This review contains spoilers.
I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that 13 Reasons Why has been groundbreaking television. Starting in season 1 we see a group of teenagers dealing with the impact of their actions which resulted in Hannah Baker committing suicide, the fallout and repercussions from that during season 2 and 3 and in season 4 they struggle to come to terms with their hand in the deaths of Bryce Walker and Monty De La Cruz.
Season 4 is dark and mainly focuses on Clay Jensen as he suffers deep mental health consequences from what has happened before. He’s haunted by the ghosts of Bryce and Monty and along with his Liberty High pals, continuously tries to distract new cast members Diego and Estela (Monty’s sister) and Monty’s secret lover, Winston, who are all determined to find out the truth surrounding the recent deaths. I’d say the first half of the season is a bit of a slog but perhaps that is because I was just eager to see how the story ends. Having said that, Dylan Minnette does an incredible job in leading the cast and portraying some very sensitive subject matter. He’s taken to some very dark places.
Apart from the final episode there are two that stick out in my mind. Episode 4, Senior Camping Trip, was brilliantly spooky and episode 6, Thursday, was quite pivotal for many of the characters. The various cast members go on different journeys as they face leaving school and entering the adult world but there were three other stand outs for me. Jessica deals with her past and finally finds the strength to move on. Alex struggles to forgive himself for his part in Bryce’s death. The scenes as he and his boyfriend Charlie come out to their parents were really lovely. Zach spends the season loosing more and more control and dabbles with alcohol, drugs, violence and prostitution as he clearly struggles to accept that his life won’t be able to follow the path he had planned for himself.
Justin has always been my favourite character and this is because he has always shown us that there is good and bad in all of us. He’s acted despicably, he’s put people in horrendous situations and he is completely flawed. But alongside this he’s always wanted to be better. He genuinely cares for people and since being taken in by Clay’s family he started to put his troubled past behind him and live life to his full potential. However, his past comes back to haunt him in the worst way, firstly when his Mother dies from an drug overdose. Spiraling, he turns to drugs again and unfortunately this time he is unable to recover.
After declaring his love for Jessica at senior prom, he collapses and the doctors discover just how bad his health has become. He has contracted HIV which has now developed into Aids and also develops a case of meningitis and breathing difficulties. From the first episode we see that someone else has died and finding out this would be Justin was so gutting. You just want him to succeed. Watching him say goodbye to the people close to him was so crushing and the last scene between him and Clay was devastatingly beautiful as they tell each other just how much they care for one another. Brace yourself for 98 minutes of tears!
Over the course of its history this show has dealt with so many subjects which have been shown honestly and sensitively. Rape, suicide, teen pregnancy and death to name a few – no wonder each episode starts and ends with a content warning. As someone who works with teenagers and young adults I’ve always felt like this should be a show everyone watches. There’s a consequence for every action and in a time where mental health is high agenda, 13 Reasons Why has given great insight into what actually goes on inside people’s minds. Even though Season 4 doesn’t show the series off at its full glory it wraps up really nicely. The Liberty High students bury their past and look towards their futures and there’s some satisfaction in knowing that these kids are going to be alright.
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