close reads

Let’s Talk About the 13 Reasons Why Season-Two Finale

Photo: Netflix

Spoilers ahead for 13 Reasons Why season two. Don’t act surprised.

By now you’ve had more than 13 hours to trudge through the 13 new episodes of 13 Reasons Why’s second season. But after the show’s 70-minute finale, you’ll likely need many more to process what just happened. There’s a rapist on trial, another graphic rape, a funeral, an adoption, a school formal, (consensual) locker-room sex, and an attempted mass school shooting. Let’s get into it.

“Bye” jumps ahead one month after Hannah Baker’s parents lose their lawsuit against Liberty High School, a case that attempted to prove the school was negligent in preventing their daughter’s suicide. But at that same verdict reading, outside on the courtroom steps, both Bryce Walker and Justin Foley were arrested for the rape of Jessica Davis. (In Foley’s case, for being an accessory to rape.) Unbeknownst to Walker, with the Bakers’ trial slipping out of their favor, Davis went to the police and reported her assault for the first time, as did Foley. The finale begins with Walker having already been convicted — luckily, the show spares us another drawn-out trial — and Davis giving her victim-impact statement at his sentencing. Other women who never got their day in court are there too, given the space to share their stories even if it’s only a fantasy.

But the narrative of Bryce Walker has always been this: He’s a spoiled brat with two terribly cavalier parents and enough power and access to make him invincible. He rapes and humiliates women — not to mention manipulates all the men in his life — because he’s been groomed since birth to take what he believes is his with little to no consequence. In the end, the judge proves him right: Walker, still a minor, is given just three months’ probation. Foley — poor, now a drug addict, and with no responsible parents to speak of — is punished for his circumstances and given six months’ probation.

The rest of the finale unravels over three days in April, with everyone searching for closure. Hannah’s parents hold a church memorial service for their daughter, which they hadn’t done in the five months since her death because of the church’s history of shaming suicide. Clay Jensen, who’s been experiencing lucid visions of Hannah all season, gives a speech at that service and finally moves on. “I love you and I let you go,” he tells her ghost. Everyone is letting go: Hannah’s mom has closed the pharmacy and is moving to New York City, where Hannah once dreamed she would live; Clay’s parents are adopting Justin after taking him in earlier in the season; Jessica and Alex Standall are an item again; even Bryce is transferring to poison some other school.

Alas, a few characters are tragically moving backward instead of forward. After being sent away to a behavioral camp to manage his anger, Tyler Down returns to Liberty rehabilitated and trying to make amends. But he is still merely bait in a shark tank, having cost the baseball team their season for vandalizing their field with the word “RAPISTS.” One of them, Monty, ultimately attacks Tyler in a school bathroom and does as he’s been branded, brutally raping Tyler with a broken mop handle.

Meanwhile, Justin is living with the Jensens and tells Clay he thinks he’s happy, but we quickly learn that happiness might just be because he’s still secretly shooting up heroin (through his toes, he’s that desperate not to get caught). It’s unclear if he’s high at the school dance at the season’s end, but he’s confronted with another old demon: his ex, Jessica. They never got closure after he skipped town and they don’t quite get it the way you’d expect now, either. (They get it on, which is, in one sense, closure for Jessica after her rape.)

Meanwhile, for all of Clay’s internal convincing that he’s turned a new leaf, he’s still back to his meddling ways. After Hannah’s memorial service, her mother gives Clay a note she found that Hannah wrote listing the reasons not to kill herself, coming up just short. “But no matter how many reasons there might be why, there are always more why not,” Mrs. Baker tells him. Naturally, Clay being Clay, he takes her advice to the extreme when Tyler turns up at the school dance armed with an assault rifle prepared to get retaliation for his assault. Clay runs out to thwart the potential attack, telling Tyler, “I don’t want you to die,” which he knows will happen if there’s a police standoff. And so, he arranges for Tony to help Tyler escape. Except they forgot the gun and now Clay, Justin, and Jessica are all left standing at the scene of the attempted crime, with Clay holding the rifle and police sirens blaring closer. Oof.

As Vulture’s Jen Chaney assessed in her review, there weren’t a lot of reasons for this season to exist, and there are even fewer to justify a third. But assuming Netflix can’t help but renew this show, here are a the loose ends we’ll need settled should 13 Reasons Why carry on:

• What’s the deal with Justin’s mom’s shady drug dealer boyfriend? He’s seen spying on Justin outside the café after Hannah’s memorial service. Justin stole his money to get himself and his mom away, so what awful thing is this guy plotting?

• Is Justin ever going to get clean? And if he’s found out to still be using, will the Jensens still move forward with the adoption?

• Is this show ever going to directly address Clay’s mental-health issues? They chalked up his Hannah visions to Clay seeing ghosts, but have also previously alluded to him being on medication for some undisclosed mental illness. What gives?

• Will poor Tyler be able to report his assault? He can’t really say what happened to him without saying what he planned for revenge. And even if he does report it, will he be believed? Nina, an assault victim, burned all the evidence of the baseball team’s sexual misconduct — a.k.a. those damn Polaroids — so there isn’t much to support his case.

• Will Monty ever get brought to justice? We saw him being interrogated for intimidating and threatening all those subpoenaed at the Bakers’ trial — doing Bryce’s dirty work — but what about his own presumed assaults? Especially his assault of Tyler.

13 Reasons Why Season Two: Let’s Talk About the Finale