young people to keep them from considering fatal measures to end their temporal pain.

As a whole, 13 Reasons Why does a good job of prefacing what anyone can do to seek help and offers ways to do that. It is easy to appreciate the problems this show highlights for the audience to see. If you haven’t seen 13 Reasons Why, Season 4 (which dropped less than a month ago), there will be spoilers in this review.

You’ve been warned, now here we go…


13 Reasons Why: seasons 1-3

13 Reasons Why, Season 4: Overview of the Series

In the first season, we start off with the death/suicide of Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). Before she died, she made 13 cassette tapes, each dedicated to one person and how they contributed to her decision to take her own life. Each tape was filled with stories, secrets, regrets, and at times, direct dialogue toward the individual person who received the tape.

As we listen to each tape, they seem to gets worse. Broken friendships, jealousy, emotional abuse, voyeurism, having your most intimate thoughts exposed, rape, and then not having anyone believe you. Hannah went through hell, to say the least. And we are led to believe these 13 people took her there.

Season 1 ends with the graphic scene of Hannah committing suicide. It’s a scene that will get anyone. There are no words for it.

Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice) gets arrested for the rape of Hannah and goes to trial for it in the second season. While on trial, everyone in the tapes are called to testify, but most of them hide what they know.

And just when it feels like nobody will step up for Hannah, here comes Mr. Porter (Derek Luke). He’s the person that Hannah went to try to tell her story of what Bryce did to her. Unfortunately, he didn’t do much of anything. It weighs heavily on him. Ever since hearing the tapes, Mr. Porter does his best to look out for everyone and even threatens Bryce in the bathroom. This is actually one of my favorite scenes of the whole show.

He essentially is the one who testifies in court that Hannah told him what Bryce did. Bryce fakes his way into getting only 3 months probation, and has to change schools. No justice.

There’s a dance at the end of the season, everyone loosens up for a change and we get the best moment of the show. Clay is taking pictures with his friends and hears a song start–his and Hannah’s song. He goes straight into a haze getting lost in the song, drifts, and falls into the warm embrace of his best friend. This scene is so powerful. Remembering a lost love and what brought you here. It hits me every time.

Just when you think everything is going to be okay, Tyler shows up to the dance heavily armed, and ready to let loose on anything, and everything. Close to the end of the season, something was done to him that hurts to write about. It was hard to watch but it was something that needs to be known. Clay sees him outside and gets him out of there, which created an intense scene.

Clay Jensen is suspected of murdering Bryce Walker in 13 Reasons ...

In Season 3 of 13 Reasons Why, the story begins with Bryce being killed with no suspects. At this point, he’s ruined everyone’s life to a degree and anyone could have done it. Through most of the season, Clay is the primary suspect, which is completely understandable.

It’s not him, but you can definitely understand why he’s the main suspect. When you finally find out who it is, you’re shocked, but feels like that person was always the obvious answer.

There’s also a beautiful scene where Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe) has to issue an apology to the school for what her group did at the game. In the entire series of 13 Reasons Why, there are few better scenes–this is a perfectly delivered survivor empowerment speech. That leads into a new vibe, and the characters finally feel as if they can live normally, but it doesn’t last long.

13 Reasons Why: season 4

How '13 Reasons Why' Season 4 took on police brutality - Los ...

Season 4 of 13 Reasons Why starts off at yet another funeral. When I saw this, I couldn’t help but think “Who is it this time?” It began to feel a bit redundant knowing that it’s now the fifth person not just within the school or community, but within this group stemming from the original Hannah tapes. Kinda’ felt like they were banging the same drum over-and-over again.

The show rewinds back to months earlier showing the build up to the death of the person we don’t know about yet. Clay gets an anonymous message stating that they know that Monty didn’t kill Bryce and that he was directly involved with it. Like always, Clay while trying to protect his friends, says that he’ll handle it and takes that huge burden on himself. This is his usual move when things happen to the group, but it finally takes a toll on him and ultimately backfires.

Who Keeps Calling Clay in "13 Reasons Why" Season 4? - Who Used ...

Most of the season revolves around Clay trying to deal with the anonymous person threatening him, and ultimately the group. He goes through some serious issues.

