I wasn't sure what to expect when 13 Reasons Why first hit Netflix in March of 2017; now, over one year later, the new season tops the list of my most-anticipated shows of the year.
For all the controversy surrounding the series, 13 Reasons Why does what not every series can do: Ask the tough questions, yes, but also provide the even tougher answers. There is an unflinching realism to 13 Reasons Why that doesn't pretend the world is a better place than it is. Instead, it asks its audience how we can be better to make up for a less-than-perfect world.
Binging this season, I was astounded by how 13 Reasons Why seemingly took criticism from its freshman and applied it thoughtfully while staying true to the show's characters and message. 13 Reasons Why is not an easy watch, but it remains a meaningful one.
So without further ado... let's get binging.
Everything is the same, and nothing is, at Liberty High.
It has been five months since the tapes were released, and Clay (Dylan Minnette) apparently hasn’t thought about Hannah (Katherine Langford) in months. That’s not true, of course, but he has been busy — mostly, with his new girlfriend Skye (Sosie Bacon), who takes him to get a semi-colon tattoo in honor of the late Hannah. He passes out and ends up with a comma, instead: a marker of the continuation of a sentence.
Which is what season 2 of 13 Reasons Why is: A continuation of season 1, though not necessarily a continuation of Hannah’s story. Instead, it’s a continuation of everyone’s story: The people that Hannah left behind. It just so happens that in order to tell these stories, we have to go back to what Hannah said on those tapes — was it honest? Did it paint the whole picture?
Tyler (Devin Druid) narrates the first episode from the stand at the trial against Liberty High School. It took five months of negotiation, but Olivia Baker (Kate Walsh) just couldn’t sign the NDA that was needed in order to settle the case. She wants the school to be held accountable for not helping her daughter.
Tyler explains on the stand that what we thought we knew about Hannah, and what was on her tapes, wasn’t the entire truth. It’s not that the tapes were filled with lies — it’s just that the truth is more expansive. Tyler recalls going to Hannah’s window that first night he took photos of her only to find that she was already “sexting” someone. Tyler says that he was pissed to find Hannah doing such a thing, as this happened after Bryce (Justin Prentice) passed around that upskirt photo of her.
It’s a slice of Hannah’s life we didn’t know about, and it is odd that we didn’t, considering the point of Hannah’s tapes was to tell her truth. Was Hannah hiding someone from Clay? From her parents? And if so, why weren’t they mentioned on the tapes?
A major theme in season 2 is recovery. Jessica (Alisha Boe) and Alex (Miles Heizer) are besties again, and both have been out of school for months. They go back to school on the same day as one another’s “support system.” Zach (Ross Butler) is also in their corner, though he hasn’t stopped hanging out with his old rapist pal Bryce. Zach is trying and failing to make everything go back to “normal,” though it’s obvious that nothing will ever be normal again.
Alex’s bleached-blonde hair is gone, but it’s not the only change to his body. He now walks with a cane, and, apparently, has suffered serious memory loss following his traumatic brain injury. Allegedly, he doesn’t remember what happened a month before he attempted to take his own life, and, most importantly, he does not remember listening to the tapes. Alex desperately wants to make sense of why the tapes had such a strong reaction on him — enough to make him want to end his life.
When Alex asks his mother for his own suicide note, he not only can’t remember writing it, he also can’t make sense of it — what is it that he “could have stopped?” There’s nothing on the tapes that fits.
It’s implied that Jessica was getting help of some kind after admitting to her father that she was raped — though no one knows that “the girl on tape nine” is actually Jessica when it comes to the trial.
Jessica is in good spirits when she returns to school alongside Alex, and rejoins the cheerleading squad, now run by Bryce’s new girlfriend, Chloe (Anne Winters). Jessica just wants to start over — and even manages to put on a brave face when Bryce asks her to “catch up” over a drink. The official party line that Bryce is spewing is that he and Jessica had consensual sex, but that she was embarrassed to say that she cheated on Justin (Brandon Flynn) with his best friend.
Mr. Porter (Derek Luke) is far less cordial to Bryce. He threatens him — actually, he strangles him — in the men’s restroom, then cooly plays it off. Mr. Porter knows exactly who Bryce is now and he should really watch his back. Bryce seems terribly chill about this threat and about Hannah’s trial. If justice is coming for Bryce, he doesn’t know it.
Just as everyone seems to be on a path towards healing, we learn that someone is leaving anonymous threats. Tyler receives a scary message scrawled on his photos in the lab. Someone doesn’t want him to talk at Hannah’s trial, and, after Tyler confronts Bryce, it seems like it’s not actually him. So who else wants to keep Tyler silent, if not for the serial rapist? Could it be Montgomery (Timothy Granaderos), Tyler’s longtime bully? Zach, who wants to stick to the status quo?
Jessica — whom the whole school believes lied about being raped in order to protect her relationship with Justin — receives a blow-up doll with a noose around its neck. Its stomach reads “SLUT,” not unlike the disturbing graffiti Jessica saw attached to her own name in the girls’ bathroom.
Clay also receives a note, but it’s not a threat, or, at least, it doesn’t seem like one. He receives a Polaroid of an unknown boy and girl on a couch. On the back, it reads: “Hannah wasn’t the only one.”
I do have a theory who the girl in the photo might be. Olivia, ready to fight the school for Hannah, has bonded with a woman named Jackie. Jackie, apparently, knows very well what Olivia is going through: Her daughter Tessa also died by suicide. Is it too much of a coincidence to think that, maybe, Bryce or someone like him did something horrible to Tessa?
The end of the episode is particularly chilling. Clay, who is torn up about not being on the witness list for the defense or the prosecution, sees Hannah right as he’s about to have sex for the first time with Skye. He freaks out but ultimately plays it off until he sees Hannah again, in his bedroom.
“You talk now?” Clay asks the dead girl. Yes, she does.
What is going on? Is Clay losing his mind? And why is Tony (Christian Navarro) burning the note included with Hannah’s tapes?
If we thought the kids at Liberty High had secrets in season 1, we had no idea what they were really capable of hiding.
Hannah is now a ghost in Clay’s life — whether she’s actually a ghost, or just an apparition of his guilt, doesn’t seem to matter. She’s already messing things up between him and his very-much-alive girlfriend, Skye.
Skye is insecure about Clay’s fixation with his deceased crush, made all the worse by the fact that Clay can’t seem to, umm, “perform” in bed. It all comes to a head the night that Skye comes over to Clay’s house for dinner. The dinner itself goes swimmingly (even though Skye attempts to feel him up in front of his parents), but when they retreat to Clay’s bedroom, Clay can’t see to get Hannah out of his head.
When Skye asks him, point blank, if he loves her, he says yes. Then Skye asks Clay to say he’s over Hannah, whose ghost is staring right at him. He can’t say that. Skye runs out, and this time, Clay chases after her. But it’s too late, Skye is already being hurled away in an ambulance.
