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

EPISODE 8: “Tape 4, Side B”

1. Clay meets with Mr. Porter.

The counselor notes that Clay is lonely — he doesn’t seem inclined to punish him, unless that’s what Clay wants. This is the first time it’s really hitting me (albeit belatedly) that Clay really doesn’t have any friends, except Jeff, who makes him go to social events. Hannah really was one of his only friends. My heart breaks for him all over again.

2. Tony tells Clay he has to show him something and makes him get in the car.

 3. Alex has a serious stomach issue that causes him to double over in pain.

It doesn’t seem to be related to the beating he took a few episodes back. The way Jessica kindly asks, “Are you getting your stomach things again?” and tries to get him to sit down shows it’s an ongoing problem. At the end of the episode, he goes to the Bakers’ pharmacy to pick up his medicine, and as Mr. Baker tries to explain the instructions, Alex informs him he’s been taking this medicine for a while. He’s just new in their system because he’s switched from getting his medicine at the Walplex — you know, the Wal-Mart-esque giant that might put the Bakers’ store out of business. It’s nice to see Alex doing one small thing for his old friend’s family.

4. Hannah has a disappointing experience at the college fair — until she meets a friendly face.

She goes in with an open mind, but a college rep quickly shoots her down: Her grades probably aren’t good enough to get any scholarship money, and Hannah knows from hearing her parents’ arguments that the store isn’t doing well financially. No wonder she started to feel like she didn’t have a path.

 5. There’s hope, though, when she talks to a young, hip librarian who runs a poetry group.

Hannah loves to read and write. Has she found a kindred spirit? Has she found her tribe? She goes to the poetry group and is dismayed to find that it’s mostly old people probably having midlife crises — until she sees Ryan Shaver, a guy from school who runs a zine called Lost and Found. She’s not happy to see him.

6. And… we’re listening to Ryan’s tape.

Turns out Hannah isn’t a huge fan of Ryan: He published Alex’s Hot or Not list in his zine, thus fanning the flames of the “Best Ass” drama that Hannah would really like to forget. Soon, though, he comes to the Bakers’ store and apologizes, giving Hannah a pink journal for her to write her thoughts, calling it “a peace offering.” I like Ryan! He seems friendly, if a little sassy, but definitely up to Hannah’s speed. I don’t want to think about how this friendship could go wrong.

7. Hannah asks him to teach her how to write like he does, making people feel the way he feels.

He comes over, and they read through all Hannah’s old diaries — which got me awfully nervous that he was just going to spread the diaries’ contents around school. That’s not quite what happens though.

8. At home and at school, Hannah is still looking for some sort of direction, but no one is giving it to her.

Mrs. Baker encourages Hannah to pursue a career as a writer, but it’s hard to tell if this is what Hannah wanted her to say or not — she tells her mother that she was supposed to tell her to do something practical instead. This is what Hannah wants, I think… or does she wish her parents ruled with a firmer hand? She tells Hannah, “Allow yourself to dream a little. Dream big. Don’t settle.”

At school, Hannah meets with Mr. Porter to talk colleges and says she’s considering Columbia or NYU. He replies that she doesn’t quite have the grades for schools like that. “You need to make some changes… or maybe think smaller,” he tells her. So, conflicting information from the two sets of adults who are supposed to be guiding Hannah’s choices. No wonder she feels directionless.

9. Hannah takes Ryan’s advice and writes a raw, moving poem. She performs it at the poetry group.

The poem is about being objectified as a woman but feeling like a child, too. It’s about drowning and trying to call for help. Ryan tells her it’s amazing and that she needs to publish it, but that’s the very last thing Hannah wants. So…

 10. Ryan publishes it in his zine anyway, anonymously.

It goes “viral,” kids alternately praising it and making fun of it. Even one teacher decides to take the opportunity to discuss it in class, since she knows all the students will be talking about it anyway.

Hannah is furious at Ryan and completely humiliated, even though, like the photo of her and Courtney, nobody knows it was actually her. Clay is especially moved by the poem, and Hannah has a glimmer of hope as he’s reading it to her at the movie theater. But when he says he’s not sure he’d want to hang out with the writer, her face falls. I just wish we could help her be more confident in herself. This show is so heartbreaking.

11. In present day, Mrs. Baker pretends that Hannah is still alive when talking to a stranger at a restaurant.

This disturbs Mr. Baker so much that he wonders if they should move, abandon the store, start over in a new town.

Later, Clay gives Mrs. Baker Hannah’s poem — letting her be alive to her, in a way, a little bit longer.

12. Clay’s mother has been feeling sick, both about having to build a case against a poor dead girl and about not being able to get through to her son.

Mr. Jensen thinks that Clay will be fine and that Mrs. Jensen shouldn’t focus on “going after” Hannah — she should focus on going after the truth. I feel like Mr. Jensen is way too chill about things, and it makes Clay’s mom look hysterical. It’s not fair that he gets to be so laid back while she’s the one worrying herself to death.

13. Tony’s mysterious trip with Clay turns out to be a terrifying, exhilarating rock climbing excursion — which leads to a traumatic revelation.

After making Clay fear for his life, the two sit atop the giant… hill? Mountain? Rock formation? And Tony drops a bomb on Clay: He finally talks about his connection with Hannah and the tapes. Turns out he was apparently the only guy at school who didn’t try to grab Hannah’s ass, so he was on the receiving end of a lot of her drama and venting. (This leads to a pretty hilarious aside where Clay, off in his own head all the time, had no idea that Tony was gay. Though to be fair, I didn’t know either until we saw him on a date.)

The night Hannah died, Tony saw her drop a box off at his front door, but she didn’t ring the bell or knock. He figured if it was important, she would have — and he also just didn’t have the energy to listen to her right then. We’ve all been there. But when she left and he picked up the box and listened to the first tape, he realized what was happening. He called the Bakers and they didn’t answer, so he raced to their house — but it was too late. The ambulance was there, and he painfully describes they way they just threw her body, zipped in a body bag, into the ambulance. No wonder he feels like he has some responsibility with the tapes. Tony has a serious weight on his shoulders.

Clay asks for the tapes back.

Isabella Biedenharn

Episode grade: B+

Click ahead for episode 9.

/ ( 8 of 13 )

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