13 Reasons Why season 4 binge recap
Follow along as we binge-watch every episode to find out how the series ends.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for 13 Reasons Why season 4.
After four seasons, 13 Reasons Why has come to an end. Read on for a recap of each episode from the final season to see what twists the show has in store for us as we say goodbye to the students of Liberty High.
Episode 1: "Winter Break"
We pick things up with our friends at (the ironically named) Liberty High just a couple of months after the events of last season. But first, we jump forward in time six months to yet another funeral. With this show, we’re sure you’re not surprised. We don’t know whose funeral it is at this point, but we know it’s a classmate. Settle into the sound of Clay's voice because it's here to stay as a voiceover for the full season as he explains things to his therapist.
Anyway, back to six months earlier. It’s the holiday season and the neighborhood is all lit up and pretty but Clay is in a dark place. He’s having nightmares that Monty is still alive and pissed he’s been set up for murder. (Remember last season when Alex killed Bryce and the gang got together to frame Monty for it since he was going to prison anyway for sexually assaulting Tyler? That was a loaded sentence.) Clay thinks he’s hiding his anguish from his parents but they definitely know something’s up. You gotta feel for those parents! Their concerned probing is put on hold when Tyler calls Clay. He’s been asked to go in and talk to the sheriff. Clay drives Tyler there and waits outside while he goes in. When Ty returns, he tells Clay they found the bag of guns he disposed of, but they couldn’t trace the guns to him, only the bag they were in. Tyler told the sheriff he did indeed buy that bag, but it was stolen from him. Wildly, he thinks the cops bought it and adds that Alex’s dad was there to help him out. (Remember, Alex's dad knows the truth about Bryce's death.) It sure seems like Tyler might not be telling Clay everything, and Clay seems to suspect it.
Later, Clay relays his suspicions to Ani, while the gang all gathers to welcome Justin home from rehab. It’s a bit of an awkward gathering. Zach, who’s clearly not coping well with the events of last season (he practically beat Bryce to death), pre-gamed the dry party. At least Charlie is there with homemade cookies — a recurring occurrence this season. Clay and Ani share their worries about Tyler’s meeting with the sheriff with the rest of the group. Once everyone leaves, Jess tries to rekindle things romantically with Justin, but he tells her he can’t be in a relationship right now. She's heartbroken.
When Christmas morning rolls around, Clay and Justin both receive an already-loaded-with-apps iPhone from the former’s parents. Over at Jess’ place, she invites Ani to move in with her so she doesn’t have to leave town with her mom. After they convince Ani’s mom that they’ll stick to an early curfew, the new roomies go out to the woods to burn the tape of Bryce’s last words. While they’re doing so, Jess hallucinates Bryce watching, smirking at her. He’s just as creepy as a figment of imagination.
Once winter break is over, the kids return to school to find a bunch of new security measures have been installed, including a metal detector at the entrance. Clay worries it’s linked to the cops talking to Tyler about the guns, while Jess refuses to let the male guard pat her down. Principal Bolan calls her into his office, but instead of reprimanding her, he asks for her help, informing him on anything she’s worried about at the school. Sure this will end well.
It’s time for Future Fair! Clay is less than enthused since he’s of the opinion there is no future. That's classic season 4 Clay, honestly. While Zach considers enlisting and Tony tries to act like he has no interest in college, a new student shows up who just happens to be Monty’s ex, Winston. (Not sure we can call him his ex but they did hook up after Monty beat the s—
out of him). Winston and Tyler get chatty about cameras and Ani comes to interrupt, demanding Winston explain why he’s there. Basically, he got kicked out of Hillcrest, but he’s also definitely here to do some digging into who really killed Bryce since he knows it wasn’t Monty, having been with him at the time of death. Ani and Clay know Winston is Monty's alibi but the rest of the group don't. We also meet Estela, Monty’s sister, at the Future Fair. She asks Jess if she can join H.O. (a.k.a. Hands Off, the female-led support group Jess started.)
Just then, the football team all show up wearing de la Cruz jerseys as a tribute to Monty. They really try and force Estela to put one on too, but Cookies (a.k.a. Charlie) sticks up for her. Clay, who’s been watching them, imagines that Monty’s there too and storms over, demanding they take their jerseys off and stop honoring a rapist. The team accuses Clay of being the real criminal since they don’t believe Monty killed Bryce and a fight ensues. Not for the last time this season, Clay gets the s— kicked out of him.
After school, Zach and Alex blow off steam together, walking along the edge of a building. These kids. When Alex nearly falls over the side, Zach catches him. As they recover, Alex kisses Zach then apologizes when Zach doesn’t reciprocate. Zach tells him he isn’t into guys, but is cool about it. Looks like we've got a new storyline to explore for Alex!
Through the premiere (and season to come), Clay’s mental state goes from bad to worse. He’s losing time, constantly confused and seeing things that aren’t there. When he wakes up in bed, Justin tells him he’s been talking and screaming in his sleep all night. At one point he thinks he hears Bryce’s tape playing from nowhere and then sees Bryce and Monty outside his house. Thankfully, he’s seeing his therapist. Clay explains he needs to control himself, because if he doesn’t, people might get hurt but he doesn’t know who he can trust. His therapist tells him his body is creating physical stimuli to force his mind to pay attention to what’s really going on within him and asks Clay if he’s ready to pay attention. Clay says he is.
Episode 2: "College Tour"
Once again we start things off at the funeral for the mystery student.
Six months earlier, Clay is filling out college applications. Only he’s not really doing it because he thinks it’s bulls—. He’s missed most of the deadlines. He sits at his computer at 3 a.m., when suddenly an incoming FaceTime call from Monty’s number flashes on his screen. Panicked, Clay rejects the call and blocks the caller. The phantom calls are doing nothing to help his ever-growing paranoia. He’s barely sleeping and losing more and more time.