“She’s not upset, she’s ill,” Skye’s mother tells Clay as the ambulance pulls away. “Go home.”
“Guess you really do have a thing for complicated girls,” Hannah snarks as Skye’s ambulance gets further and further in the distance. Clay stares at his dead crush and screams.
Things go a little bit better for Courtney (Michele Selene Ang) who narrates this episode as the next person called to the stand at the Baker’s trial.
When the school’s shark of a lawyer Sonya (Allison Miller) presses her about that photo she took with Hannah — the one in which, it appears, Hannah is kissing Courtney — Courtney admits that, yes, she is a lesbian, in order to defend Hannah’s honor. Courtney confessed to Hannah that she was into girls during their season 1 sleepover, and Hannah, who had her own first kiss ruined by Justin’s cruelty, sweetly gave a crying Courtney a real kiss.
Despite the fact that Sonya basically outed Courtney publicly, Courtney feels “set free” by the truth. Her dads hilariously host a lesbian-themed movie marathon, ultimately declaring that Blue Is The Warmest Color has a bit too much of the male gaze. It’s worth wondering what the deal is with Courtney’s alleged “boyfriend,” Mikey — could Mikey actually be that cute girl at the coffee shop whom Courtney was making eyes at?
Jessica is preparing to testify, but keeps getting threats from someone who wants to keep her quiet. It doesn’t seem like it’s Bryce, which makes me wonder if it could be the baseball coach Rick (Ben Lawson). Rick tells Mr. Porter to give him a heads up if he’s “worried” about any of his team members (he’ll handle things in house, okay?) and doesn’t seem to take the mandatory consent discussions very seriously. Jessica fishes around to see if any of her friends are getting similar threats, but no one fesses up.
Sheri (Ajiona Alexus) also rejoins the school, after months away in juvie. (It seems that half of our characters left school for at least some time, no?) This is a very different Sheri, one who is cynical and snappy. When Mr. Porter offers to set up a “check in” meeting with her, she declines but tells him she’ll come on by if she “ever gets raped.”
Clay does some research of his own to find out who the kids in the Polaroid picture he received actually are. According to Tyler, they were seniors when Clay and the rest of the gang were freshmen. They don’t go to the school anymore, but the guy was on the baseball team. Clay asks Tyler if Scott Reed (Brandon Butler), the baseball player who Clay suspects may have left that Polaroid, might know them.
Olivia leans on Tony after a troubling incident with Jackie, who washes the dress that Olivia wore the day Hannah ended her life. It seems that these two have bonded in the months after the tapes — important, considering that Andy (Brian d’Arcy James) Hannah’s father, seems to be completely out of the picture. Yet there are secrets that Tony is keeping from Olivia, and it’s quite possible that her new friend Jackie might have a few secrets, too. Is she really sticking by Olivia’s side for her own benefit, or could there be a hidden agenda here?
At the end of the episode, Alex receives his own threat: A cut-out silhouette from the gun range with the words “Better Luck Next Time” scrawled across it. But Alex can’t remember much about the tapes, so who is threatening him and why?
When we open the episode, Clay has waited all night in the hospital to talk to Skye — though he does accidentally slip and tell the nurse on duty that he’s looking for “Hannah Baker” instead. Hannah — the ghostly hallucination of her, anyway — is already with Clay. Skye, however, decides that she can no longer be: She tells him that they have to break up so that they can both work out their own shit, independently.
The trial continues on. This time, it’s Jessica who takes the stand and therefore narrates the episode. Her story is all about her friendship with Hannah — specifically, how she let Hannah down when boys came into the picture.
Except, maybe Jessica is too hard on herself. Through Jessica’s testimony, we get an expansion of the Alex-Jessica-Hannah scenario. When Alex and Jessica started dating, Jessica did want to be sensitive about it. She knew that she was breaking “girl code” (though not even really, considering Hannah wasn’t into Alex romantically) and tried to cool things off with Alex after that awkward movie theater run-in from season 1. It was Hannah who got a little weird and jealous. It’s understandable that Hannah would feel bad about being “left out,” but it paints a different portrait of this trio’s dynamic: Hannah, maybe, imposed at least a little bit of self-isolation.
Though Jessica ultimately doesn’t tell the truth about Bryce on the stand, someone wants to keep her quiet before her testimony. The anonymous harasser put photos of a drunken Jessica up in her math class, along with the words: “Who would believe a drunk slut?” Jessica shows these photos in court as evidence of the culture of bullying at Liberty High.
What Jessica can’t say on the stand is that Hannah tried to confront her about her rape at the party — and Jessica lashed out at her instead. That was the real reason Jessica severed ties with Hannah, and she’s felt guilty about it ever since.
Clay, Tony, and Alex go to court to support Jessica, but Clay is particularly disappointed that Jessica won’t tell the truth about Bryce on the stand.
“Hannah was sweet and sensitive and white,” Jessica tells Clay through tears. “And look what they are doing to her.” Jessica claims she’s not the “right victim” to take a stand against popular athlete Bryce.
But Clay won’t give up — so he enlists Tony to find Justin, whom he learns is living in Oakland thanks to a postcard on Jessica’s mirror. (“To Nancy, I’ll always love you. Sid,” it reads, a nod to the pair’s Halloween costume from season 1.)
Justin is, in fact, living in Oakland — on the streets of Oakland. Justin tells Tony and Clay that he can’t go back home because he stole money from his mother’s boyfriend Seth (Matthew Alan) months earlier. So Clay smuggles him into his bedroom, hoping that Justin can provide some justice for Hannah and Jessica by sharing his side of the story.
Unfortunately, what Clay doesn’t see is that Justin is now using heroin. Could this affect his credibility in court? Nothing seems to get by Liberty High’s lawyer Sonya, so it’s doubtful this will.
The episode also follows two more students. Tyler has befriended Cyrus (Bryce Cass), a self-proclaimed anarchist with a cute sister named Mackenzie (Chelsea Alden) and a dad who instructs his boy to “resist” the tyranny that is Liberty High. It’s nice seeing Tyler with a friend, especially considering many of us thought the worst at the end of season 1. Unfortunately, this friend could send Tyler down a very dark, and potentially even violent path… one he seemed to avoid so many months ago by not using the guns in his arsenal. Cyrus shows Tyler how to make a bomb, and it’s suggested that maybe this could be more than just an engineering experiment.
Then there’s Marcus (Steven Silver), who, obviously, got into Harvard. He’s wearing the sweatshirt but still very much worried about his own date in court — especially because his father has a big election coming up. Marcus’ dad is very proud of his son and knows that he’ll say the right thing on the stand. However, someone else — perhaps the someone else — wants to keep Marcus quiet, too, and burns down his father’s election sign in their front yard to send a message.
