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Episode-By-Episode Breakdown of the Explosive Final Season of "13 Reasons Why"!

06-15-2020 by Dalila Bevab

  ( © Netflix)  

 

The time has come to say farewell to "13 Reasons Why". [*sniffles*] Remember when the first season of the show came out back in 2017? I do. I was 16 and in my junior year of high school, and the show was the most talked-about thing inside and outside of the classroom for a good month because of the strong, real-world topics it dealt with, like depression, suicide, and sexual assault. The last 3 seasons were… A LOT, to say the least. But I think everyone can agree that the show has a special place in some of our hearts.

 

Producers of the show knew just how to relate to teenagers today and how to make the characters accessible in some way, leaving some viewers (like me!) to get emotionally attached like I do with every single series I’ve ever watched. Season 4 was a rollercoaster of emotions—I cried, I laughed, I was scared, and then I cried some more. It’s definitely the most intense season of the series, for good reason.

 

 

 

Let’s get into the episode-by-episode analysis of the final season of one of the most important shows in the last decade (Spoilers ahead!).

 

Season 4, Episode 1: “Winter Break”

Buckle up! The rollercoaster ride has begun. Not even a minute into the season premiere and we’re already at a funeral, leaving viewers to question who could it be this time? Liberty High students can’t catch a break and that’s heartbreaking, but it’s the sad reality facing many teenagers today.

 

When we last left off with the show, Monty (Timothy Granaderos) was accused of murdering Bryce (Justin Prentice), and since Monty was killed in jail, he wasn’t able to defend himself. Case closed, right? Hmm, nope! It seems that Monty was haunting Clay (Dylan Minnette) from the grave and that the guilt of covering up Bryce’s death was taking a huge toll on him. Clay, the usual hero and “fixer” amongst his friends, is going through a difficult time with his anxiety, facing intense panic attacks and dissociating. Clay keeps seeing Monty everywhere—in his dreams, his car, and at school, which prompts a fight that was totally against Clay’s good boy character.

 

 

 

As if the group of friends didn’t need any more stress, Tyler (Devin Druid) was called into the sheriff’s department to be questioned. Uh-oh. They found the guns thrown away by Tony (Christian Navarro) from the incident at Spring Fling, but apparently it was nothing… sketchy, Tyler, but okay. What could get any worse? Oh yeah, Monty’s boyfriend Winston (Deaken Bluman) transferred to Liberty with completely wholesome intentions. Actually… no. Ani (Grace Saif) realized early on that Winston was skeptical that Monty could have killed Bryce, so he decided to take on the role of an investigator and find the true killer himself. To make matters even worse, Sheriff Diaz (Benito Martinez) is also unsure about who really killed Bryce and suspects that Deputy Standall (Mark Pellegrino), Alex’s dad, had something to do with the cover-up.

 

Just when you think things are finally starting to get better for the students, something new comes up and the list of problems just keep piling on. It’s disheartening to see Clay spiraling, but do you blame him? We can all relate to wanting to be the hero in every situation by helping our friends, but do we ever take time for ourselves when we need it most? It’s only human nature to help, but I think it’s acceptable to say that maybe it’s okay not to be the hero, as this episode has shown us.

 

Season 4, Episode 2: "College Tour"

College tours are fun, right? Walking through an entirely different world with sorority houses, lots of trees, and huge buildings you’ll most likely get lost in during your first week. Yeah, that’s not how it went for Liberty students when they toured Sanderson University in Evergreen, where Clay’s dad teaches. Clay is continuing to spiral, and his guilt-trip fueled by Monty and Bryce’s deaths gets worse when someone spray-paints “Monty was framed” in front of the administration office’s doors at school. Do you want a major plot twist already? There was spray paint in [*gasps*] Clay’s locker. And then someone rolled Clay a can of spray paint on the bus on the way to the tour, so, naturally thinking that he’s being framed, Clay thinks of a way to get rid of the can… by following Zach (Ross Butler) into a frat day-party.

 

I forgot to mention that Zach seems to be spiraling too. He lost his chance to play college football when Bryce messed up his knee at the homecoming game the previous year. YIKES, this mix of two spiraling teens can’t end well… and I was right. Clay gets pretty drunk and goes upstairs to where he seems to dissociate in the same room where an unconscious girl is lying on the bed, which doesn’t look too good in the eyes of her boyfriend, who catches Clay standing there. The two boys get busted by campus security, which seems pretty normal with everything else going on. Meanwhile, poor Jess (Alisha Boe) is seeing Bryce in her head, probably also experiencing a guilt-trip since she was there the night of the murder with Alex (Miles Heizer).