When they get to school that morning, someone’s graffitied “Monty was framed” on the walls. No one knows who did it and our group of murder-cover-uppers worries someone knows their secret — well, all of them are concerned, except Zach who thinks it’s kinda funny. Yeah, he’s pretty messed up. When Clay gets to his locker, someone has spray-painted a smile on the inside of it, leading him to believe he’s being framed. Ani thinks it’s Winston (who’s just quietly eavesdropping and gathering intel on them all), but cracks are forming in the group as they all start to suspect each other. Later, one of the police officers at the school stops Tony and searches his bag. The cop gets rough with him and points out the red paint on his hands. Tony explains he was working in his shop the night before and the cop makes a comment about him being a fighter and lets him go.
Everyone gets on a bus to head out to tour the nearby college campus where Clay’s dad works. On the bus, a can of spray paint rolls to Clay’s feet but no one sees where it came from. He scrambles to hide it in his backpack, hoping he can discard it without anyone seeing once they arrive on campus.
On campus, the students are split into two groups. Clay’s growing suspicious of how close Tyler and Winston are getting. (He’s not wrong about their new bond: Tyler just opened up to Winston in the darkroom, telling him he doesn’t hate Monty anymore, he just feels sad for him.) Clay can’t do much about it when they’re split into groups so asks Tyler to keep on an eye on him. In return, Tyler asks Clay to look out for Zach. And, naturally, everything goes wrong.
In his attempt to keep his word to Tyler, Clay follows Zach to a frat party, when new party boy, Zach, decides to blow off the tour. They promptly get wasted and Clay encounters a drunk girl on the stairs. Her boyfriend soon shows up to put her to bed and, suspicious (because of all the terrible previous examples he witnessed), Clay follows them upstairs and finds himself alone in the girl’s room with her past out on the bed. He then imagines Bryce is there and about to rape her, encouraging Clay to do the same. Just then the boyfriend walks in and accuses Clay of trying something. Clay runs off, but the frat guys hold him and he starts to panic, screaming for them to let him go. In the end, they call security on both Clay and Zach and when Clay’s dad shows up, he’s pissed. (Clay also missed a meeting with the dean his dad had arranged.) Later, Clay admits to his therapist that he was aroused and didn’t even realize it when he followed the girl into the room. It freaked him out.
While all that was going on, Alex lost track of Tyler but had a lovely time bonding with Winston and even opened up about his suicide attempt. When Winston tries to take Alex’s hand though, Alex tells him he’s not gay, but later when he and Tony are at the gym, Alex asks Tony a lot of questions about when and how he knew he was gay.
We wrap up another episode with a Clay Cray check-in. The poor kid continues to spiral. He finds another can of spray paint in his bag with no idea of how it got there. He’s more suspicious than ever and when he encounters his parents meeting with the sheriff — apparently about school safety — he grows even more worried and has a panic attack. Honestly, it’s stressful just to watch. When he returns to writing his college essay, texts saying “Monty was framed” and “You framed him” pop up on his screen as well as a bunch of pics of Monty. Someone is clearly messing with him. Clay starts writing his essay with the first line “I covered up a murder,” then continues, typing furiously.
Episode 3: "Valentine's Day"
Love is in the air at Liberty High. JK, mostly despair is in the air as always, but it is Valentine’s Day and there’s a dance to celebrate, and newly installed security cameras in case anyone gets up to no good — sexual or otherwise. Ani wants to go to the dance, but Clay is distracted by anonymous calls he’s been getting from Monty’s number, tormenting him in a distorted voice.
Clay suspects Winston is behind it at first. Whoever it is wants Clay to do exactly what they say or they’ll go public with proof that Monty is innocent. At one point they call him, demand that he picks a fight and doesn’t fight back. Clay has five minutes to do this so provokes Zach into punching him in the stomach repeatedly. Later, after he gets his s— together enough to ask Ani to the dance, someone sends him a picture of himself at that exact moment. He immediately calls the number back, following the sound of ringing to the wrong person. Clay now has no choice but to tell Ani what’s been going on. He then gets another call. The caller knows he told Ani and tells Clay they can prove that she wasn’t with him the night Bryce died. The caller(s) tell Clay he can have Monty’s phone and everything on it, all he has to do is go and get it from H.O.’s headquarters. Of course, the phone Clay finds there isn’t Monty’s and the caller(s) tell him if he answers their call that night at the dance, he’ll get Monty’s phone.
Elsewhere, in one happy moment, Winston wants to hang out with Alex for Valentine’s Day and Alex is into it. They go bowling and Alex asks Winston to go to the dance with him, purely for “social commentary purposes,” but then kisses him soooo maybe it’s actually for “romantic purposes.” It’s a cute moment, but messy considering Alex actually killed Bryce. This should be fun.
It’s time to dance! Here’s how the lovely occasion shapes up:
Jess, who desperately wanted to go, is a terrible date to Charlie after coercing him into going with her when she couldn't find anyone else. She ends up making out with Diego, a football player who she impressed when she made a “don’t be d—heads” speech to the team. Tyler helps Tony with DJ-ing, mostly because Tony is suspicious of him and wants to keep an eye on him. Zach gets wasted and makes out with a rando, while Alex and Winston just make out a lot. Justin doesn’t go to the dance initially, choosing to attend an AA meeting instead — a new one his football coach also attends. When Justin shows up later, he tries to interrupt Jess dancing with Diego, but ultimately fails in coming between them. Back at the DJ booth, Tyler gets an urgent call and leaves in a hurry. Tony follows him outside, where he sees him get into the car with Alex’s dad and drive off. In the car, Alex’s dad tells a worried Tyler to hold on, soon his friends will all know it’s for the best.