The stalker sending notes and threats to the students testifying is a complete mystery, though one moment in the episode suggests that it could be Scott, that baseball player who seemed to mock “shoot” Alex in the cafeteria. But if he’s the one sending the threats, who sent Clay the Polaroid?
At the beginning of episode 4, Clay discovers Justin is hooked on black tar heroin — which Clay knows he can’t be, if he wants to testify against Bryce in court. Tony, who can’t be near the detoxing Justin as he’s currently on probation, enlists Sheri to help Justin through the difficult withdrawal process. The polished cheerleader has learned a thing or two when she was away in juvenile detention and stays in Clay’s room, taking care of Justin… who still has no idea Jessica doesn’t want anything to do with him.
Jessica and Alex take Zach’s car and skip school, hitting the movie theater and, eventually, the Bakers’ pharmacy — where they inadvertently walk in on an awkward meet-up with Olivia and her estranged husband, Andy. Olivia wants to fight for Hannah, but Andy doesn’t want to lose anything more than they already have. Jackie, Olivia’s friend, may want to spend her life fighting, but he doesn’t.
Jessica and Alex kiss on the beach, but Jessica, still reeling from everything that has happened to her this year, pushes him away — even though she acknowledges that her doing so is anything but his fault. When Alex gets home, his parents are pissed to find that he skipped school just days after re-enrolling at Liberty. This leads Alex to demand the tapes from Clay — he needs to remember what led him to want to take his own life. Even though the hallucination of Hannah tells Clay not to send Alex the tapes (does he really need to hear them?) Clay decides to follow his heart. That’s when we hear the words that brought us into last season: “Hey, it’s Hannah. Hannah Baker. Don’t adjust your… whatever device you’re hearing this on.”
At trial, it’s Marcus’ turn to testify, and while many of the other students offer a more sympathetic portrayal of themselves upon giving their testimony, Marcus proves he’s just as self-serving as he always has been. Yes, his father tells him to look out for number one (Marcus, his father says, has had to work twice as hard to get where he is) but it doesn’t excuse what he does on the stand, which is flat-out lie about his Valentine’s date with Hannah.
Last season, Marcus’ tape revealed that the student body president groped Hannah while they were out on their Valentine’s day date at Rosie’s Diner. Now we know why Marcus made such an aggressive move on her: It was a part of a bet, orchestrated by none other than Bryce Walker. It’s more than just the $100 dollars that Marcus wanted from Bryce — he also wanted his respect. Bryce, as Marcus puts it, rules the school.
There’s a little more to Hannah’s reaction to Marcus’ groping, too. Apparently, after overhearing Marcus trash-talking her following their date, Hannah grabbed Marcus in the hall and threatened him. It’s a heated scene — it suggests that Hannah once had the will to fight back.
Hannah’s reaction, it’s implied, is part of the reason that Marcus drops Bryce’s name in court. He “reveals” that, while on their date, Hannah asked him about setting her up with Bryce. Marcus spins the story so that Hannah rejected him because she was interested in the man who would ultimately rape her. When Bryce asks Marcus why he would do such a thing, Marcus says it was to make sure the court sided with Bryce: Should Hannah’s rape come up, people will have reason to doubt her story.
It’s a diabolical move, and one that Tyler wants Marcus punished for. In a chilling scene, we see Tyler and Cyrus come into school with a big black duffel bag, one that could hold Tyler’s collection of guns. Instead, Tyler and Cyrus plant a “paint bomb” in the duffle bag, which goes off in Marcus’ face. It’s embarrassing but not dangerous — and honestly, I was relieved that the show chose not to go there.
Except, maybe they will. As Cyrus and Tyler run off into the woods, laughing about their prank, Cyrus asks what they should do now. Tyler responds: “Have you ever shot a gun before?”
The two practice shooting at bottles, which is seen by Tyler’s neighbor — perhaps this is enough to nip Tyler’s gun interest before it becomes something more sinister.
Zach has stayed mostly a background player in the season, and for a while, it was suspected that maybe he was the one making threats against those testifying. He seems to be buddy-buddy with Bryce, despite his intimate knowledge of what Bryce is capable of. Yet it’s clear that Zach — whom the show reveals lost his father months ago — is aligning himself with Bryce out of necessity more than anything else. Bryce gives him the answers to a mid-term Zach is afraid he will fail (thus losing his spot on the baseball team), and it’s clear that Zach has some guilt for this deal with the devil.
Zach is trying to maintain the status quo, but it doesn’t make him immune to threats. While changing after practice, he finds a bloody rat in his gym bag — as in, don’t rat Bryce out.
Clay gets another message, too — not a threat, but a second Polaroid. This time, it’s Bryce, naked from the waist down, standing over an unconscious girl. “He won’t stop,” the message on the back reads. Scott, that baseball player, is standing nearby, yet again… but what does he have to do with this ongoing mystery? Who is the girl in Bryce’s photo, and what does it have to do with the earlier picture of the Liberty High students who graduated years earlier?
Mr. Porter knows his time at Liberty High is likely coming to a close, and while he has confessed all of his failures to his wife and made peace with himself, he wants to fight for the students who need him before he has to pack up his office. Episode 5 reveals just how deep his frustrations really are.
Word about Justin spreads around the school, and Mr. Porter calls Jessica into his office to talk about her ex-boyfriend. Jessica insists she doesn’t care what Justin does, but she does reveal that Justin’s mother Amber (Jackie Geary) lives with her drug dealing boyfriend Seth.
Porter goes to the house and gets into a confrontation with Seth. It ends in violence. Seth throws the first punch, but it’s Porter who gives Seth a full-on beat down in the driveway. The guidance counselor is taken away in a cop car — which does not bode well for him keeping his job. The counselor is going rogue — whether this will serve his students or not, remains to be seen.
This episode, it’s Ryan’s (Tommy Dorfman) turn to testify. Sonya presses him about Hannah’s poems. In true Ryan fashion, he explains that Hannah was a true artist, who worked out her loneliness via the written word. What he also discloses is a fact that was conveniently left out of Hannah’s 13 tapes: Hannah did have a relationship with Justin after their reputation-ruining park date.
The relationship was over text... Justin wanted to protect his own reputation by not being seen in public with Hannah. But it does suggest that perhaps Justin was the person whom Tyler saw Hannah “sexting” with.
Speaking of Tyler — his friendship with Cyrus has empowered him. Tyler decides to punish Ryan for not helping Hannah on the stand by, essentially, catfishing him — particularly painful, considering Ryan is crushingly lonely. Fortunately, Tony, his ex, and Tony’s boxing coach/possible new boyfriend Caleb (R.J. Brown) meet Ryan at Monet’s and invite him to sit at their table.