 

With this episode, it’s pretty clear that everything that happened to the group of friends is coming down hard on them, and it’s honestly the last thing they need during their senior of high school. If you’re as emotionally attached to the characters like I am, you’d want nothing but the best for the friends after everything they’ve experienced for the last 2 years. But the world is tough, and the show tells us that every action has a consequence. Karma doesn’t discriminate, especially here.

 

 

 

Season 4, Episode 3: "Valentine’s Day"

Ahh, Valentine’s Day. You either hate it or love it, so tell me, did you love or hate this episode?

 

Someone claiming to know what really happened with Bryce’s murder is messing with Clay, giving me major Scream vibes with the disguised voice, and all the signs point to Winston, because who else would want to clear Monty’s name as much as him? Tyler is being sketchy, making us wonder what really went down in the sheriff’s department that day. Coach Kerba (Brandon Scott) helps Justin keep control of his sobriety by recommending an AA meeting location for him and being there for him. So sweet!

 

But most importantly, this episode introduces us to Diego (JanLuis Castellanos) [*swoon*], who clearly has a thing for Jessica and makes his bold move at the Valentine’s dance. That boy has a way with words, even driving our fierce Queen Jessica crazy. But did Diego seem too perfect? Yep, I thought so too! As it turns out, he and the football team were the ones messing with Clay all along, going as far as to place a bloody dummy on the football field. Clay’s mind made him (and us!) think it was Monty bleeding out, and it doesn’t help those who think Clay is guilty of having something to do with Bryce’s murder. In the meantime, sparks are starting to fly between Alex and Winston, which is kind of ironic considering Alex’s role in Bryce’s death and the fact that his friends accused Monty, Winston’s ex-lover, of being the actual killer.

 

 

 

Young Hollywood asked JanLuis Castellanos, who portrays Diego, how he feels about the heartthrob being the football star and he said, “I was pretty excited about it, actually, because I was able to personalize the character, you know. And I played football in high school growing up and all that stuff, so I was like, 'Ooh, I can be a meathead all over again!” Castellanos said Diego is “very charismatic” and a “loyal leader” who “tends to think with his heart opposed to logic”, which makes sense for a high school boy. We were excited to get to know more about Castellanos’s character throughout the season!

 

 

Season 4, Episode 4: "Senior Camping Trip"

Okay, I won’t lie, I was a little jealous that Liberty High School had such an awesome senior trip planned out (who doesn’t love camping?). But not anymore! This episode was WILD, in every aspect. It felt like something out of a teen slasher movie, and it definitely got my adrenaline running. The romance between Alex and Winston was short-lived after Alex found out about Winston’s connection to Monty, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be crying because they were so cute together. Also, maybe I swooned too soon over Diego, because he and his football buddies pulled a prank on the entire class by switching the clues for a hunt and messing with Clay, right after he promised Jessica he wouldn’t. The guys kidnapped Justin away from Clay during the hunt and pushed Clay down a giant hole, which is so not cool!

 

One of the most chilling scenes in the episode was when Clay dreamed about talking to Monty as a way to calm himself down and make sense of what was going on. It’s strange, because the two didn’t like each other. But Monty is the voice of reason by telling Clay that the football team is doing all of this stuff because they love and miss Monty. Although Monty did do something horrible and traumatic to Tyler, Clay’s mind tries to pour some humanity back into the late football player. We almost feel bad for Monty, especially after describing his own death. The lesson of the episode is discovered in that imagined conversation when Clay asked Monty, “Can you ever forgive me?” To which Monty replies, “I’m not the one who needs to forgive you.” This is sort of a message to us all. There are surely things we’ve all done that we’re not proud of, and we fall into this habit of beating ourselves up over it when we should be trying to find peace. It takes more effort to rationalize and work our problems out than it does to fall into a bad cycle of self-hatred and guilt, and major respect to the show for pointing this out through Clay’s spiraling.

 

 

 

Fast-forward to Zach and Alex chilling on a small boat. Alex pours his heart out after breaking things off with Winston, and we get a better sense of what’s really causing Zach to act so stand-offish and outright mean this season. One of his memorable quotes this season has been, “It’s just like we chase sh*t that we think is gonna make us happy, but it doesn’t. It just ends sad,” and I think that captures the sad mindset of many young people today with all the bad that continues to happen in the world.