On the dance floor, Clay and Ani are slow dancing when his phone rings. The caller has him leave the dance and go to the showers. Once there, whoever is on the other end of the call talks Clay through an imagined scenario where he’s in prison showers, looks down and sees his own blood. When Clay looks in the locker room showers, he sees red paint (resembling blood) everywhere and a knife on the floor. Clay hastily turns on the water to clean it away and, in his mind, sees blood gushing out instead. As instructed, he then goes out to the football field, brandishing the knife and sees Monty’s bloodied body lying in the middle of the field. Clay tries frantically to stop the bleeding, but since, in reality, it’s just a CPR dummy he can’t do anything. The football team shows up and surrounds him. A highly-distressed Clay points the knife at them and demands they hand over Monty’s phone. The problem is, they all seem to have Monty’s phone. Diego tells Clay they own him because anyone who freaks out like that over a prank is hiding something. Clay runs into the dance, covered in fake blood, holding a fake knife and tells Ani he doesn’t know what happened. Shocked, Ani tells him she can’t fix this and runs off. Could it get much worse? Yep, the whole sorry affair is caught on the newly installed school cameras.
Episode 4: "Senior Camping Trip"
Another episode intro, another funeral clip! At least we know it’s not Charlie’s because he’s at it, making a speech. (Praise be! Cookies lives!)
Since the Valentine’s Day Dance fiasco, Clay and Diego have been suspended for two weeks and are now back at school in front of the council to find out if they’ll still be allowed to go on the senior camping trip. Of course they get to go. Clay is anxious about this, suspecting the football team will try to mess with him some more. You see, every year they single someone out to scare during the camping trip with the help of any old local legend, The Legend of Bunham which basically tells the tale of a dead teen who roams the woods, terrorizing kids with an ax and making them pay for their sins. Or something like that — it’s ancient history that took place a long time ago in the ‘80s, so who can say exactly?
Anyway, before the gang leaves for the trip, they all receive an email sent from Clay’s account, pretty much saying they can’t keep this secret anymore and that they should come clean or during the senior campfire, he will tell everyone what they did. Clay denies writing it, believing he was hacked and the whole group is anxious, thinking one of them is about to spill everything to everyone.
Okay, things are about to get really trippy. So, there's a treasure hunt as part of this fun excursion. They all have their phones taken off them, are partnered up and set off to follow clues to the prizes. Only, once they’ve all left, the chaperones (Alex’s dad and Clay’s mom) find the clues are still at camp. Classic jocks! Messing with the game…
Everyone has been told to stick with their partner so obviously that doesn’t happen. Justin disappears and Clay runs off the path looking for him. Alex and Jess also get split up after she gets a hand full of maggots. While he searches for Justin, Clay comes across a wolf and then someone grabs him and puts him in a well. Yup, you read that correctly. He has a panic attack, passes out and imagines a conversation with Monty. Insert humanizing Monty moment here.
Justin and Charlie find each other and team up to try and find Clay. Meanwhile, the football team goes back for Clay and find he’s not in the hole where they left him. Above them, they hear someone whisper-yelling “revenge,” as Clay’s voiceover tells us it’d be cool if someone messed with the football team instead. We told you things got trippy!
Diego and the other players take shelter with Justin and Charlie in a creepy cabin and admit they messed with the clues, but now they think there’s something else out there. Still alone in the words, Jess hallucinates Bryce with a mouth full of cockroaches, but finally finds her way to where the others are huddling. The jocks think the ghost of Burnham Woods is out to get them all. Just then, someone drags an ax along the outside of the cabin and laughs creepily. Everyone is s—ing themselves at this point, but then Zach shows up and the jocks run out. Tony joins too and they all discuss how Winston can alibi Monty. They think maybe the email came from Winston, but then Tony suggests it might’ve come from Tyler. Jess points the finger at Ani, who isn’t on the trip because she's visiting her mom who had a fall. Justin suggests trusting one another. Thankfully, Alex’s dad shows up to take them back to camp.
Meanwhile, after Clay told Alex that Winston was Monty’s alibi, Alex is avoiding Winston, believing he was using him for information on Bryce’s death. Later, Alex tells Tyler that Winston was only their friend so he can find out who really killed Bryce, but when Tyler confronts Winston about it, Winston tells him he genuinely wanted to be his friend.
Upset about Winston, Alex goes out on the lake in a boat with Zach to drink. Because Alex hasn’t already been through enough in his life, he falls overboard, hits his head on the oar and passes out. Under the water, he imagines Bryce grabbing at him, but it’s really just Zach pulling him out. They make it back to shore safely, but later Alex tells his dad he felt like he was being pulled down, like he couldn’t breathe anymore and that’s what it must’ve been like for Bryce too. Alex feels so alone and can’t keep carrying this secret. His dad tells him they all want the best for him, and they don’t want him to throw his life away. Alex’s dad believes his friends are good, smart kids and they did the right thing. Alex doesn’t need how to live up to that.
Back in the well, Clay wakes up with all the treasure from the hunt in bags around him and sees the symbol that was graffitied on the school wall, carved into the wall in front of him. Somehow — we don’t see it happen — he gets out of the well and makes his way back to camp, announcing his arrival by blowing a horn and declaring he won the treasure hunt. He seems deranged and accuses Winston of working with the jocks, then Jessica of knowing Diego was going to f— with him.
They round off what’s been a delightful trip by playing campfire games. The kids are asked how has this weekend has changed them and what memory they’ll take with them forever. Clay says the weekend hasn’t changed them because he knows he and his friends will be friends for life. There will always be a bond between them that they can never break, even if they want to. Alex goes next and confesses — everyone freezes — that he f—ing hates camping.
Later, while Alex chooses to bunk with Charlie and Zach over Winston (Charlie is very excited about this), Winston comes to Clay’s tent and asks him which one of his friends killed Bryce.
