Beth Dubber/Netflix
March 31, 2017 at 01:20 PM EDT

EPISODE 13: “Tape 7, Side A”

1. Unfortunately, we’ve made it to the final chapter of Hannah Baker’s life.

As she puts it, she’s giving life “one last try.” After recording all 12 tapes — for Jessica and Justin, who broke her heart; Alex, Tyler, Courtney, and Marcus, who helped destroy her reputation; Zach and Ryan, who broke her spirit; and Bryce Walker, who broke her soul — she felt something shift. Having poured it all out into the tapes, she decided to give life one more chance, and this time she was going to ask for help. With that in mind, she headed to her parents’ store to grab one more cassette tape, but while she was there, she also grabbed a pack of razor blades because, as we know, she failed. Or as she puts it, “he” failed.

2. Elsewhere, the depositions have begun.

So far, Zach is honest about having said unkind things to Hannah, and Marcus does the same, admitting to hurting Hannah’s feelings, though his reasoning that he “thought she wanted to date me” is crap. Then there’s Courtney, who refuses to call Hannah a friend and lies about knowing who’s in the photo. At this point, this just serves as confirmation that Courtney will never do the right thing.

3. Clay is getting bold.

At Clay’s house, Tony stops by before school. Both Clay and Tony have their depositions tomorrow, but first, Clay has something more important: He plays Tony part of Tape 14, a.k.a. Bryce’s confession (though the part he plays is something Bryce said before he beat Clay up, so take that as you will). At this point, Clay doesn’t think they should give the tapes to Bryce, who’s No. 12. He feels it’s time to stop thinking about what Hannah wanted and think about what she needs, along with Jessica and any other girl Bryce hurt. “This tape blows up the world,” Tony tells Clay. But Clay’s argument is simple: That’s exactly what they should do.

4. But he gives Jessica an out.

Clay then heads to Monet’s to sit down with Jessica. He offers to burn the tapes if that’s what she wants, or fight along side her if she’d rather. As much as he wants Bryce to pay for what he did, he’s willing to do whatever will make this even the tiniest bit better for her. But she’s not sure if she’s ready to tell the cops or her father the truth. So Clay keeps the tapes, for now. But before he goes, she tells him not to burn them.

5. Kat came back.

Back at the depositions, Kat makes her return to explain that the jocks own Liberty High School, and everyone else is simply there to cheer them on. She never should’ve let Hannah date Justin. If she hadn’t moved away, and if she had prevented the Justin Foley of it all, she thinks Hannah would still be alive. As for Justin Foley? He’s dead to her.

6. Speaking of Justin…

He’s currently waiting outside Monet’s so that he can run into Jessica, which he does. After walking around all night with no place to stay, he tells her he contemplated suicide before stopping himself for her sake. She’s all he can think about, and he’s willing to do anything to make things better: He’ll go to the school, talk to the cops, or even kill Bryce. But what Jessica says she wants is “never to see you again in my life.” Again, I know all these kids are hurting, but they’re all SO mean to one another when they are all very clearly vulnerable.

7. Hannah and Clay dance around the truth.

Getting back to the tapes, Hannah tells us that a few days after she recorded Tape 12, she saw Bryce in the hallway at school, and if you thought he couldn’t get any worse, HE WINKED AT HER. But once he passed, she got a little flash of light in the form of her last conversation with Clay. But sadly, they don’t talk about anything of importance. She stops herself before saying what she wants to and instead says she’ll see him in class, which she will, but not for much longer…

8. This brings us to the subject of Tape 13:

Mr. Porter. I’m going to start with Hannah’s final visit to see him, and then we’ll move to Clay’s. On the day of her death, Hannah Baker’s “last try” involved asking for help from Mr. Porter, but needless to say, that visit didn’t go as planned. Aside from the fact that his phone kept going off, Mr. Porter was not prepared for what Hannah said.

The first sign? She told him that she didn’t feel anything, that she didn’t care anymore. Then she said, “I need everything to stop… people, life.” At that, Mr. Porter perked up, but he still didn’t seem to grasp the severity of the situation. And that brings them to the party. Hannah tells him that a boy forced himself on her, but instead of comfort and understanding, it feels as if he’s interrogating her: Did she tell him to stop? Did she tell him no? And when Hannah isn’t sure if she’s ready to go to the cops and properly accuse this individual, she asks Mr. Porter for the impossible: She wants him to promise that the accused will go to jail and she’ll never have to see him again. But of course, Mr. Porter can’t promise that. What he can do, however, is focus on the hurting student in front of him and try to provide her with a bit of hope.