 

I did say this episode reminded me of a teen slasher movie, and the last half of the episode is exactly why. A few of the football players and the main cast are in a cabin being tormented by someone—the legend of Burnham Woods, perhaps? But then Zach and Tony swoop in and make it seem like no one was there, only to have a family meeting about Winston being a threat to their Monty-killed-Bryce lie. Strangely, Clay wakes up and has his phone on him and is surrounded by the bags that the group was supposed to find on the hunt… weird, but all right.

 

Season 4, Episode 5: "House Party"

Five episodes in and Clay continues to get worse, forgetting about time and dissociating from reality. Clay and Justin (Brandon Flynn) get drug-tested by their parents and whoa buddy, Clay tests positive, to which he claims Justin switched the samples, only for Justin to find Clay doing drugs at the big “Find Your Drink” party… so not cool, man. Also, is a “Find Your Drink” party an actual thing? Anyway, another scary reality is introduced to us—parents tracking their kids’ phones. The parents seem to know about everything and are being very nonchalant about it, but of course it freaks all the teens out, prompting a change in venue for the party. There’s no denying that Justin and Jessica are the most turbulent couple on the show, and Diego just makes it worse, but who can blame a girl for not being able to choose between the two? Winston continues to act like he’s closing in on the friends to throw them off their groove, and his creepiness kind of works by adding onto Clay’s paranoia. Outside of the party, Tony is kicking some serious butt as a pro-am fighter. You go, Tony! But the cutest scene thus far is Clay and Zach singing together at the party. Be still, my heart! But it wouldn’t be an episode of "13 Reasons Why" if the cuteness wasn’t immediately followed by something bad, and the most shocking part of the episode is Clay getting seriously friendly with Sheriff Diaz’s daughter, leading Zach to letting Clay drive his fast sports car that he crashes after clearly separating himself from reality. These kids can’t catch a break at all…

 

 

 

Season 4, Episode 6: "Thursday"

Episode 6 is perhaps the most serious one in the season. School violence is a sad reality for thousands of students in the United States, and this generation has faced its fair share of incidents. I respect the show for tackling the issue of school safety in the past, but this episode hits home because of its relatability. To prepare students for the possibility of an active shooter, Liberty High School teams up with the sheriff’s department for a lockdown drill, but no one outside of administration and the officers know that it's a drill. Students, like Jessica, are scared and call their parents to say goodbye. Because of what happened with Tyler during Spring Fling the previous year, Tony, Charlie (Tyler Barnhardt), and Alex suspect that Tyler is the shooter because of his weird behavior and obsession with guns lately, and the fact that he was missing during the drill, so they tell Dean Foundry. What the boys didn’t know was that Tyler was barricaded in the restroom with Monty’s sister Estela (Inde Navarette), where the two share a tearful heart-to-heart. Zach and Winston get high on drugs and, thinking they’re going to die, reveal their deep secrets to each other. Zach’s secret? He beat up Bryce shortly before he was killed… oh no.

 

Clay spent the drill locked in a classroom with another visage of Bryce and Monty haunting him. Thinking he’s not going to survive the lockdown, “Monty” asks Clay, “Are you sorry for what you did?” with Clay admitting, “Yes, I’m sorry.” We now know that the sole reason for Clay’s spiraling is his guilt for not being able to save people, who, in this case, was both Bryce and Monty, but only because he was trying to save his friends too. Nothing wrong with being the hero, but this episode shows us that there’s a limit to how much we can save others before having to focus on ourselves. If your heart can’t break any more for Clay, he goes crazy when realizing that the lockdown was a drill—the final straw for him because of how traumatic it was for students. He grabs a gun from an officer, gets tackled, and taken away on a gurney.

 

On one hand, the show did an excellent job compressing an important issue in this country into an episode and capturing the emotions surrounding school violence. I had chills for the entire hour. On the other hand, the show also perfectly explains that we all have a breaking point, and the drill happened to be just that for Clay. You can’t help but feel sorry for him and think about the many kids who deal with mental health problems as well.

 

 

 

Season 4, Episode 7: "College Interview"

Amidst all the chaos happening during their senior year, it’s easy to forget that the students are the middle of applying to college. Such a glorious time—stressing over writing essays and whether your GPA is good enough for your dream school. But the worst part? The interview with an admissions counselor. [*shivers*] But of course, things continue to crumble down. Clay is admitted to a mental hospital, which he escapes from, and goes to see Dr. Ellman, who helps him to understand his feelings and anxiety. Winston introduces the possibility that Justin and Jessica could’ve been involved in Bryce’s death. Diego confronts Zach to get any information out of him. Justin’s mom passes away and our heart breaks for him since he’s been through enough already, and all you want to do is just hug him. All the teens think they blew their college interview, but I can imagine a lot of us felt that way and it ended up fine in the end. But on the bright side of things, Charlie and Alex sparked a new romance, and we’re obsessed!