Episode 5: "House Party"
One can only hope that the utter confusion this new season is serving us is intentional. After we see Clay return home from an angsty jog towards the site of Bryce’s murder, we’re told via dialogue between Clay, Justin, and their parents that he’s been jogging to a lot of Bryce’s old haunts, and that Justin visited his old neighborhood. Those little scenes certainly didn’t happen on camera!
Anyhow, Clay’s weirdness leads to the boys getting a random drug test, which leads to Clay testing positive, and blaming it on Justin switching their samples (again, not something the audience saw to confirm). While they get grounded, we slowly learn that all the parents in Evergreen seem to know a little too much about their children's social lives. Clay, Jessica, Tony, and Alex all agree that their privacy may be compromised, and so Clay coordinates a sting with Tyler’s old goth buddies to spread the location and time of a party in a way that will let them know whether or not the parents are able to find out about it.
While the rest of the students go to the party, Tony is recruited by the sheriff’s office into a boxing league, with Tyler working in his corner as the cut guy. At the party, cast newbies Diego, Winston, and Estella all take part in a dedication to Monty that leaves Jessica on edge. As Tony wins the fight against a competitor that looks well out of his weight class, Clay meets and quickly loses his virginity to Sheriff Daughtry’s daughter, a suspicious moment considering he had long been dating Ani, who infamously had multiple sex scenes with Bryce last season.
Elsewhere at the party, Zach and Justin both strike out with their respective love interests. Turns out Chloe can't kiss Zach because she has a boyfriend, and Justin is drinking again now that Jessica has seemingly moved on from him, and his mom is back in his life (hence the visit to his old neighborhood).
As Charlie and Alex build romantic tension in a private room, snacking on edibles and watching It’s a Wonderful Life, Winston is going around the party telling Estella and Diego the truth about his romantic relationship with Monty.
The party comes to a climax after Clay is approached by the boyfriend of Sheriff Daughtry’s daughter, and proceeds to get into a bloody fight with him. There’s a quick scene after showing Tony and Justin inexplicably running into each other on the street, only to catch Tyler giving money to a gun dealer, but the big finish is a drunk Clay and Zach driving an Audi convertible off a cliff.
Episode 6: "Thursday"
While the car crash seemed fatal, Clay was only imagining letting Zach bleed out to death. The part where he left Zach for dead is true though, but Clay swears to a now broken-armed Zach that he doesn’t remember a thing from their drunken joyride.
In addition to Clay giving everyone bad vibes from a gym class freakout, Tyler also has Justin and Tony spooked from the late-night meeting he had last episode and his unnerving knowledge of gunshot wounds. This is all a setup for 13 Reasons Why to join the great teen show tradition of lockdown episodes like on Degrassi and Glee before it. Clay and Tyler have brought weapons onto school grounds, so they must be the prime suspects when a code red is called, right?
The plot also gives the show an excuse to force some unpredictable pairings like Winston and Zach, Estella and Tyler, and Clay sandwiched between the ghosts of Monty and Bryce. Only Jessica is alone in the Hands Off room, leaving a distraught voicemail for Ani, and having a heart-wrenching phone call with her mom.
Winston and Zach are hitting it off the most because they are high on edibles. Tensions are high between Tony, Charlie, and Alex because Tony is convinced that Tyler is the shooter, and the whole conversation sends Alex into a panic attack stemming from his self-inflicted traumatic brain injury. Hidden in the bathroom, away from his suspicious friends, Tyler also shares with Estella that the bathroom, the site where her brother sexually assaulted him, is the last place he wants to be.
In the boy’s locker room, toxic masculinity comes to a boil when Diego tries to fight his way out the locker room, and taunts Justin by saying that he’s a weakling that wants to just let Jessica die. This causes Justin to escape while the coach isn’t looking.
Hard conversations come to pass with Winston telling Zach that Alex is the first boy he’s ever loved, Zach telling Winston that he beat up Bryce before he died, and the ghosts of Bryce and Monty messing with Clay’s views on everyone deserving to be saved, and convincing Clay that he can't save anyone.
Tony decides to rat out Tyler to the dean of discipline, whom we’ve seen floating around previous episodes, but we're only introduced to him through his meeting with Clay right before the lockdown.
In a heightened mental state where he imagines hearing his dad’s voice outside, Alex makes an attempt to escape the room he’s locked down in, but the only people who successfully leave their rooms are Justin and Clay.
While Justin takes a stapler to the head from a frightened Jessica, who wasn’t expecting anyone to roll out of the Hands Off meeting room window, Clay’s walk down the halls leads him to the school shooter — or so he thinks.
Clay is so disoriented that he sees another version of himself with an assault rifle in the hall. The other Clay starts shooting him until the school principal yells at him to snap out of it. The lockdown was all just a drill. The gunshots were blanks, the teachers were the ones knocking on doors.
The lockdown helped Jessica and Justin reconcile, Alex and Charlie finally share their feelings for each other through a kiss, and put Zach in position to be blackmailed by Winston, but most of all it broke Clay.
Seeing the SWAT team the principal invited into the school for the drill sends Clay into a rage. He yells, and pushes, and blames Tyler for it all, until he finally grabs one of the cops guns, and is tackled and clubbed into submission.
The whole episode may have been an attempt to shed light on the paranoia American students are feeling about school shootings, but the timing could not be any worse for a depiction of a white male pointing a gun at cops, and making it out alive, while unarmed black Americans like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were killed by police without provocation.
Episode 7: "College Interview"
Clay wakes up in a mental hospital reminding everyone he has an upcoming college interview after possibly admitting to covering up a murder in his admissions essay. This kicks off a series of scenes throughout the episode where the main cast has their own admissions interviews, starting with Tyler talking about how guns are both scary and beautiful. Returning to the mental hospital, Justin breaks the news to Clay that the doctors told his parents they will keep him there at least one more day.