Instead, he tells her that if the boy is a senior, he will be gone soon. And if she won’t go to the cops, her only option is to “move on.”  So with that, Hannah Baker leaves Mr. Porter’s office with the realization that things aren’t going to change, so she might as well “get on with it.”

9. And that brings us to Clay’s visit with Mr. Porter, where he tells him what happened next:

After Hannah, who was recording their session, left, she waited for Mr. Porter to follow her out into the hallway. But instead, he answered his phone and let Hannah walk away. Clay tells Mr. Porter that it was Bryce Walker who raped Hannah, and furthermore, he details what happened after Hannah left his office that day.

Walking down the hallway at school, Hannah finished Tape 13. Having made herself clear, she realized that no one was coming forward to stop her. “Some of you care,” she says. “None of you cared enough. And neither did I. And I’m sorry.” With that, we’ve reached the end of Tape 13.

10. Hannah’s last moments.

Hannah Baker left school that day and put the tapes in order. She dropped off one set with Tony and went to the post office to mail the other set, which is where she briefly ran into Robert from her poetry group. Then she dropped off her uniform at the Crestmont, made her bed, put on old clothes, and got into the bathtub, where she slit her wrists with the razor blades from her parents’ store. It was her parents who would find her, but they were too late.

11. Clay hands over the tapes.

This takes us back to Mr. Porter’s office, where Clay and the counselor go back and forth about the very basis of this show: Can you blame someone else for someone’s suicide? In the end, they disagree, but Clay’s got a surprise for Mr. Porter: He hands him the tapes. He’s No. 13. And considering that Hannah’s instructions end when Mr. Porter listens to the tapes, it’s up to him what to do next, though Clay is hoping Tape 14 — Bryce’s confession — will point him in the right direction. Clay, seemingly the only person to learn from this horrible experience, then tells Mr. Porter that “it has to get better” at school before he finds Skye in the hallway and asks her if she wants to hang out. He’s not going to let another friend feel alone in this world.

12. The latest victim is revealed.

As for the final moments of the show, Tyler tells the lawyers about the tapes in his deposition, which comes right after Tony gives the audio files to Hannah’s parents on a USB. Jessica then claims she doesn’t know about any tapes, but decides to tell her father what happened to her. As for Justin, he leaves town after Bryce buys him some booze, claiming that he finally knows what’s true. Then there’s Tyler, who’s looking at photos of everyone in the dark room when he takes down the photo of Alex. It’s unclear why, except Principal Gary just revealed that Alex Standall is the victim from the last episode: He shot himself in the head last night and is in critical condition.

We then leave Hannah’s parents as they start listening to the tapes, a journey that Clay just finished. So now, he, Tony, Brad, and Skye are going for a drive, because no one knows what happens next.

13. Is this the end?

I’ve saved my thirteenth item for questions/issues with this final hour. I understand that this is a dark show, and one of the purposes of this story is to show the negative effects of bullying and, furthermore, how difficult it can be to break that cycle. But aside from Clay and arguably a few others, there’s very little light at the end of this tunnel, as they portray it. Not only has another of the students attempted suicide, but we leave Justin knowing that he’s not only contemplated suicide but is in possession of a gun, and then there’s Tyler, who is last seen hiding his gun and scary amount of ammunition in his trunk and hanging photos of everyone in the dark room. Are we supposed to believe that he’s planning a school shooting of sorts? Does he take down Alex’s photo because Alex already shot himself?

Also, if we’re talking about questions, what was with Alex texting Zach but someone else answering the phone when he called? Did anyone else notice that?

Here’s the deal: With all of these mysteries, it feels very much like the show is angling toward a second season, but in doing so, it takes an already dark show one step too far. Overall, this season was really well made, but this is a show that should end with episode 13. And the proof of that is the fact that, in trying to create any sort of “cliffhanger,” the show crafted its weakest episode.

Samantha Highfill

Episode grade: B-

( 13 of 13 )

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