 

Season 4, Episode 8: "Acceptance/Rejection"

I hope you’re still buckled up because it just gets even more interesting! We find out that Tyler is actually an informant for the sheriff’s department, which is why he’s been acting so sketchy lately, but this was done as a deal to let Tyler off on gun charges connecting him to the guns found in the river from Spring Fling. Alex got into Berkeley, and Justin got into his dream school, yay! As for Jessica, Diego and Winston suspect she had a big role in Bryce’s death, which I can imagine is difficult for him as a “boyfriend” to think about.

 

I had really high hopes that Zach would get better, but after a “what’s your future look like?” meeting with Dean Foundry, it’s obvious that every past trauma has really led him to feel hopeless about the future. Props to the writers of the show for adding this aspect in, because even though many teens haven’t faced nearly as much adversity as the students at Liberty -- like losing classmates left and right, covering up a murder, etc. -- serious stuff does happen that makes teens wonder if there really is a future, and they played that into Zach’s character.

 

Justin and Jessica break up for the fiftieth time (I’ve lost count, tbh), but we have hope it’ll work out between the two! All the fighting is working out for Tony, too, who gets a college offer from an assistant boxing coach at a Nevada university (You go, Tony!), but naturally he’s hesitant about leaving his dad’s car shop and responsibilities in Evergreen to move away for school. Also, the kids’ suspicions about their parents’ stalking them is proven correct when Clay discovers that the parents have been attending these secret cult-like meetings at school which provided them with resources to track and surveil their kids… creepy, right? But it goes to show just how worried parents have become today. It’s an unpredictable world, as we all know, and parents just want the best for their kids, and the show did a great job highlighting this problem of mistrust and safety brought about by modern technology among teens.

 

Are you still buckled? Okay, just checking! Because OMG it got worse. So, Justin and our boy Diego get into a skirmish over the Bryce murder and their battle over Jessica. An officer rushes over to break up the fight but singles out Diego, who’s Dominican, instead of Justin and starts roughing him up. It's a clear case of racial profiling because the officer even says, “Another f-ing Mexican kid starting a fight?” Like wow, how disgusting. Justin tries to defend Diego, and then the officer attacks Justin and pulls a gun on the two boys, which prompts a school-wide walkout demanding that “SROs [school resource officers] have got to go!” led by Queen Jessica and the natural hero, Clay. The sheer terror on Diego’s face broke my heart and it highlighted the stark reality for many minority kids around the country, especially amidst the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that are protesting against this very sort of thing. A round of applause for the series writers for showcasing this through Diego and opening the eyes of many viewers, including my own.

 

Meanwhile, Alex and Zach vandalize the school, specifically Dean Foundry’s office, out of their own helplessness and frustration with life. The protest is peaceful and fine at first, until the officers are told to forcibly remove the students, leading to sheer chaos and students being arrested. And then… Principal Bolan’s car explodes, you know, for dramatic effect.

 

 

 

*[deep breath*] The episode isn’t over yet! Are you ready? Clay is back in Dr. Ellman’s office where it’s discovered that the “Monty was framed” vandalism amongst the smashing of cameras around the school, the terrorizing during the camping trip, and the car explosion was all… Clay. The sad part? He really didn’t know he did all of that because of his dissociation. Is your heart breaking even more? Yeah, mine too, and there’s still 2 episodes left.

 

Season 4, Episode 9: "Prom"

Prom! Who doesn’t love senior prom?! It’s supposed to be most magical night in all of our high school experience, full of glitzy dresses, millions of selfies, and a great DJ to dance the night away to. Do you think the "13 Reasons Why" writers are going to let the kids have one normal night with no worries about anything? Yeah, um, no.

 

Diego confronts Jessica and they break up, but I don’t even know if they were official or anything? Either way, my heart hurts. The kids decide to come clean to their parents -- well, sort of -- to ensure prom isn’t canceled. They tell their parents what they want to hear and, yay, prom is still on! Charlie and Alex both come out to their parents and it goes amazingly well, which makes us so happy. I feel like the show portraying Charlie and Alex’s parents as supportive and open-minded is helpful for teens who are afraid to come out to their own parents. It’s only natural for us to think of the worst possible scenario in any circumstance, but especially something as lifechanging as that, so I highly respect the show for doing that. Justin confesses that he fell out of his sobriety and stole from Clay’s parents to pay for the drugs, but they were totally understanding, as parents should be. Fast-forward to prom itself, and everyone is there, except Justin who decides to surprise Jessica later on, and she realizes that her heart belongs to Justin and Justin only (aww!). 