Ani is finally back, walking in on Jessica throwing Diego out her bedroom window. Following their conversation, we next see Winston convincing Estella that Jessica is in on whatever Zach, Clay, and company are covering up. In the prior episode, Estella had given Winston Monty’s old playbook, which had a bunch of coded notes from before and after Bryce’s death, and Winston found evidence of Monty talking about Justin feeling hostile towards Bryce. According to Winston, if Justin was involved in Bryce’s death in any way, Jessica would know.
After a quick look at Alex eavesdropping on his dad and the sheriff talking about Clay, the show has a series of scenes where characters are confronting each other one-on-one. First, Jessica confronts the principal about the excess security measures the school has taken, which she now is being blamed for. Second is Tyler confronting Tony, and being hurt by the fact he can’t rely on him and Clay to trust he’s changed after his attempted school shooting. Third, Diego confronts Zach about possibly murdering Bryce, and finally, Justin confronts Jessica about still hanging out with Diego.
Bringing things back to Clay, he fakes having s— the bed so he can change back into his clothes and escape the mental hospital. Sheriff Daughtry notifies Justin of Clay’s breakout, and Clay’s first stop back out in the world is to see Ani by the water. She reveals that she rewrote his college essay to be about robots, which causes another rift between them.
For anyone excited about Alex and Charlie finally becoming an item, Alex is doing everything he can to spoil it. Justin accuses Zach of spoiling situations as well, having told Winston about a secret key aspect of Bryce’s death. At the police station, Tony overhears plans about a gun dealing sting involving Tyler, but believes that Tyler will be the one they plan to arrest. One would think that someone who has caught Tyler secretly communicating with cops and drug dealers, and is Tyler’s friend, could deduce that Tyler is probably an informant, but whatever.
After being shown walking around and talking to himself, Clay’s final destination is his therapist’s house. We get a scene of Ani apologizing to Jessica about sleeping with Bryce, and moving out, before seeing Clay’s therapist calm him down by reminding him of all the people out there who want to support him. He’s officially cleared to come home.
The next day, Jessica talks to an admissions officer about what Hannah and Alex’s experiences with suicide taught her about change. Outside in the halls of the school, her partner Justin learns from Alex’s dad that his mother died of a possible overdose. As Alex is the next person to have a college interview, that ends with him feeling like a failure, and pushing Charlie further away, Justin is seen in the bathroom finally crying over his loss.
Both Ani and Justin struggle through their college interviews as Clay struggles to commit to helping Tony stake out Tyler’s gun deal. After Alex is shown making one last dismissal of Charlie, Clay is the last one doing his college interview, and he finds success in talking about how much he has his friend’s backs.
At home, Justin flips on his adoptive parents for suggesting a memorial for his mom. The scene ends with him stripping his bed to the mattress, and climbing on it to cry again. Elsewhere, Ani is secretly caught talking to Bryce’s mom by Alex, but the conversation was only about her gifting Ani her son’s college fund.
The football team plus Winston try intimidating Zach into spilling more information on Bryce’s death, but Zach just wants to be beaten up, and Diego obliges. The episode ends with Clay and Tony catching Tyler talking to an arms dealer, intervening, and escalating it to the point where the dealer fires off the gun towards the high school students. It’s been a while since any episodes started with a funeral flash-forward, but the gunshot may just reveal who actually died.
Episode 8: "Acceptance/Rejection"
Because there’s not enough going on already, for some reason this episode begins as some post-apocalyptic, sci-fi action movie starring Clay as a human resistance leader and Bryce as a robot with a conscience fighting against his own kind? I truly have no idea what’s going on. It’s apparently supposed to be some really specific metaphor in Clay's head about how adults ruined the world and the kids are left to fight and make life or death decisions and they don’t deserve the circumstances they’ve been given. Of course, it was all a dream, but it went on for so long. Was this necessary? Definitely not, but hey, here we are!
The actual story begins the night of the police sting as Sheriff Diaz and Deputy Standall tell Clay and Tony that Tyler became an informant for them after the bag of guns was traced to him. He was actually helping the police get guns off the street, not being targeted by the police for buying guns. This was his big moment and Clay and Tony totally ruined it. Thankfully Tyler’s still alive, so that big gunshot cliffhanger essentially meant nothing except giving us all more anxiety we don’t need because all three of these guys are totally fine! When Tyler finally comes back to school after being deposed and going in front of a judge in secret, he’s angry at Tony and Clay for not trusting him. But Tyler, it's not like you've given them any reason to considering what you were about to do just two seasons ago ...
Some of the teens find out their college acceptances and rejections (although Zach probably won’t even graduate high school with his current grades, not like he cares), but their real freakouts come when Clay’s parents mention something about a Gordon Lightfoot concert that Clay and Justin never told them about, because that artist’s name is clearly some kind of code they’ve been using with each other for all their secrets while texting. The parents are definitely spying on them, but how? Is it through their phones?
Meanwhile, someone (who?) anonymously left Winston a tape of Bryce’s confession and he plays it for Diego and Estela. Based on the tape's contents, he now thinks Jessica killed Bryce, or got Justin to do it for her. Speaking of, Justin sees Jess kissing Diego later and is heartbroken, and she finds him later shooting up in an alley, leading to yet another breakup. And when Jess meets with Hands Off, they decide they want to do something about the increased security and invasion of privacy at the school.
Tony wins another fight and meets a scout from the University of Nevada after offers him a full-ride scholarship. But for some reason, he’s not happy about it.
Clay gets suspicious of his parents going on so many “date nights” over the past six months, especially since they never seem happy when they do. So he follows them on one … to his high school. He discovers a massive meeting with all the parents and Dean Foundry where they talk about all the apps they’ve been using to track their kids and spy on their texts and emails. That’s why Clay’s parents have always known where he and Justin have been! Creepy. What’s even worse is that security officials have been using all the data collected from all the students to spy on the student body at large, using trends to figure out what's going on. Talk about a massive invasion of privacy. That’s got to be illegal on so many levels.