He’s already traumatized from Hannah’s, Bryce’s, and Jeff’s deaths. There was Hanna’s trial, stopping Tyler from killing everyone, being the biggest suspect in Bryce’s death, and finding a way to cover it up. All that so someone he knows won’t go to jail.

That’s everything he’s already had to deal with — and he’s only been a teenager for three years. That’s more problems than some people face in a lifetime. He’s already displayed serious phycological issues. To top it all off, the school has decided to increase security. Which in turn becomes too invasive with metal detectors at the entrances and cops everywhere. It’s too much.

While dealing with Mr. Anonymous, Clay starts being sent to a bunch of specific places to traumatize him enough to get him to crack. They want their “truth”. He cracks in more ways than one, but never gives up anything. Everything comes to head during an active school shooter.

He hallucinates Bryce and Monty during the lockdown who just berate him, making him think he was about to die. He runs out into the hallway trying to “help his friends” (because that’s what he does). Right when you think everything is good, you discover it was only a drill.

After Clay’s eruption on the principal and police, that sparks a revolt within the student body. It ends up becoming a riot, and while the police try to stop it, Clay makes a speech that drives the students to not give up. It’s pretty gnarly and becomes a huge scrum.

After everything starts to get back to normal, Clay tries to work on some of his issues. He makes some progress, but he’s finally able to start figuring out what’s going on with him when he’s handed a video from his therapist during a session. It is devastating. He was the one who blew up the car during the riot. The crazy part is that he doesn’t remember doing it.

In the beginning of the season, I had a big suspicion that Clay may be the character that dies because of everything he’s been through, but he actually makes it out to the other side. The same can’t be said for someone very close to him. I’m not going to spoil that, but when you find out who and how they die, it hits you hard.

At the end of the year, Clay is elected to give a speech at their graduation. the speech sums up the life lessons experienced, and learned throughout the series and drives it home with a hammer. It’s a speech that Clay Jensen was born to give.

Everyone in the group graduates, and they have a final scene together burying Hannah’s tapes in the spot where Clay first listened to them. Brings it full circle. They all make their peace, and look forward to the future. They made it out to the other side.

positives

  • Each characters arc was given solid closure, especially Clay, and Jessica.
  • Great balance between showing your main protagonist, and keeping supporting characters journeys flowing through all seasons.
  • Story kept you on your toes, and wasn’t at all predictable.
  • Built up to many powerful moments, not just thrown in there for effect.
  • Consistent storytelling.
  • Great acting as always. Always got me in my feels.
  • Displayed a bunch of real life problems without feeling like it was added on for dramatic effect.
  • Visuals always on point.
  • Timeline was crisp. Didn’t feel like there was room to wonder what else could happen in the high school setting.
  • Loved the final scene of Clay, and Tony driving. Just driving. Gave you a feeling of triumph, and being able to leave the past behind.

negatives

  • Felt it had too many deaths through the series. Not saying that it doesn’t happen, but did having the feeling of “again”?
  • Jeff’s character was done a disservice. Wasn’t mentioned at all through seasons 2-4.
  • Questioned the reality of Clay being able to sleep walk/blackout to spray paint the school, knock out cameras, scare others outside the cabin, and blow up a car.
  • Would’ve liked to see Mr. Porter make an appearance in the final season.
  • Thought if Clay was this unstable, he shouldn’t even be near people at school, or at least on some sort of medication.
  • Clay hallucinated a little too much for my taste.

final thoughts

Everything considered, I really enjoyed the series. The first three seasons were so good that all we needed form season four was an ending, that closure. We got that plus much more. Mostly everyone in the main group got to finish their high school journey, and open new chapters in their lives. I felt the story telling through all seasons were clear, stayed consistent, and ended right. As I’ve stated before, I love the overall message the show sends and it continued here through the final season.

There were a few things I didn’t like, but they were either small or wasn’t what I wanted personally. The positive greatly outweigh the negatives, and what you’ll remember are the big moments, and they knocked those out of the park. Sad the show is done, but it left behind lessons, and messages that will live on for a long, long time.

Overall Grade: 87%


All Images and Videos Courtesy of Netflix/July Moon Productions/Kicked to the Curb Productions

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