 

Prom royalty is announced, and much to our surprise, it’s Alex and Charlie! I may or may not have cried my eyes out from joy… okay, I did, but do you blame me? This episode is the first time we see Clay happy this season, and even he admits that he’s never felt more alive and happier. Every soul-crushing experience he’s gone through has made him who he is today and has given them amazing friendships he would have otherwise never had, which goes to show that everything happens for a reason and that there is light at the end of every tunnel. As for Winston, you can’t help but feel sorry for him. He lost his first true love, Monty, and his mind created its own visage of Monty where he got to dance with his love for the first and last time. Cue the tears and grab a box of tissues because this scene CRUSHED me! Everything seems to be all right. Everyone is on the dance floor dancing all of their worries away. All the death and heartache that’s happened in the last 4 years was forgotten in those joyful moments…

 

Until Justin collapses. Oh no. Liberty High’s students couldn’t even have this one final night to just be kids.

 

 

 

Season 4, Episode 10: "Graduation"

Grab your box of tissues and a pillow. I’m serious, because the final episode will make you bawl your eyes out. I’ve watched dozens of shows in my lifetime, but this series finale is the most upsetting and emotional one so far. Justin collapsed at prom because he’s sick with HIV-1 and it’s quickly progressing to AIDS, meaning he’s dying. After learning the news, Clay doesn’t know how to react and runs to the sheriff’s station where he claims he has a gun, and we learn that this was a cry for help. Clay never wanted to hurt anyone, he just wanted to be seen, and so many teens today get to that difficult point where all they want is someone to listen to them. It’s clear that Justin isn’t going to make it, and everyone says their emotional goodbyes. To be honest, I had to keep pausing the episode because I couldn’t do it! If you thought you couldn’t cry any more, Clay’s goodbye,HURT. Then the unthinkable happens: Justin dies, and the tears just keep flowing. I’ll admit, I didn’t like him in the first season, but the poor guy had gone through so much. Fans took to Twitter to express their sadness over Justin’s death.

 

 

 

The funeral scene was hard to watch, but the minister made a chilling point — there’s too much hatred and blame-shifting in the world, and Justin’s death could have been avoided. But I think she was making the point that everything that happened to Liberty High students could have been avoided if proper action was taken in the first place, which is also applicable to the real world today.

 

What happened to Winston’s investigation into Bryce’s death? Well, Alex came clean and expressed his regret to Winston, who decided to keep it a secret. Sheriff Diaz also told Alex’s dad the case was closed, secretly knowing Alex was the one who killed Bryce. Honestly, that shocked me to my core, but this show is full of surprises even in the finale.

 

Zach saw himself as a lost cause all season, but Coach Kerba saw something in him and offered him the chance to be an assistant coach for the next school year until he decides to go to college, proving that everyone is redeemable, despite the feelings of hopelessness and angst that teens experience.

 

Tony’s dad learned of his son’s college offer and assured him that it was a good idea to sell the car shop and follow his dream to be college-educated. Tony is definitely the most loyal character who’s given up a lot for his friends and family, so it’s so endearing to see that he’s being given the chance to finally do something for himself.

 

Jessica lost her one true love, but Diego assured her he’d be there for her, so I hope they’ll get together in the future because of their shared pain and experiences. After being haunted by the memory of Bryce throughout the season, Jessica says goodbye to him and thanks him for making her a strong, brave, and resilient young woman.

 

I hope those tears aren’t dry yet, because the scene where Clay reads Justin’s college essay about how Clay saved his life broke me! Let’s get #JustinDeservedBetter trending, can we?

 

 

 

In the last minutes of the show, we’re presented with a reminder of what started the entire series to begin with — the tapes. For a sense of closure, the original 13 (minus a few people we’ve lost) bury the tapes in the place Clay first listened to them, symbolically ending a chapter in their life.

 

And there you have it. Four tumultuous and controversial seasons of an immensely popular show that’s taught us many lessons and provided an insight into problems teens experience today. If you’ve been dedicated to the show since Season 1, the graduation ceremony scene might hurt a bit, or a lot if you’re like me. Too many faces are missing that should be there and the scene was a reminder of everyone we’ve lost in the series — Hannah, Jeff, Bryce, Monty, and Justin. Although it sounds cliché, we’re also reminded that the future is bright, and with everything these kids have been through, we know darn well that they’re going to succeed in life.