Ryan isn’t the only person dealing with relationship issues. Alex admits to Zach, his de facto physical therapist (they have a lot of heart-to-hearts while underwater spinning) that when he kissed Jessica on the beach, he didn’t actually feel anything… “down there.” Zach suggests porn, but even a visit to a web-cam website can’t help Alex with his problem.
Bryce and his new girlfriend, Chloe, have dinner with his parents. Bryce’s dad Barry (Jake Weber) we learn, is pretty much the scariest, most stoic guy on the planet. His mother Nora (Brenda Strong) on the other hand, seems… oddly concerned about the bruises present on Chloe’s arm. Chloe tells her (believably) that the injuries are from cheer practice, but Mrs. Walker seems unnerved by it. Does she think her own son is capable of violence?
Jessica, meanwhile, is on a path to healing. She joins a rape survivor group, and finds that Nina (Samantha Logan), the student who attempted multiple times to befriend her over the course of the season, is in attendance. Nina didn’t believe the rumors that Jessica lied about her rape, and wanted to be a supportive face should she ever want to confront the truth.
Clay thinks that he is one step closer to discovering the place where that Bryce Polaroid was taken. It’s at the school, which could, theoretically, be a huge win for the Bakers’ case. Clay can’t identify the physical location, but thanks to the presence of a chalk machine in the photo, it implies that there’s some connection to athletics.
Speaking of athletics and shady business… it seems that the beloved baseball coach Rick might be more than happy with letting his players get away with stuff. A quick conversation in the locker room suggests he’s keen with giving his guys a way to pass their drug test. It’s a small moment, but coupled with the coach’s lack of interest in consent training, and the new information that this photo was taken somewhere on school grounds, it’s worth wondering: Is the coach protecting his players’ dirtiest secrets? And if that’s the case… could he be the one threatening the students testifying during the Bakers’ trial? The focus on the baseball team going to States gives him more than enough motive, but it seems like a particularly evil move.
On her tapes, Hannah called Zach out for stealing the “compliments” left in her bag during communications class, an act of meanness that, in comparison to the actions of the other students namechecked on her “reasons” list, felt small. Zach’s testimony, however, reveals that his relationship with Hannah went much, much deeper than what Hannah described.
It turns out that Zach and Hannah had a real relationship. After the compliment incident, Zach apologized to Hannah, and the two slowly started getting closer. They spent the summer in which Zach’s father passed away together, bonding without the judgemental eyes of Bryce and his awful friends watching. Then, one day, Hannah asked Zach if he wanted to be her “first” — she wanted to lose her virginity to someone she actually liked.
Cue a romantic montage set to an ‘80s soundtrack — one that includes lots of trial and error in bed for the newly-sexual couple. Zach’s summer of love was a secret kept from everyone, and no one is as distressed about learning the truth as Clay is.
It makes sense that Clay is upset about this particular Hannah revelation. Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why is told mostly from Clay’s perspective, and it is, in many ways, a love story. Hannah and Clay could have ended up together, if only she didn’t end her life — at least, that’s what Clay hoped. Zach’s testimony destroys the myth that Clay has crafted… and Clay is pissed.
It’s, oddly, Justin — who stops by school only to find that Jessica wants nothing to do with him — who offers some perspective. Justin tells Clay that he’s slept with a ton of women, and that no one really cares about it — in fact, those who do care think he’s awesome for it. Hannah sleeps with one guy, has a crush on another, and suddenly, Clay has no idea who she is? That’s ridiculous.
I’m not sure why Hannah didn’t mention her romance with Zach on the tapes — it seems like a huge part of her life, and perhaps one of her deepest relationships at Liberty High. Clay may have worshipped her, but Zach actually knew Hannah, on a level Clay never was able to. Maybe Hannah was protecting him.
That’s the fundamental difference between season 1 of 13 Reasons Why and season 2. Clay spent the first season believing Hannah to be perfect. It turns out, she was just a normal teenage girl trying to figure stuff out. Hannah is no longer romanticized, she’s humanized, and it’s refreshing.
As Clay comes to terms with Zach’s major reveal, Sheri (who is the best) discovers where that Polaroid was taken: a place called “the clubhouse.” What’s particularly interesting is that Hannah namechecked a clubhouse in her poems, which we learned in the episode featuring Ryan’s testimony. What does it mean?
It could have something to do with the video that Tyler and Cyrus find after they hack Zach’s iCloud. In the video, Marcus is seated on a couch, as a topless woman performs a lapdance.
I don’t know how to feel about Tyler and Cyrus’ budding friendship. It’s quite possible that they crack the case of the Polaroids by teaming up with Clay… but it’s also likely that they will punish their classmates for every slight. The rumors that 13 Reasons Why would tackle a school shooting may have something to do with this fear, and the pair do seem focused on guns: Tyler’s dad (Tom Everett Scott) even takes the pair to a gun range in the episode.
Alex, meanwhile, struggles to make his body feel less “broken.” A “win,” oddly, comes during an intense fight with Zach in the locker room — after which, Alex realizes that he actually can get it up.
Pause: Are we supposed to think that Alex is attracted to Zach? And if so, is it okay if I ship this?
The show’s very own “A” makes an appearance when a person in a black hood breaks into Clay’s house. Justin hides in the closet as to not be discovered by Clay’s parents, and watches as this masked person sifts through the room before heading out the window. What is it that they want? Is this the Polaroid person, the anonymous stalker leaving threats, or someone else entirely?
It’s very possible that whatever happened at the so-called clubhouse is the piece of the puzzle that will complete the picture. Whoever this intruder is, perhaps they’re trying to cover up whatever that was.
Alex’s parents throw him a party at a local arcade, and invite all of his “friends,” which really just include Zach, Jessica, Clay and Tyler. Unfortunately, Alex inadvertently upsets Jessica before the party by screaming at Bryce and calling him a rapist. Though Jessica forgives Alex and comes to the saddest birthday party in the world, things sour when Jessica and Zach turn away Tyler at the door — did Tyler really think that Alex wanted him here?
The drama leads Alex to have a full-on meltdown. He’s remembering a little bit more about what led to his shooting but not enough, and he’s frustrated with the physical limitations of his “broken” body. Jessica, however, tells Alex that she’s had enough of his pity party — how dare Alex say that he wishes he completed his suicide, when Jessica needs him now more than ever? It’s a breakthrough moment for Alex, who is reminded of everything, and everyone, he would have left behind.
Alex, actually, did want Tyler at his birthday party, but unfortunately, Alex doesn’t have a chance to tell him that. A rejected Tyler leaves Alex’s birthday party to FaceTime with Cyrus: Tyler wants revenge on Zach now, another popular kid Tyler thinks needs to be “checked.”
The revenge plan for Zach comes after Tyler and Cyrus blackmail Marcus. They text Marcus the clubhouse video to tell him it goes wide unless he comes to school in a dress. Ever the politician, Marcus wears a cheerleading outfit (a dress, technically!) to the pep rally. Everyone, sans Tyler and Cyrus, finds the whole schtick delightful.