The next day at school, Diego tells Justin that he heard Bryce’s tape and accuses him of being the murderer. They get into a fight and a security guard separates them, but he’s clearly racist because he lets Justin go while getting violent with Diego, hurling a racist slur at him in the process. The security guard (who totally needs to be fired) then pulls a gun on Diego and Justin (inside the school!) and roughly handcuffs Diego and takes him away while a crowd of students watch.
Infuriated by what just happened, Jess leads a group of students to confront Principal Bolan. They all refuse to go back to class, and Jess and Clay lead them in a walkout. Zach and Alex stage their own protest by smashing glass doors with baseball bats and barricading themselves in the front office. Zach eventually tells Alex to leave and takes the blame for the destruction when the cops break through their barricade.
For some reason, Bolan and Foundry decide to call in more cops armed with SWAT gear to break up a student walkout, and they threaten to “forcibly remove” all students who don’t leave the front parking lot even though they’re peacefully protesting (hmmmm, sounds familiar). Tony leaves because he already has a record. The students start throwing things at the approaching police, and things escalate quickly. Jess tries to help Estela who gets grabbed by a cop, and Justin yells at her that she can’t get arrested because she has to protect herself – and Diego hears the whole thing, putting two-and-two together (or so he thinks) about what really happened with Bryce. Jess spits on a cop’s helmet and he punches her in the stomach and drags her away.
Then Clay gets on the megaphone to encourage all the students to “burn it all down” if they have to, and things get even more violent. Diego helps save Justin from getting knocked out. Tony comes back to help Tyler, and his police friend/boxing coach helps him avoid getting arrested. Alex finds Charlie unconscious on the ground, and a car explodes nearby.
The episode then smash cuts to Clay sitting calmly in his therapist’s office, and we find out the car that exploded was Bolan’s. And while Clay doesn’t remember throwing a makeshift Molotov cocktail made out of a burning textbook into the car, Bolan sent his therapist video proof of him doing it. He also doesn’t remember painting the graffiti in the school, scaring everyone during the senior camping trip, or smashing the cameras in the school, but we finally see him doing it all in flashbacks. Clay tells his therapist he’s ready to “let all those secrets out.” Is Clay suffering from dissociative identity disorder, with one personality trying to get him caught? Or has all his trauma manifested into fugue states? Is he about to confess to everything, including the truth about Bryce and Monty? And did we really just watch 13 Reasons Why stage a full-on riot, especially given what’s happening now?!
Episode 9: "Prom"
“So yeah, there was a riot.” What an apt way to kick off this episode! Some time has passed because Alex wakes Charlie up – not on the ground in the school parking lot but in his bed, totally fine! – and sneaks him out of his house before his parents see. Zach (who was suspended for a week) is in trouble with Dean Foundry, who is “on the warpath” post-riot. The school’s been closed for a week and there’s an investigation into what started it – aka Justin and Diego’s fight about THE tape. Justin’s clearly still using and he doesn’t want Clay’s parents to know he relapsed. Foundry’s trying to figure out who started the riot and so he canceled prom, but Jess is determined to reverse his decision. She’s also been avoiding Diego, who confronts her about what he thinks he knows about Bryce’s murder and almost gets violent with her but HO backs her up. He threatens to talk to Foundry about what he knows and she doesn’t try to stop him.
Meanwhile, Clay told his therapist about all his recently relearned memories but he hasn’t told his friends. They’re working on his suppressed trauma but he hasn’t opened up entirely, so his therapist convinces him to open up to his friends. With the truth finally out about Clay’s actions, Charlie comes up with a plan to get the parents back on their side by using partial truths and then using their newfound trust to get prom back – which in turn means the parents will call off the investigation. It’s a confusing bait-and-switch plan to make sure that the truth about Bryce’s murder doesn’t come out.
Kicking off the plan, Clay and Justin finally come clean to Clay’s parents about their “Gordon Lightfoot” code and confront them about the spying and tracking apps. Clay tells them about his dissociative episodes and Justin tells them he’s been using again and that he was fired and that he stole from them to get money for drugs. Meanwhile sweet Charlie comes out to his father as bisexual – and tells him about Alex, calling him his boyfriend! And his dad just says, “Yeah,” because he already knew because of how much Charlie was always obsessed with Eli Manning when he was younger. This scene is giving me life when I need it most.
Jess meets with Bolan offering to take full responsibility for the riot and will accept a punishment of suspension and being charged with instigating a riot as long as the cops drop all charges against everyone else. She has the power of social media and their parents and booster club on her side. She promises that prom and graduation will go off without a hitch, and he agrees. But that’s not a promise anyone on this show can make.
In a rare moment of happiness, Alex has Charlie over to his house for dinner and he comes out to his whole family! They all accept him and Charlie with big smiles and open arms. Again, this relationship is now the best part of this show and it better stay that way.
When Jess announces that prom is back on, Ani does a hilarious prom-posal for her and Jess agrees to go to prom with her. Charlie tries to do a big prom-posal for Alex but he completely misses it and walks right past him. Tyler asks Estela and she’s really excited about it. Charlie tries again with Alex by having everyone hold up a photo of his face in class, and Alex says, “That’s really creepy,” and walks out. The look of dejection on Charlie’s face is heartbreaking! Caleb asks Tony to prom with donuts at the garage. Charlie tries a third time with candles and string lights and a big sign and Alex finally says yes, thank goodness! And Clay decides to go stag with Alex and Charlie, but Justin refuses to go, saying he has the flu and doesn’t feel up to it.
