Spoiler alert: We’re about to break down the series finale of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. Proceed at your own risk.
Even if you correctly guessed which Liberty High School student was in that casket in 13 Reasons Why‘s final season premiere, there’s no way you could have predicted how they would end up in there.
After passing out at prom, Justin receives a devastating diagnosis: Not only has he tested positive for HIV-1, but the doctors believe it has already progressed to AIDS. (Clay already knew about Justin’s intravenous drug use, but learning that he was also a homeless sex worker comes as a surprise.) Justin is put on a ventilator, but his various infections — including one in his brain — are progressing quickly, leaving his family and friends with very little time to say goodbye. Each character’s final interaction is heartbreaking, from Jessica thanking Justin for teaching her how to love, to Clay thanking him for repeatedly saving his life.
We also get this savage speech from Phylicia Rashad at the funeral: “How did we get here — again? We made a cruel world, my generation. My parents’ generation. Too little caring. Too much hate, anger and hurt. We talk a good game about protecting our children, but we leave too much on the table that might surely save their lives. Justin Foley died of a disease that, from its inception, thrives in silence. And there are a number of such diseases, a number of ills, that thrive when we are silent about them. Because we let our fears, our shame, our twisted moral codes keep us in silence as death stalks more children. I say enough! Enough shifting blame, enough pointing fingers, enough confusing those who report the damage with those who cause it. Let’s remember his death with sorrow and determination that spur us to action. Amen.”
As for the multiple investigations into Bryce’s death, the finale pretty much just shrugs them off, chalking it all up to kids being kids. (And I’m only sort of joking.) Alex confesses everything to Winston, who agrees not to tell anyone because Alex seems genuinely sorry for doing it. Also, Winston is still kind of… into him? Meanwhile, Sheriff Diaz has a wink-wink chat with Alex’s dad about how “a father’s love is a fierce and complicated thing,” then tells him that Bryce’s files are being moved to permanent storage. “That case is closed.” (OK, but is it?)
When graduation day arrives, Jessica delivers an inspiring speech about the importance of spreading love, followed by this grim state of the teenage union address from Clay: “For me, for us, this class, this generation, high school actually is life or death. We show up every day not knowing if this is the day we die, if this is fit day someone shows up with a gun to kill us all. We practice what to do if that happens. Life or death. I suffer from anxiety and depression, but mostly anxiety. I sometimes think all fo us kids do in some way. And how could we not with the world the way it is?” No lies detected.
Not only does Clay see Hannah one last time, but Mrs. Baker mails him the box of Hannah’s tapes, which he and the rest of the Gordon Lightfoot Gang bury as a group. Jessica also takes the opportunity to metaphorically bury Bryce. And his unnerving hair.
The finale ends with Tony and Clay enjoying a moment of peace — including, dare I say, smiles? — as they hit the road, leaving that godforsaken town in the rear-view mirror.
Also worth discussing…
* Not only did I enjoy seeing Hannah one last time, but I also appreciated Clay finally addressing his constant communication with the dead. “I just want to make it clear, I don’t actually see ghosts,” he said. “I just imagine people and what I would say to them.” And here I thought we had a new Ghost Whisperer on our hands.
* This show wants us to believe that these characters learn from their mistakes, but I can’t say I have high hopes for Clay’s relationship with this Heidi girl, especially since she approached him mere seconds after he acknowledged, “I fall in love with girls too fast and too hard.” Which he said to an imaginary ghost, by the way.
* Can we talk about how Diego waited an entire 30 seconds after he and Jessica took their HIV tests to ask her out again? I feel like they could have been a couple worth rooting for, but he just kept making that so hard.
* At least Tony gets the happy ending he deserves, going to college on a boxing scholarship with his father’s blessing. (“Don’t f–k up my dream.”)