It’s Clay’s turn to testify this episode, which pulls us into a memory that features everyone’s bae, Jeff “Deserved Better” Atkins (Brandon Larracuente). Apparently, Jeff helped Clay “woo” Hannah by hosting a little drug party with Clay, Hannah, Sheri, Alex, and Jeff’s girlfriend, Leah. The group does molly, and Clay and Hannah have a sweet moment where they discuss the infinite powers of love. (The show, in true “this is a drug episode” fashion, utilized animated versions of a very high Clay and Hannah.)
The next day, however, Hannah and the rest of the group are feeling the “lows.” Hannah (who was so, so happy the night before) asks the group if they ever want to die. Lawyer Sonya knows that this will imply that Hannah was having suicidal thoughts at this time, and that even though Clay knew Hannah was, he didn’t do anything to help her. Sonya skewers Clay on the stand with this information, and doesn’t give him a chance to say what he really wants to: That Hannah was raped, which most directly led to her wanting to end her life.
Olivia and Andy, who has returned to court again to support his estranged wife, seem to be mending their relationship. They visit Hannah’s grave together and cry over their previous happy life. Later at lunch, Olivia is blindsided when Andy tells her he wants to finalize their divorce. Olivia asks if he wants to marry his new girlfriend Valerie, the one he has been living with… but Andy simply tells her that he wants a chance to close a door he can “never walk through again.” Poor Liv.
And poor Clay: Nothing is going the way he expected it to. His parents have basically taken Justin in as their second child, despite the fact that the only reason Clay brought Justin around was to testify. Bryce is still getting whatever he wants, including coerced sex with his now-girlfriend, Chloe, who seems to be questioning her relationship when he won’t take “no” for an answer. Most importantly, no one seems willing or capable of helping Hannah’s case, or Jessica’s against Bryce.
Out of frustration, Clay publicly releases Hannah’s tapes, even though the ghost of Hannah begs him not to. It’s here that she makes it clear what the tapes were for: Not revenge, as Clay believes, but so that she could tell her story the way she wanted it told. Clay, however, decides he’s not going to listen to this possible manifestation of his own conscience. The tapes go live.
As expected, the tapes have shooken up Liberty High. The only person who does not seem particularly disturbed is, ironically enough, Bryce. He doesn’t even care that someone spray-painted “rapist” on his locker. Unfortunately, his reason for not being worried makes logical sense: Bryce has a legal team working around the clock for him. He has state senators who will sing his praises. And anyway, why should Bryce worry about what this will do to his future, when we know that alleged rapists go on to play quarterback for the NFL?
Justin returns to Liberty and confronts Bryce. This is a very different Justin than the one we saw last season, who felt so indebted to Bryce that Justin opened the bedroom door for him at that party, knowing full well what Bryce planned on doing to his unconscious girlfriend. But Bryce just reduces Justin to “white trash,” a “junkie’s son.” It’s what Justin always feared would happen if he didn’t fall in line with Bryce… and it’s what triggers him to seek out heroin, despite having just detoxed.
Justin goes back to Clay’s house and shoots up. It’s Alex, looking for Clay, who finds Justin on his back on the bed, needle in his arm. After Justin starts vomiting, Alex flips Justin over so he won’t choke on his own vomit — not an easy feat, given that Alex is still going through physical therapy. It’s a wake up call for Alex: His body isn’t broken, as he insists it is. He just used it to save someone’s life.
That night, Alex apologizes to his father for ruining the birthday party, and asks if he can play a video game called Desert Duty. His brief time playing a shooting game at the arcade triggered a memory he’s now desperate to unlock, and it has to do with this specific first-person shooter. What is it that Alex’s brain is keeping from him?
Tyler and Cyrus have a new plan for Marcus: They want him to out Bryce at the celebration for the opening of the school’s new baseball field. Otherwise, the clubhouse video goes viral.
Oh, and guess who is paying for this field? Bryce’s parents, because, umm, of course. The opening day event is a very big deal, and everyone, including the Walker family, is there. Given that the tapes were dropped the night before, so is Jackie and a group of her protesters, who don’t want rapist-monster Bryce celebrated.
Bryce’s father isn’t concerned about the drama surrounding the tapes, and tells his son not to be, either. It’s Bryce’s mother, Nora, who seems to believe that her son could have done everything on the tapes that he is accused of. It’s interesting, because other adults, like Zach’s mother, seem very much behind Bryce’s innocence.
There’s someone else who no longer appears to be 100% on Team Bryce, and that’s his girlfriend Chloe. After the tapes are released, she goes into the restroom where all the anti-Jessica graffiti is… and at first, we think that she’s going to write something nasty about her co-cheerleader as well. Instead, she takes a black Sharpie and crosses out all the hateful messages that pertain to Jessica. When Jessica goes into the bathroom stall and sees what Chloe did… she smiles.
Still, Chloe sits next to Bryce at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. She’s definitely uneasy around him, but whether she’s willing to break up with him over the rumors she’s starting to believe remains to be seen.
Ever self-serving Marcus announces at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that he is stepping down from his eye-roll inducing group “enGUYtened,” which he started for “fellow woke men.” The reason? Marcus admits to the crowd that he has spent months protecting “rapist Bryce Walker.” When Bryce confronts Marcus, the school prez says that the tapes were already out there, so he really had no choice but to protect himself over Bryce. Unfortunately for Marcus, Bryce just put Marcus on his shit list. Honestly, if these two could just destroy one another, the world would be a better place.
Following the fallout from the tapes, Clay receives a phone call. It’s from Skye. It turns out that she hasn’t been ignoring his many messages. She just got her phone privileges back at the mental health facility where she spent the past few weeks.
The Skye that we see is worlds away from the girl who ran out of Clay’s house, crying. She has received an official diagnosis — bipolar disorder — and is excited to find a way to live a healthier, happier life. Looking back on everything, Skye says, it was like she was “dancing at the edge of a high cliff.” She could be so happy one minute, but the inevitable fall was hard and painful.
Seeing Skye committed to getting better is a painful reminder that Hannah was never able to get to this place — but that getting to this place is possible. Clay, however, can’t be part of Skye’s recovery process, because she is moving in with her aunt and uncle in another state — pressing a much-needed “reset button” on her life.
Clay is devastated, but Skye reminds him that he can help people at Liberty High — just, maybe, not in the way he thinks he should.
That’s the thing about Clay: He’s so hellbent on revenge and justice that he hasn’t taken the time to consider what the actual survivors of last year’s events may be feeling. Is outing Jessica as a rape survivor really the best move for her recovery, or will it just make Clay feel better about it?
