13 Reasons Why Season 2 's Terrifying Ending, Explained

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for 13 Reasons Why season 2 finale, “Bye.”
The palpable threat of a school shooting has hung over 13 Reasons Why since the season 1 finale, when it was revealed Tyler Down (Devin Druid) was hiding a massive cache of assault rifles, handguns, and ammunition in his bedroom. The looming cloud of disaster only intensified throughout season 2, as Tyler took to shooting in the woods. First the outcast’s targets were bottles. But, they soon escalated to living creatures, namely a crow. It felt like human victims wouldn’t be far off, especially since many eventual killers began their history of violence by harming animals.
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Unfortunately, viewers' greatest fears nearly came to fruition in season 2 finale “Bye,” as Tyler enacts a plan for a mass shooting during Liberty High School’s spring fling dance. While Tyler doesn’t go through with his violent objective, the final seconds of the episode are still some of the most harrowing and disturbing images on television in 2018. Since emotions understandably run high during “Bye,” let’s try to figure out how 13 Reasons Why season 2 nearly closed in an all-too-timely fashion — in the first hours of the new volume’s release, 10 people were killed in a Santa Fe, Texas, school shooting— and what this means for season 3, if there is one.
After episodes suggesting Tyler is primed for violence, “Bye” surprises viewers by showing a happier, healthier Tyler. The teen returns to Liberty High refreshed after a few weeks in an outdoors-focused “behavioral guidance” program, which he was sent to for announcing he vandalized the baseball field. At the beginning of Tyler’s Liberty homecoming, it seems possible he is conning the administration into believing he is “okay” simply as a way to re-enter the school and wreak havoc. But, no, as we see from conversations between the teenage photographer and estranged friends like Cyrus (Bryce Cass) and Cyrus’ sister Mackenzie (Chelsea Alden), Tyler is in a legitimately better place after spending some time in the sun.
Tyler’s detentes with his new pals certainly seem like a moving on point, especially when paired with the other big moments in the first half of “Bye.” At the top of the episode, predator Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice) is sentenced for raping Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe). While the football player gets barely a slap on the wrist, Jessica still admits she feels “stronger” for sharing her story and looks as if an insurmountable albatross has been lifted. By the end of the installment, Jessica even hooks up with ex-boyfriend Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn), suggesting she is becoming more comfortable with her sexuality after Bryce’s violation.
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In a similar vein of growth, the funeral of Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) gives everyone closure on her death. Protagonist Clay Jensen (Dylan Minette) is so moved by his own eulogy, he finally sees Hannah’s ghost, which followed him around all season, disappear into the metaphorical light and leave his consciousness for good.
It stands to reason Tyler will also be allowed to hold onto his new, sunnier disposition after 13 Reasons Why’s endless darkness plagued him for 26 episodes. But then, his awful bathroom scene comes to pass. In one of the Netflix drama’s most shockingly brutal scenes yet, viewers are forced to watch as Montgomery “Monty” de la Cruz (Timothy Granaderos) bashes Tyler’s face in multiple times, drowns him in a toilet bowl, and then viciously sodomizes the boy with the handle of a broomstick, leaving him half-nude and bleeding on the floor. It is a truly horrific moment, and one that convinces Tyler that his hopeful outlook was futile — that the athletes of Liberty High will never stop abusing their power to unspeakable ends. This idea is only reinforced when Tyler goes home to find himself still bleeding, presumably out of his anus.
So, Tyler packs his myriad of weapons into his car and heads to the LHS spring fling to unleash his rage and anguish into the world, punishing both the people who hurt him and those completely not involved in Tyler's assault. Interestingly, Tyler tips off his crush Mackenzie to his planned carnage, suggesting he didn’t actually want to go through with the mass shooting. It’s not like Mackenzie wouldn’t inform her sibling or her fellow students of the imminent violence.
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This is what brings us to the wildly stressful and intense final scene of season 2. After Mackenzie informs Team Tape & Co. of Tyler’s plan, Clay decides to stop Tyler instead of evacuating the entire school. While that is a very dangerous choice, we should remember Clay makes many of those throughout 13 Reasons Why. At least the teen’s move is emotionally compassionate — but perilous in practice — as he realizes notifying the world that Tyler is in the middle of a mass shooting scheme is essentially the same as signing his death warrant.
To keep another one of his classmates from dying, Clay goes outside to stop Tyler. Considering the season debuted amid news of yet another school shooting in 2018, it is bone-chilling to watch Tyler, dressed in all black and brandishing an assault rifle lumber, toward a high school filled with happy, dancing students. It only gets worse when Clay sees Tyler, covered in weapons, for the first time and realizes how serious his frenemy is about mass murder. In the end, it’s impossible not to get emotional as Clay repeatedly tells Tyler, “I don’t want you to die,” as Tyler responds by holding the barrel of his assault rifle to Clay’s head, neck, and chest.
At least Clay’s pleas to Tyler eventually work, as the latter puts the gun down and accepts the fact he doesn’t need to commit a school shooting to work through his trauma. It’s likely Clay’s final sentiment, a clear nod to our national barrage of mass violence, helps change Tyler’s mind. “If you really think this’ll change a goddamn thing and not just be another fucking tragedy adults cry about for a week and then forget,” Clay tells Tyler, near tears, “If you really think this is going to be different, then do what you gotta do.” Tyler seems to realize in this moment the death of others, and possibly himself, won’t transform anything. It will merely add to the bloody history of Liberty High.
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In the last moments of “Bye,” Clay’s BFF’s Tony Padilla (Christian Navarro) drives up to the school entrance, where Clay and Tyler’s emotional showdown occurs. Clay removes the gun from Tyler’s shoulders and ushers him into the hot rod. Tony speeds Tyler away from the incoming police response, allowing 13 Reasons Why to avoid showing audiences a school shooting. Yet, Clay is left at the entrance with the assault rifle, as Jessica and Justin join him in waiting for the authorities to arrive.
The immediate concern here is, if 13 Reasons Why gets renewed for a third season, how will law enforcement react to Clay, who is standing in front of a school dance holding a massive gun? Hopefully police won’t assume he is the reported active shooter and use deadly force to neutralize a believed threat. But, we can all rest a little easier since Clay, Jessica, and Justin are all standing perfectly still as police approach, which doesn’t make any of them seem dangerous.
To make all of this less terrifying, let’s hope Clay simply puts the gun on the floor by the time the cops pull up in, fingers crossed, season 3.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.
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