At prom, everyone looks great and is happy to see each other until Zach shows up with a hooker to do coke in the bathroom. Normal high school problems! Deputy Standall, a chaperone, tells the kids that Sheriff Diaz is “really looking out” for them – he means it as a nice thing but Clay starts to freak out, thinking that they’re still under surveillance. Diego tries to get Jess back but she rejects him. Back at the table, Jess, Alex, and Zach talk about how they haven’t felt “normally okay” in a long time and they wonder if they’ll ever feel that way again. Alex doesn’t think he’ll be happy again, and that’s why he’s been pushing Charlie away. He says Bryce should be at prom too and that he didn’t deserve to die. Zach agrees but says that they deserve to live. “So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go dance with a whore,” he says with a smile as he runs to the dance floor. Yikes. Classic Zach.
Winston confronts Ani again, saying he has enough information to prove Jess killed Bryce and that she can’t stop him. So she gives an impassioned speech about how they’re all human and messy and she did what she did for this friend group out of love. Winston then sees a vision of Monty on the dance floor and they dance together. So is he like, just swaying alone on the dance floor in the middle of the entire senior class? He also says he loved Monty, but the vision says that Winston didn’t even know him and he never would have let him. Winston just loved the idea of Monty, which, accurate. They kiss and hug and again, I ask, is Winston miming this in the middle of the dance floor? Monty walks out and Winston is left alone in the middle of the dance floor. It’s strange to see Monty and Winston get the same kind of goodbye dance that Clay and Hannah got, considering who these characters are and what they’ve (both) done. Feels like this show hasn’t learned any lessons about trying to humanize rapists. And if Monty ever did anything good in life, like this season has tried so hard to argue, it was never actually shown to us onscreen, so to retroactively attempt to redeem him after he died feels completely unearned.
Back home, Justin puts his tux jacket on. At prom, Charlie and Alex find Zach in the bathroom with his “escort,” and she’s so messed up that she can’t walk. They help get home. It’s a real rock bottom moment for Zach as Charlie tells him, “Be better,” and he starts to tear up a little. But on to happier moments: Alex and Charlie are voted Prom King and Prom King, aka Prom Royalty! Jess crowns Alex and tells him that he deserves to be happy, and then Alex and Charlie kiss in front of the cheering senior class. Alex then tells Charlie he’s in love with him, and Charlie says it back. I just want the best for these two. Everyone starts dancing together (except Clay, who keeps refusing to dance) and it ends up being the happiest moment that has ever happened on this show.
A slow song comes on just as Justin arrives at prom, and everyone makes a path for him and Jess to meet up. He tells her he loves her more than life, and she says, “Don’t love anything more than life.” But they hold each other and dance as Diego looks on, crushed. Ani and Clay have an honest conversation about how they weren’t ready to be in a relationship with anyone, let alone each other, and decide to be “good friends.” And after a sweet moment with his mom who is also chaperoning, Clay asks her to dance. At a high school prom, Clay only dances with his mom! Yikes. It’s as weird as it sounds.
Dean Foundry tells Charlie and Alex that two prom kings would have never happened in his day, and then in a pleasant surprise, he introduces his husband to them. Like Alex says: “Mind. Blown.” Of course, all that happiness couldn’t last, because Justin suddenly collapses on the dance floor as Jess screams for help. Ugh, what now?!
Episode 10: "Graduation"
We finally made it, friends: 13 Reasons Why’s series finale. It clocks in at almost two hours, so buckle up because this show definitely isn’t signing off without one last attempt to decimate our feelings.
A week after prom, Justin is still in the hospital in Intensive Care. A doctor informs Clay and his parents that Justin has tested positive for HIV-1 and it has progressed to AIDs, plus he’s suffering from pneumonia and a neurological infection, a fungal meningitis. In other words, it’s not looking good for him. Also, Jess definitely needs to get tested, right?
At school, Winston confronts Tyler about his theory that Jess killed Monty, but Tyler tells him he has it all wrong and doesn’t know anything. And anything Winston does to that group of friends, he’ll do to Tyler too, because he’s with them. Then Tyler sends a Gordon Lightfoot text, alerting the group.
Outside the hospital, Zach can’t bring himself to visit Justin, and Charlie yells at him. Alex meets with Winston and finally tells him the truth about killing Bryce, hoping that he won’t turn him in because of their past. And Alex says he was alone so Jess won’t be implicated.
In the hospital, Justin gets worse and is hooked up to a ventilator. Clay doesn’t understand that this means Justin’s time is limited. When he finally gets it, he runs out of the hospital and his dad runs after him. Clay runs all the way to the Sheriff’s station, walks in, and then shouts that he has a gun?! Why is he doing this?! Sheriff Diaz talks him down until Clay shows that he doesn’t actually have a gun, and he breaks down crying in Diaz’s arms. While talking to his therapist, he says he just wanted someone to notice him and see that he was hurting. Diaz didn’t press any charges against Clay, and he realizes that Diaz never suspected him of anything, he actually just cared about Clay. That’s … certainly a “twist.”
Meanwhile, Justin continues to get worse. Alex and Charlie pull an intervention on Zach, pouring out his whiskey and bringing him coffee so that he can finally see Justin. Alex wants to repay Zach for when he pulled him back from the ledge literally, and Charlie is adorably confused about their talk of the rooftop kiss. But it works, and Zach finally comes to the hospital.
Tony’s dad video chats him after Caleb told him about Tony’s college offer. His dad tells him to sell the family’s garage and get on with his life. His parents’ dream was for him to have a better life, and that’s what this college offer can give him.
At the hospital, Jess has a vision of Bryce telling her that he wins, because he’s to blame for all of this. Justin wakes up and can’t talk but can communicate by writing. Clay finds out he got into Brown and that he’s been voted class speaker for graduation. But he doesn’t think he has anything to say about the future because he doesn’t think there is a future. So even though he’s better than he’s been all season, the pessimistic Clay remains.
But there is hope for the future, as the football coach offers Zach a job as an assistant coach at Liberty High. But it’s under the terms that he has to graduate and be sober. It’s the kind of kick in the butt that Zach needs.
