Oh boy, here we go! A lot of you hate that I watch and review this show. 13 REASONS WHY in general, it’s a series that people love to hate. And I get why, but then again, I don’t. Some people say it glorifies suicide and violence, and I really don’t agree with that logic. But then, the people that say they hate the show because it makes them more depressed about life including graphic depictions of rape and bullying, that I can see their logic on. The show is quite depressing at times and the bullying does become a bit too much in some episodes. I considered the whole thing to be a entertaining binge-able cautionary tale…well…maybe until now. At points, during this final batch of episodes I wanted to jump on the hate train right along with ya’ll. SEASON 4, THE FINAL SEASON, is absolutely fucking abysmal at points, and I started this review not knowing if I would ultimately recommend it or not. There is a course correction almost half way through the season that gets it back on track but then when the giant movie length (98 minutes) series finale episode hits, it mildly becomes frustrating again. To pin point that frustration: one of the ending fates of one of the characters makes absolutely no fucking sense. Episode 1, 3, and 4 of the new season are so…so bad, that I’ve been told from certain people that they stopped watching and quit the series…so close to the end. I’ll ditch something mid series with no end in sight (like The Blacklist) if I have to, but if I’m only a handful of episodes away to the very, very end…to quit would seem like a wasted journey. There is no doubt in my mind that Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why will never be beat. It is near perfect in its storytelling and execution. Season 2 stretches out Hannah Baker’s story to the point where it sags all the way to the ground, and Clay seeing and talking to Hannah’s ‘ghost’ was kind of a buzzkill. That ghost bullshit almost almost got me to quit then. But then Season 3 got things back on track with a cool murder mystery and pacing that almost matched the first season. I don’t know where to put Season 4, the final one, as it’s easily a photo finish between this and the second one, but they are both so roller coaster bat shit on and off tone at times that I really can’t decide. Hopefully I can find the reasons why, to put them in a solid and concrete preferred order.
My reviews are usually long for this series, but that’s because I go into full on spoiler territory. For this final season, I’m not going to do that, instead I will just state in broad terms what worked and what didn’t work for me. Let’s get the shit out of the way, as since this will be my final say as the series as a whole, I’d rather end on something good than something where I just seem like an angry butt hurt fan. Season 1 dealt with Hannah Baker and why she ultimately decided to end her life. Season 2 dealt with the trail of Bryce Larkin, who is taken to court by Hannah’s parents as they and her friends had a confession and other evidence that he raped her. Season 3 was, “who killed Bryce Larkin?”. And Season 4 deals with all of our main characters dealing with the after math of Bryce’s murder and a frame job, graduating high school, moving on with life, and there is a mystery introduced in a flash forward at the very beginning of the first episode back, and that is: “who is in the coffin?” The answer to that mystery is emotionally sad, paced & acted to perfection, but logically it didn’t make much sense (especially when you think about the cause of death and modern medicine). But that one fate (the rest had pretty good endings) was not the worst part of this final round, oh no, that would be episodes 1, 3…and possibly the worst episode of the entire series, 4. I forgot to say the main character whose perspective we mainly follow throughout all 4 seasons is Clay Jensen played to top notch perfection by Dylan Minnette. He has been the one true voice of the show (except for sharing it with Hannah Baker in Season 1 and Ani in Season 3) and probably the most decent character out of the main group of friends that include Jessica, Justin, Alex, Zach, Tyler, Tony, and Ani. Now, remember in Season 2 when he was talking to Hannah’s ghost? Where it seemed like he was losing his fucking mind? The first half of the final season doubles down on that. You have Clay talking to both Bryce and Monty’s ghosts (both died last season) and then you even have some of the other characters, like Jessica, seeing shit as well. I get wanting the now dead actors to still come back and receive a paycheck but… it’s very odd and off putting.
