The final season of 13 Reasons Why is here and as complicated as ever. Even though some characters have moved on, graduated, died, or been murdered, there are still a ton of characters to keep track of. This 13 Reasons Why season 4 recap will help viewers keep tabs on all the intertwining storylines as the show draws to an end.
Last season ended with Bryce Walker's (Justin Prentice) death and the friend group pinning his murder on Monty De La Cruz (Timothy Granaderos), who'd been killed in jail awaiting a rape trial. The friends framed Monty to help Bryce's real killer go free (or killers, depending on how you look at the situation). Season 4 picks up about a month after the events of season 3 and steamrolls right into more confusion, paranoia, mystery, and intrigue.
Episode 1: "Winter Break"
The series opens on a funeral — another funeral. We soon learn that this one is separate from either Monty's or Bryce's, because it's taking place six months in the future. A pastor speaks about how things need to change so that young people stop dying. Um. Yeah.
Then the show flashes back to six months previously at Christmastime, so about a month after the events of season 3. Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) is sleeping and wakes up to Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn) coming in to their shared room. "Put your clothes on, we gotta go. Monty, he's still alive," Justin says. It's a startling discovery since Monty was presumed dead in season 3, and then Clay and his girlfriend Ani Achola (Grace Saif) pinned Bryce's murder on Monty. (Alas, Clay and Ani are still dating.) But it becomes apparent that it's just a dream when Clay and Justin's visit to Monty in jail ends with Monty attacking Clay and Clay waking up in a sweat. He's been having recurring bad dreams, and seems to be dealing with some PTSD from his own arrest for Bryce's murder and then covering up the crime by helping frame Monty.
Justin is still at a rehab facility after admitting last season that he needed some help on his journey to recovery, and Clay hasn't opened up to him or anyone about his nightmares. But Clay's parents are worried because his grades are slipping and he hasn't prioritised applying to college. (A classic problem that the kids on Riverdale also share, so don't feel too bad, Clay.)
Clay's voiceover reveals that he only feels alive and like himself when he's helping his friends, so when Tyler Down (Devin Druid) calls and needs a ride, Clay jumps into action. It turns out that Tyler needs a ride to the Sheriff's station, which can only mean trouble. Clay tells Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe) to keep planning the welcome home party for Justin while Clay takes care of Tyler. He waits in the car for Tyler who comes out and reveals that the police found Tyler's bag of guns and traced it to him. Clay and Tony (Christian Navarro) had helped Tyler hide the bag after Tyler decided not to go through with a school shooting in season 2. Clay panics that the cops are onto Tyler, but Tyler tries to calm him down. He says that he lied to police about the bag being stolen from him, and since they could only trace the bag but not the guns to Tyler, they are safe. Clay doesn't seem so sure, and it only adds to his growing stress. He thinks that if the cops can tie the guns to Tyler, then Tyler may rat them all out for covering up Bryce's murder in exchange for saving himself.
At Justin's welcome home party, the whole friend group gathers for the first time since framing Monty. They've been busy with winter break and dealing with the magnitude of their problems and staying away from each other. But no longer. However, the mood is dampened a bit when Justin suddenly breaks up with Jessica, citing the need to focus all his energy on his recovery. When they're alone, Clay asks if Justin talked about Bryce while in rehab. Justin says yes, because it's part of the healing process, but that he just mentioned missing Bryce — not that they'd covered up his murder. (Obviously, Clay.)
At the police station, Sheriff Diaz (Benito Martinez) notices that Ani's interrogation tape doesn't exist. There's only a written statement of everything she said. This is notable, because it was Ani who spun the whole story about Bryce being killed by Monty. She and Alex Standall's (Miles Heizer) dad Deputy Standall (Mark Pellegrino) worked on the cover-up together, because Alex is the one who actually contributed to Bryce's death when he knocked him off the dock and into the lake and didn't help him back out before Bryce had drowned.
Meanwhile, Jess is trying to put together a living arrangement similar to the one that Clay and Justin have for herself and Ani. She invites Ani to stay at her house since Jess' mom and brothers are relocating to Seattle, but Jess and her father are sticking around until the end of senior year. Originally, Ani was going to move to Oakland with her mother, but her mom agrees to let Ani live with Jess so long as Ani visits regularly and has a sundown (!) curfew. After they straighten out Ani's ability to stay on the show, er... at Liberty, Jess and Ani head into the woods to destroy the confession tape that Bryce left for Jess in season 3. It's clear that she's trying to put him behind her, but she's haunted by the image of him — literally. She sees Bryce in the woods in some sort of PTSD-induced flash.
Upon returning to school from winter break, the building has been upgraded with metal detectors and school resource officers (SROs), who play a similar role police officers, but are assigned to work only within a school building. It's a heavy response from school leadership to add them to the mix.
When Jess walks through the metal detector, her bra sets it off and the male SRO tells her that she'll need a pat-down. As a sexual assault survivor, the idea is triggering to Jess, so she refuses and storms off to the principal's office. She demands that Principal Bolan (Steven Weber) hire female SROs for pat-downs. The principal agrees and asks Jessica to be his eyes and ears "out there" in exchange for letting her have some say over the new security measures. She's student body president, so she probably deserves to have some input on that.
New character alert! At career day, we meet Estela De La Cruz (Inde Navarrette), Monty's sister. She doesn't seem to be like her brother at all, and asks Jess if she can join her anti-sexual assault club HO (Hands Off Our Bodies). Another new student is also wandering around, but we've met him before: Winston Williams (Deaken Bluman) is Monty's alibi for the night of Bryce's murder. He used to go to Hillcrest, but he transferred schools to go to Liberty for the last semester. He says it's because he got expelled from Hillcrest, but Clay thinks he's there to dig up evidence, since he knows Monty is innocent. Clay is incredibly paranoid about everything all season, and this is just the start.
Meanwhile, Winston has struck up a conversation with Tyler about joining yearbook (mostly so that Winston can get access to old yearbooks and peruse them for clues about who really killed Monty). No one except Clay and Ani know the truth about Winston, so Tyler isn't suspicious at all.
Clay notices that the football team has "De La Cruz" jerseys to honour Monty, because they think he's innocent in Bryce's death. Clay loses it and starts beating one of the football players up. It's jarring because it's so very uncharacteristic for Clay.
Later, we see he's back in therapy with his old middle school psychologist Dr. Ellman (Gary Sinise). They're working on Clay's intrusive thoughts and his frequent panic attacks that have ramped up lately. "When I lose control, it's not good," Clay tells Dr. Ellman. "It's ugly." That will be important to remember down the road. Also important to note is that Clay seems kind of jealous of Justin's connection with his parents, whereas a season ago he loved having a brother.
That night, Clay has another dream-like vision wherein he hears Bryce's confession tape again (the one Jessica destroyed, which is how we know this isn't exactly reality) and he thinks he sees shadowy figures walking away from his house.
Clay may be pretending to be fine for everyone around him, he's very much the opposite.
A Few Details That Will Matter A Lot Later,,,
The reason Bryce couldn't save himself when Alex pushed him into the water is because Zach Dempsey (Ross Butler) had badly beaten him shortly before. So Alex killed Bryce, but Jessica and Zach are responsible too. As a result, Zach has taken to drinking a lot in season 4 and doesn't seem to care what happens to him.
Tony's dad was deported last season and is denied a visa in season 4, episode 1.
Alex kisses Zach in a moment of sudden bravery, but Zach turns him down gently.
Tyler definitely lied to Clay: At one point, Sheriff Diaz asked Alex's dad, "This Tyler kid, you really think he can help us?"
More to come. Check back for the full recap on June 8.