And speaking of revenge… I’m getting really worried about Tyler, you guys. He and Cyrus go to the woods to shoot cans and be pissed at the world, only for Tyler to decide he wants to shoot something else: A bird, who just so happened to perch next to one of his cans. Tyler pulls the trigger, and boom… the bird is gone.
“Thirty seconds ago, it was flying,” Tyler muses over the bird’s corpse. There’s not remorse in his voice… only curiosity. Will Tyler’s next act of vengeance be a violent one?
The trial this episode isn’t focused on Bryce or the tapes, but on Hannah’s home life. Hannah’s parents are called to testify, and it’s revealed that Andy, her father, was seeing his “new girlfriend” Valerie during his marriage to Olivia — and before Hannah ended her life. Hannah actually saw Andy out with his secret girlfriend and confronted him about it. Humiliated and terrified that he would ruin his family, Andy promised Hannah he would tell Olivia the truth.
Olivia is asked on the stand by Sonya (who, honestly, is reaching Marcus levels of shitty) if Olivia knew that Hannah was aware of the affair. The affair could have caused her a great deal of turmoil. Olivia remembers a time when Hannah brought her irises, her favorite flower. Olivia thanked Hannah, calling her thoughtful and kind… but did she pick up on the fact that Hannah was doing this because of her knowledge of the affair? It’s unclear, and Olivia denies it.
Then Sonya asks Olivia why she never took Hannah to see a therapist, despite Olivia seeing one for years. Olivia doesn’t have much of an answer for that, other than Hannah always seemed optimistic and happy. She did, didn’t she? After the testimony is over, Andy and Olivia hash it out — Andy wants them to take responsibility for every sign they missed. It’s not just on the school. It’s on them, too.
But Clay is now blaming someone else for Hannah’s death — her ghost. He tells her it was an “evil thing” that she did, ending her own life. Didn’t she know who she was leaving behind, who she was hurting? Though it’s unclear if Clay is really being haunted or just informed of everything he already knows, Hannah tells him that she obviously wasn’t thinking about the people she would hurt. She was just too sad to comprehend everything that her death would mean.
Clay, in response, tells Hannah to “get the fuck out.”
Justin, meanwhile, heads back to his mother’s place.
If there is one person who learned something meaningful from Hannah’s tapes, it’s Mr. Porter. It’s his turn to testify, and as he does, he opens up about all the ways in which he failed Hannah. He didn’t ask the right questions. He didn’t press hard enough. He said the wrong thing at the wrong time.
As Mr. Porter explains all of his failings, we also see how things could have gone: A scenario that Mr. Porter, no doubt, plays over and over again in his head. Here, he makes sure that Hannah doesn’t walk away. He tells her that consent is simple and that people know when they have it. That boy was responsible for making sure he had Hannah’s, and he didn’t. That’s not her fault. Sit down, Mr. Porter says, and I will help you.
But Hannah tells him that he can’t help her — she’s already dead. Even here, in his fantasy sequence, Mr. Porter knows this. So he tells Hannah, through tears, what we need everyone at Liberty High School to say: I messed up. But it won’t happen with the next person like you.
It’s worth wondering if the writers of 13 Reasons Why knew some people muddled the message of season 1. Hannah’s tapes were never about revenge, but about her telling her truth — in hopes that, maybe, the next girl wouldn’t feel so alone. People like Clay, Tyler, and even Alex have been hellbent on revenge when they should be reaching out to the next person who needs them with kindness.
Mr. Porter can’t save the already-deceased Hannah, but if he continues his career as a guidance counselor (not a sure thing, after this trial) he will save another student’s life. He feels too responsible for Hannah’s death not to.
Clay is having a hard time at home. His dad informs him that he and his mom are taking a bit of a break — one that has to do with Clay’s mother “helping” attorney Sonya with her testimony. Clay is over it and wants to pull a Skye and start over — just him and his dad. Clay’s father informs him that life doesn’t work like that… and besides, this break with his mom is just for a few days, not forever.
Justin is back with his own mother, though he’s still, apparently, on the Jensen family cell phone plan. (Yes, the Jensens have spent several days with Justin and decided, much to the bewilderment of Clay, that he’s basically their new son.)
Ms. Foley is a mess who won’t leave her drug-dealing boyfriend Seth, and Justin has no interest in sticking around — just lifting some of Seth’s cash from inside of the lamp. However, when he finally does check that cell given to him by the Jensens, he decides to stick around to help Clay uncover the secrets of “the clubhouse” — which, as expected, is a jock hangout just outside that new baseball field.
Tony, whose secrets we haven’t quite discovered yet, seems to have some connection to his new boyfriend/boxing coach Caleb’s client Lucas. What he did to Lucas is unknown, though Lucas doesn’t have an eye anymore and suffers from PTSD after an assault, so… I guess we can assume it has something to do with that.
When Tony finds that his beloved car has been bashed in with a bat, he freaks out on Caleb, leading to a fight that ends with Tony with a bloody nose. Well, actually, that’s not how the fight ends: It ends with Tony and Caleb making out, despite the fact that Caleb accidentally bloodied Tony up in self-defense. Caleb seems good for Tony, even if Tony won’t share his deepest, darkest secret with him.
Tyler finally goes on a date with Cyrus’ sister, Mackenzie, but things get awkward when a movie theater makeout session has Tyler running to the bathroom with a very large stain on the front of his pants. Rather than share the (very high school) experience with Mackenzie, Tyler leaves her at the Cresmont, leading Cyrus to ask what the hell is up. Tyler lies and says he felt bad that he was dating Cyrus’ sister, so he faked a family emergency.
Bryce gets stood up by Chloe at his family dinner. When he finds her in school the next day, she apologizes and says she had to babysit her sister last minute… which is clearly a lie. She asks Bryce about his confession tape, specifically the part where he said “all girls want to get raped.” Bryce says he was drunk, and Clay was coming for him, so he lashed out. He kept it a secret because he didn’t want Chloe to believe the rumors.
Chloe softens a bit — Bryce is powerfully manipulative. Then he invites Chloe on his family trip to the Amalfi Coast. She lights up — she’s never been out of the country before! Right when the audience is about to lose all hope in Chloe, however, her face falls. She knows what this is: a manipulation. It’s what Bryce does with his friends, too — offers them things, trips, favors in order to make sure they stay loyal. Chloe doesn’t say so (she tells Zach later that she and Bryce are “fine”), but it’s suggested that she’s not falling for Bryce’s bullshit anymore. Or, at least, that she’s on her way there.
Clay is sent to “Alternative Solutions and Strategies Class” by the principal, where he connects with Cyrus. Apparently, Cyrus thinks Clay is kind of a badass, thanks to his takedown of Bryce last year. Clay, pissed off at the world, joins Tyler and Cyrus during their vandalism of the school’s new baseball field, where Tyler and Cyrus burn “RAPISTS” into the grass. However, Clay discovers the missing piece he’s been looking for all along when he sees a group of athletes sneaking off into a room just outside of the field. This is the clubhouse, and the key to what happened in those Polaroids.