It’s like they took the main tone of the series, which is supposed to be depressing teen angst, and tried to give it horror based elements, and it just didn’t work at all. When you think of 13 Reasons Why can you imagine thinking about Clay hallucinating that he’s seeing blood coming out of the school shower heads and being covered head to toe in red? No? Well then prepare yourself, because that is what happens at some point in the first handful of episodes. The sin of the first episode is just dragged out boring set up, the real crime is the entirety of episode 4. Episode 4, titled ‘Senior Camping Trip’, gets my nomination for one of the worst episodes of television…ever. Per Imdb.com, in that episode, “Clay is forced to confront his anxiety on the senior camping trip as a suspicious email threatens to turn the friends against each other.” This doesn’t even begin to describe the zaniness to come. All of the kids get freaked out and start seeing shit that isn’t there, and a couple even claim the woods are ‘haunted.’ I don’t want to spoil too much of it, you just have to witness this bat shit crazy bullshit on your own, but needless to say, the tone of this episode doesn’t match of the rest of the series, and it is glaringly noticeable. I know that the writers were probably trying to think outside the box to not get repetitive in their storytelling…but this was NOT the way to go…at all. So bad that if I ever decide to re check out the series, it’ll be a stain on my brain and I will make sure to skip it on my next go around. Episode 3’s crime deals with the blood coming out of the showers, but the main crime is that it centers on a Valentine’s Day dance…and then we get a Prom episode a little later. That was too repetitive to me. To have two dance episodes in the final season just seemed to point to lazy writing. The Prom needed to be the only one where a dance was involved because a lot of students look at Prom as an ‘end of an era’ like event. I know that some don’t but when you think about what Prom usually represents in movies and television for characters, it is THE rite of passage for young adults to move out of high school and into college and adult hood. Episode 3 should’ve been scrapped entirely and something else should have replaced it. I mean they came up with a college campus visit episode, you are meaning to tell me they couldn’t have thought up of something else other than a 2ND dance? Also, has any other high school in the world gotten in this much shit in such little time?
And even though there is a revelation in one of the final episodes why that fourth episode went down the way it did, the tone was just so off base for the series that the revelation did nothing to make me forgive that episode. Gary Sinese, aka Lieutenant Dan, shows up in this as Clay’s therapist, but with how little he is in it, it seems like he was an afterthought. Like they shot all of Clay’s scenes with an unknown, and at the last minute they got someone recognizable and re filmed all those scenes. Because if you look closely, he really is only in scenes with just Clay or his parents. I know that makes sense considering therapists not being too directly involved in kids lives but, the scenes just felt inserted. Fortunately, Gary Sinese does a good job where the awkward timing of the session are forgivable. I liked that his character had standards and rules and stuck with them and that they didn’t get his character too involved, it would’ve been…too movie-ish. If you know what I mean. Also, for non fans of Ani, who was an entirely new character in season 3, did some stupid shit and people didn’t like that she took over from Clay as narrator, she’s not in this season much. So you know that the creators definitely listened to fan input. She’s in it just enough though to have her and Clay complete their own little relationship arc, but when she’s sent to her mom’s mid way through the season and doesn’t come back till near the end, you know that she was sent away for the toxic fans of the show, and that shouldn’t have happened. Me? I thought Ani was fine, and the actress who played her did a good job in the role. I had no qualms with her and I’m disappointed that the show runners would listen to dumb feedback such as that.
Thankfully though, in episode 5, the series does a giant course correction and gives us two stronger episodes, Episode 6 maybe even being one of their strongest of the whole series. I’ll give you a hint what it is about: it deals with a possible active shooter on campus. It is also the only episode of the series so far where Clay talking to dead people is emotional and makes a bit of sense. And then after that, it stays consistently good, all the way thru the Prom and grand finale, which is basically graduation. And its consistently good, other than the tiny hiccup with the revelation of who ends up being in the coffin. It’s only because the matter of the death. If this character had died some other way, the whole finale, which the run time is a little too long in general, would’ve been 100% solid. If you want to discuss with me why or why not THAT fate bothered you and why it bothered me, message me up, I’m more than happy to describe why I didn’t think it made any sense. But other than that, it had a solid ending, and a solid very last scene. I’ve decided, I am going to barely recommend watching this last season, if only because I think I really enjoyed this series as a whole, especially the 1st. It might’ve been realistic at first and then gone off track with murder mysteries, characters losing their minds and talking to dead people, but it has remained consistently entertaining. Like watching a dumpster fire filled with teen angst. The acting has always been 100% solid too, no bumps in the road. But because of my frustration with some of the episodes, I can say with 100% certainty say that this was the worst season of the show. Should they just have ended it with season three and had wrapped up all the lose ends? Yes, that absolutely would’ve been the better choice, but I see their reasoning of wanting to end it when they all graduated high school. Definitely the perfect storytelling ending fork in the road for a lot of movies and television series. If you were to ask me, I would’ve said that it should’ve just been a one season kind of thing, loose threads be damned. Maybe they should’ve spent a little more time fine tuning this final season? Completely scrap the 1st, 3rd and 4th episodes and do some major rewrites? Doing some research I saw that this was the shortest amount of time of a wait between seasons (less than a year, the others were more). But then again, if they had taken more time they might not have finished filming because of the asshole that is COVID-19. Lose-lose situation I’m afraid. What will I remember most about this series? Probably that it was one of (if not only) high school television series about teen angst with real issues that I actually gave a damn about. Fuck you, Degrassi.
My Final Ranking Of The 13 Reasons Why Series:
- Season 1
- Season 3
- Season 2
- Season 4