Back at the hospital, Justin’s brain infection progresses and the doctor advises them to take him off the ventilator so he can say goodbye. He has beautiful moments with Jess and Clay while Liberty High students fill the hospital waiting room. And then, it happens: Clay holds Justin’s hand as he dies. Now we finally know whose funeral it’s been all season – Justin’s.
Somehow, there’s still an hour left to go! At Justin’s funeral, Alex tries to give a eulogy but he can’t finish. Zach gives a speech about doing better. After it ends, Jess and Clay sit hand-in-hand in the church together for a long time in silence. At Monet’s, Winston asks Alex to talk, and he asks why Alex killed Bryce. Alex says he didn’t see any soul in Bryce, just anger, and realized how he had ruined every person that Alex ever loved. But he also says he’s more sorry than he could ever say about killing Bryce. Winston tears up as they both say they had real feelings for each other, and he gives Alex the tape. He promises he’ll never do anything with the information he knows because while he loved Monty, he also loves Alex. And still does. They hug for one last time and Winston walks away.
Tony sells his garage to a buyer who doesn’t know anything about cars so all the current employees will stay on and Caleb co-signs the papers, essentially meaning his family’s business is protected while he can build a future for himself at college. And even though Tony’s going to a school an eight-hour drive away (well, seven with the way Tony drives), he and Caleb are staying together. Another happy future!
At the Sheriff’s station, Sheriff Diaz tells Deputy Standall that family is the most important thing and that the Bryce Walker case is now closed, and staying closed. Standall thanks Diaz, and it’s implied that Diaz figured out the truth about Alex killing Bryce and is looking the other way, either for Standall or for the kids. Wow. I did not expect that. That feels way too neat and tidy for a sheriff to look the other way in a murder investigation, especially when one of his own deputies helped cover it up.
At the hospital, Jess and Diego both get tested and their results are negative. Turns out Jess told Diego and even offered to go with him as he got tested. She also says she was never worried because Justin would never do anything without protection. There’s also an offhand comment about Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV/AIDs preventative drug, and how that seems like a good idea, which is amazing for normalizing conversations about sexual health. Diego then asks Jess out as a fresh start, and she says, “Maybe in a month.” Too soon, dude.
Clay gets sent a box from Mrs. Baker containing Hannah’s tapes that her lawyers finally returned to her, and she wanted Clay and Tony to have them. Clay has a breakdown in his therapist’s office about how nothing matters anymore because Justin’s gone and he couldn’t do anything to help him. And his therapist points out Justin didn’t let himself be loved and cared for in the same way Clay won’t let people in to take care of him. His therapist opens up about his own past and how a teacher saw something more in him. Clay finally opens up about how it all starts with Hannah Baker.
The episode then cuts to graduation, and in the crowd are lots of familiar faces like Courtney, Ryan, Chloe, and even Scott (the jock from season 2 who was friends with Bryce and Monty but helped expose the Clubhouse). Jess makes her speech about love, ending it with: “Oh, and f— the patriarchy.” Then Clay gives a speech, and it ends up being his voiceover from the premiere. “It comes down to one question. Will you survive high school? Will I survive? Because I know too many people who didn’t. In the past two years, three people who I loved have died. And two other people who I thought I hated also died.” He talks about how for their generation, high school literally is life or death and how they all suffer from anxiety. But whatever happens, they have to keep moving and choose to live.
At the graduation reception, there are lots of little nice, hopeful moments like bully jocks bonding with artsy kids, and Ani revealing that Mrs. Walker is endowing HO with the money meant for Bryce’s college tuition. Ani and Jess pass the HO torch to Estela, who’s dating Tyler, who says that he and Alex can carpool to every football game next year since he’s staying with Charlie in a long-distance relationship. Tony is surprised by his younger sister, visiting for his graduation. Ryan meets – and hits on – Winston, Zach reveals he’s going to college on a music scholarship, and Foundry appreciated Clay’s speech.
But then the whole crew leaves their families to meet up and talk about their hopes for the future. And Clay reveals, while talking to a vision of Justin, that he doesn’t “actually see ghosts,” he just imagines people and what he would say to them which feels like the show’s way of telling us we’ve been taking things too literally? But that doesn’t make sense because Clay has always treated these ghosts like they’re actually there. And ghost Justin, who is hanging out with ghost Bryce, tells Clay that you can love someone who does bad things, and you can forgive even the people who hurt you worst. Clay also sees ghost Hannah, and realizes that ghost Justin is talking about how Clay feels about her. But before Clay can get sucked into another vision, he’s interrupted by a real person, Heidi, a senior from another school who’s also going to Brown with him, who wants to get coffee and has a lot in common with him. There’s hope for the future for Clay!
Before he can focus on his future though, Clay and the rest of the crew bury Hannah’s tapes together at the spot where he first listened to his tape back in season 1. Jess sees another vision of Bryce and tells him that he didn’t win. They all agree that if anyone ever needs help, send a Gordon Lightfoot text and they’ll be there for them, any time, any place. They’re bonded for life.
Back at home, Clay looks at Justin’s high school diploma and talks with ghost Justin again. Ghost Justin encourages him to read the college essay he wrote, and it turned out to be about Clay. Because Clay was the positive influence in Justin’s life. Aww. Clay starts crying, Justin starts crying, and I start crying. But Justin tells Clay that he’ll survive. That survival starts with a road trip with Tony and as they drive off, the music dies down and we’re left with the two of them sitting in silence, driving off to their futures.
And with that, 13 Reasons Why has ended! It may not be the happiest of endings since Justin didn't make it out alive but at least the show gave the rest of the characters hope for their futures after a season tinged with hopelessness. Clay got his groove back and he never has to return to Liberty High again. That's something we can all be thankful for.