As one mystery inches closer to a resolution, another cracks right open. Just as Olivia hires Alex to work in the pharmacy, she spots a woman and her teenage daughter just outside the window. Olivia chases after them, eventually coming to a hotel room.
“I know why you’re here,” Olivia tells the woman, while on the verge of tears. She then turns to Sarah, the teenager, and begs her: “Please don’t testify.”
We have no idea who this Sarah is, but if I had to guess, it’s someone from Hannah’s old school — the one we have heard so little about, despite the fact that Hannah had seemingly dealt with bullies there as well. Was Hannah a bullying victim at her other high school, as suggested, or did Hannah have a “mean girl” past?
If there’s anything we have learned from season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, it’s that Hannah was far from perfect. It’s the previous narrator’s humanization that is the strength of the season. Hannah deserved to be treated better than she was because we all owe one another basic compassion and kindness. It’s a lesson every character on this show needs to learn. Perhaps, long before she made those tapes, Hannah was put in a situation where she, too, failed at human decency.
It’s Tony’s turn to take the stand, and he’s in a terrible predicament. Olivia’s lawyer Dennis needs to discredit Tony, because Sonya, the school’s lawyer, needs to convince the court that Hannah wanted to make the people listening to her tapes suffer — just like a bully would do.
We finally learn a little bit about Tony’s past. That guy he ran into at the boxing gym, the one missing an eye? It turns out that Tony beat him up after the man called Tony and his then-boyfriend Ryan “faggots.” Tony has two different assault charges against him — one more strike, and he gets sent to juvie.
We discover that the reason Hannah put Tony in charge of the tapes wasn’t just because they were friends, but because Hannah hid Tony at the Cresmont when the cops were looking for him. Basically, Tony owed Hannah one.
Dennis grills Tony on the stand — was he really following Hannah’s orders to send everyone the tapes, or following his own sense of justice? Tony lies and says that Hannah didn’t leave a note, when, in fact, we know she did… she wanted him to pass on the tapes, even though it could cause people pain.
Another person in pain is Sarah, who, as suspected, was bullied at Hannah’s old school. Hannah, apparently, was one of three girls who made Sarah’s life a nightmare — so much of a nightmare, in fact, that Sarah left school. Hannah actually confided in Tony about her former status as a bully, and told him how much she regretted her actions.
Tony, who feels like he failed to convey Hannah as the good friend and person he believed her to be, goes to Sarah’s hotel room. He tells her that Hannah was very sorry for the pain she put Sarah through, and that while Sarah doesn’t have to forgive Hannah, she needs to know how bad she felt. Maybe it will make a difference.
Unfortunately, Olivia’s friend, Jackie — always a supportive face in court — seemingly can’t handle the revelation that Hannah was less-than-perfect and even, at one point in her life, a bully. When Olivia gets home, she finds that Jackie has moved out of the spare bedroom she was staying in. It’s not fair: Yes, the trial does hinge on Hannah being a victim of the school’s flawed system, but that doesn’t mean she should be perfect in order for her story to be valid.
Meanwhile, Clay, Sheri, and Justin do some digging on the Clubhouse. Sheri actually goes to the secret baseball team hangout, where she smokes weed with Bryce, Scott, and another baseball player — all of whom remain sober. Sheri is extremely uncomfortable, even as she tries to play it cool. If Bryce notices, he doesn’t care — he snaps a picture of Sheri sitting on the couch, and adds it to a big box of Polaroids… just like the Polaroids Clay has been finding.
During the baseball game, Zach and Bryce get into an argument… and Zach walks off the field, no longer willing to play by Bryce’s bullshit rules of brotherhood. He goes to the Clubhouse, where Clay and Justin are collecting evidence… and confesses that he was the one leaving Clay those Polaroids. Clay can’t believe it was Zach all along — why didn’t he just tell him the truth? Zach admits: It’s because he’s a coward.
Meanwhile, Tyler goes to a punk show with Cyrus. Mackenzie confronts him about blowing her off at the Cresmont, saying that what happened to him was totally normal… Mackenzie is being sweet, but Tyler gets embarrassed when he sees some of Cyrus’ other friends listening in on their conversation. Tyler yells at Mackenzie that she’s “boring” and that he doesn’t like her like that… which Cyrus overhears. Cyrus, a very loyal brother, tells Tyler to get the fuck out.
Back at home, Tyler gets sexually explicit messages from random numbers — someone put that naked photo Clay took of him online with his phone number. Tyler blames Marcus, but I suspect that maybe it’s really Cyrus who posted the photo in retaliation. Either way, right after Tyler gets those texts, his parents come in: They know he and Cyrus have been blackmailing Marcus, and demand his phone and camera.
At the end of the episode, Sheri, Justin and Clay go through the Polaroids — there are so many. They discover that the photo of Bryce with the unconscious girl is actually a picture of him and Chloe, his current girlfriend.
Clay can’t believe girls would put themselves in such a bad situation, but Sheri, who is slowly becoming the MVP of this entire series, sets him straight. Girls don’t get themselves into bad situation, boys make the situation bad. Bless you, Sheri.
Also in the pile of Polaroids is a photo of Jessica’s friend, Nina, whom Jessica just confronted about not really dealing with her sexual assault. There is also a picture of Hannah, wearing a letterman jacket, smiling, on the couch. What does it mean? Did Hannah know what happened in the Clubhouse before her death?
At the end of the episode, Olivia gets a call from the police. Someone trashed the Baker’s pharmacy. “She’s dead,” reads the graffiti in the window. “Move!”
Bryce narrates the opening of the episode talking about what it takes to be on a team. The thing is, Bryce doesn’t just like the clout that comes with being a celebrate high school athlete. Bryce loves being on a team because it gives him a sense of belonging his own parents can’t provide. Or, well, maybe they could — if they were ever around. In a flashback, we see Bryce taking the team to victory at a football game, but when he looks up in the stands for his parents, they’re not there. That’s when he meets new student Hannah… it’s a sweet, friendly moment and it’s sickening to think that this seemingly benign connection at a high school sporting event ultimately led to such tragedy.
In present day, Bryce crafts a story about Hannah that deeply contradicts with the one she told on the tapes. In Bryce’s version (which we see through, what we assume, are flashbacks), he and Hannah were “friends with benefits.” That Polaroid photo was from when Bryce took her there to have sex… consensual sex, he stresses in court.
Dennis, Olivia’s lawyer, fires questions at Bryce about what happened to Hannah in the hot tub. But Bryce has been sufficiently trained by his lawyers, and doesn’t miss a beat.
