Thomas reflects on the events of 13 Reasons Why and its bold pathway of equality
On June 5th, Netflix released the fourth and final season of 13 Reasons Why. It all started with the tapes from Hannah Baker she has left for her school mates after she killed herself. With how the first season ended, the main story had been concluded and it could have very much ended there but instead, it continued and the show has been able to re-invent itself and continue the stories of its characters, exploring, even more, the High School life and more generally the heavy subjects it was dealing with.
13 Reasons Why was more than just a simple teen drama and that’s one of the reasons it was so powerful because it dealt with suicide, rape and rape survivors, bullying, mental health, drugs in such a raw and sincere way. It didn’t try to hide away from these issues, it showed things how they were. Sometimes, scenes would make you feel uncomfortable and it should, these are sensitive matters. It’s not subjects that are easy to talk about but its issues we absolutely NEED to talk about and this show surely did spark discussion.
So obviously, the show was heartbreaking at times, there were definitely a lot of tears to see what all these characters went through in such a little time. Beyond all of that, there was empowerment as well. For example with the episode 12 of season 3 during the “I’m a survivor” scene, it showed people who’ve been victims of rape are not alone and they all faced this together. It also shined a light on the fact that men just like women can be victims of sexual assault. An important part of Jessica’s storyline was about how she was a rape survivor and how she was dealing with it. It was a moving storyline and I loved how she didn’t let it destroy her but instead used it to talk about this issue while at the same time, showing she was still suffering from it, it’s something that stays with you. It’s only at the end of the series finale that she was finally able to turn the page on what had happened to her, at least not being haunted by Bryce anymore.
With previous seasons, we saw that Clay Jensen, the main character, was suffering from anxiety and depression but this final season brought it to the breaking point with Clay having a total nervous breakdown because of everything he had lived and kept for himself, it was too much for him to handle. I want to say that Dylan Minette delivered an intensely raw performance and it would be a beautiful goodbye to the show to give him an Emmy Award. Even at the end, all of that wasn’t over for him, but he found a way to live with it, to talk about it. Clay was a very interesting character because he was always ready to help his friends and yet helping himself, taking care of himself was difficult for him because he felt like he didn’t deserve it.
Complex characters was another strength of this show. It wasn’t all simple and black and white but it was nuanced and very human. I want to talk about two of my favorite characters – Alex and Charlie. Alex made a lot of shitty decisions because of his guilt and that leads him to a dangerous path thus him having trouble accepting to be happy. However, season 4 finally gave us the storyline this character deserved – a love story that would make him happy. It was about time he got his happy ending! Bisexuals get too often discarded but with Alex and Charlie, we got the bi visibility we deserved. I applaud and thank the showrunners for that.
Throughout the series, they have done their best to give us LGBTQ+ representation and season 4 is probably the best for it because of the bi visibility but also with having Foundry (the Dean of Discipline) being gay and making Alex and Charlie the kings of prom night. The prom night crowning was a really powerful and meaningful scene. It’s all these little things that matter and continue the fight for equality and representation through the media. It’s something big movie franchises have yet to do so I’m glad that shows like 13 Reasons Why give us the representation we need and deserve. One other thing I want to mention about Alex and Charlie is their coming-out, it was simple and beautiful. Considering how the show can be sad, I really appreciate they went with the accepting and supporting parents’ storyline.
This show didn’t just give us LGBTQ+ representation, it also provided diversity with its cast. Having a diverse cast of characters allowed them to tackle another key issue that is very much relevant nowadays to the protests happening in the United States. It was in season 4 episode 8 with Diego and Justin fighting in the hallway when a police officer decides to arrest only Diego because of the color of his skin which leads to the High School rioting. It dealt with immigration and deportation with Tony Padilla’s family as well, Tony who is also a gay character. It was such a multi-layered series, that talked about things that matter. This show is socially relevant to all kinds of issues.
The series finale was a movie-length episode and a satisfying conclusion to the High School journey of our characters. In true 13 Reasons Why fashion, the first part of the episode was absolutely devastating with the loss of another character – Justin. It was really painful to watch his goodbyes. He died of AIDS after showing us a few episodes before that he had relapsed and was using drugs again. It was a tragic ending for him, after all, he had been through, he didn’t make it.
However, the other half of the final episode was much more hopeful. The graduation scene had both Clay and Jessica delivering empowering speeches sending a message of love and life.
“Hate is easy but love and understanding are harder, but they are how we take care of each other, how we survive.” – Clay Jensen
The finale honored everyone, even bringing back Ryan Shaver and Courtney Crimsen. It all started with Hannah Baker’s tapes so it made sense to see them again in the end with our characters burying them, paying one final tribute to Hannah. It finally closed the page on their High School life, while also acknowledging they’ll always be there for each other. It’s what they had been through that brought them together and forged these friendships. I couldn’t have thought of a more beautiful goodbye for my favorite characters than this. The very final scene came full circle with Clay and Tony leaving in the Mustang, mirroring the final scene of season 1 – going to a new future full of hope.
13 Reasons Why is a show that will be long remembered, it’s a show that matters and that has important things to say about our society, in many ways, it’s a social commentary. A poignant story performed by a talented cast. It was obviously sad to say goodbye to this amazing show but it was a satisfying and beautiful goodbye.
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Thomas Storai is the Senior Collectables Correspondent for The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and a wide variety of movies. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasStorai where he uses the force frequently!