Clay questions “ghost Hannah” about what happened with Bryce. After all, what Zach said on the stand was true — maybe Hannah really was sleeping with Bryce, maybe she did lie about the hot tub… When Clay begs Hannah to tell him the truth, she starts reciting tape 12… You see, Clay? This is Hannah’s truth… so why is it so hard to believe her over Bryce?
There’s someone who can help confirm Hannah’s story. Jessica shows Chloe the photo of her unconscious in the Clubhouse, a naked Bryce standing over her body. Chloe is disturbed by the picture — she can’t remember this — and agrees to testify.
But when Chloe gets her chance to confirm that Bryce is her rapist in court, she backtracks. She says that she actually does remember giving Bryce her consent in the Clubhouse, she just “forgot.” Bryce smiles at his well-behaved girlfriend.
Jessica understands why Chloe lied — if Chloe tells the truth, her entire world comes crashing down around her. Justin tells Jessica that he wants to testify about what happened with Bryce — he’s the next witness called to the stand — and Jessica agrees to let Justin speak about her rape. She’s now ready to share her story if it means another girl can be a little bit safer.
The baseball team (save for Zach, who has finally quit) rallies around Bryce. His own mother, however, is disgusted by him, and asks him, point blank, what happened to Hannah. After insisting that the sex was consensual to a disbelieving Nora, Bryce eventually gets in his mom’s face, and crudely describes raping Hannah “until she cried.” It’s a very dark moment, one that not only shows the full range of Bryce’s cruelty but also the anger he clearly feels towards his mother, who would rather spend her time getting a “year-round tan” than with her son.
“You are a stranger in this house,” Nora tells Bryce after slapping him, hard, across the face.
“Always was,” Bryce sneers back.
After Bryce confesses to Nora, we learn that Bryce’s flashbacks, while not entirely inaccurate, were false. Yes, he and Hannah did go to the bridge, as he said they did in court, but it was Bryce who talked about death, not Hannah. And they didn’t kiss, like he insisted — instead, Hannah quietly rejected him. It wasn’t sex that followed that photo in the Clubhouse, but Hannah kindly telling Bryce that she likes him, but “just as a friend.”
This makes Bryce’s motive for raping Hannah all the more sickening. Bryce wasn’t merely taking what he wanted, but punishing Hannah for rejecting him.
Clay is not doing well following Bryce and Chloe’s testimonies. Justice has not been served and feels more and more elusive everyday. Clay can’t deal with the overwhelming anger he feels towards Bryce, so Tyler offers him a way to “take the power back.” They go to the woods and shoot guns, just as Tyler did with Cyrus. Except, it’s more than just stress relief for Clay: The hallucination of Hannah whispers in Clay’s ear: “Bryce Walker.”
It’s hinted at here that Clay may be experiencing psychosis. The hallucinations of Hannah might really be a manifestation of an undiagnosed health problem. It’s worth remembering that, in season 1, Clay’s parents pushed him to go back to a psychiatrist… perhaps it was for more than just anxiety.
Then there’s the fact that, if season 2 is revealing more and more about characters we thought we knew so well, Clay might be the next one to share some secrets. Did he really spend the summer with his grandparents in the country?
When the police come, Clay runs off with the gun… and takes it all the way to Bryce’s house. Hannah is in Clay’s ear, reciting the words on tape 12, and the horrific details of her own rape at Bryce’s party. It’s too much for Clay to handle. Fortunately, Justin comes by just in time, and talks Clay out of shooting himself in the head.
That’s when Bryce walks out of the house… to find Clay, standing on his porch, with a gun.
Bryce sees Justin and Clay standing on his front porch, and responds in the way that his privilege has allowed him to do his entire life: very casually. Justin takes the gun from Clay’s hand and tells Bryce to get inside and pour himself another glass of whiskey… because he’s going to forget Clay ever made this terribly unfortunate choice.
It’s Justin’s turn to testify, as promised, and damn, is it heartbreaking to hear him recount his first interaction with Bryce. Fallen jock Justin wasn’t always so cool… in flashback, we see that Justin, a third grader, was once bullied for being the “poor kid.” It was Bryce who stood up for him when he didn’t have to. It was Bryce who gave Justin a sandwich (one made by Bryce’s housekeeper Marissa, still with the family apparently) when he didn’t have lunch.
Of course, there were always signs that Bryce had the makings of an entitled asshole — he steals a kid’s Twinkies in that lunchroom simply because he wanted Twinkies — but it’s easy to see why Justin had a lot of love for Bryce. Justin’s home life was awful and Bryce was kind. What Justin didn’t count on was that Bryce expected to be paid back for such kindness.
In court, Justin tells the story of his short-lived romance with Hannah. There’s not much more to this story than what we saw in season 1, but we do learn that Justin stayed over at Hannah’s house after their date — not to hook up, but so Justin could escape a stressful home situation with Seth.
Bryce saw Justin leave Hannah’s house, and since Bryce wouldn’t let it go, Justin showed him the upskirt photo he took at the park… which is when Bryce sent it around campus. Bryce’s testimony from the day before, however, suggests that maybe he was jealous: Justin scored with the same girl who rejected Bryce.
On the stand, Justin is very clear with Sonya: Bryce raped Jessica. It doesn’t matter that Justin is a heroin addict now, or that he was drinking at the party. Justin knew what he saw.
The jury, however, isn’t buying it. They can’t get Bryce — not like this, and not when Chloe, the episode before, essentially blew up their only chance to really nail him with the Polaroids. It’s time for Justin and Jessica to go to the police… it’s the only way.
Memories resurface for Alex after playing Desert Duty — and he finally realizes who is threatening the group. It’s Montgomery, which, honestly, could not be any less surprising — Montgomery is a loose cannon and forever loyal to his bros, especially Bryce.
The Polaroids are stolen from Clay’s Prius (his mom has the same one, it’s just smaller — so many amazing Prius jokes in this series) so Alex, Zach, Clay, Justin, and the newly-recruited Scott (welcome to the good side, Scott!) lure Montgomery to his secret hide out in a graffiti park. They assume he’s the one who took the Polaroids, because… well, it just seems on-brand, I guess. At the graffiti park, Alex straight-up threatens Montgomery with the gun Montgomery sent him last episode… he knows that Montgomery was there in the pool house with him the day that Hannah was raped, and that he did nothing to stop it.
So... I get the point you were trying to make, Monty, but maybe don’t send the person you’re threatening a weapon they could ostensibly use to kill you?
The sad thing is, Monty isn’t scared to die. Much like Justin, Monty comes from an abusive home (his father just came after him with a hammer, he tells Scott) and the baseball team is his real family. He can’t turn on Bryce without blowing up his own life so he might as well be dead. Sports aren’t just fun for him, he needs to be an athlete… what else does he have?
Speaking of what Montgomery has and doesn’t have… he is not the one holding onto the Polaroids. But maybe, the group thinks... they don’t need them. Alex and Clay go to Jessica’s door and ask her to please go to the police. It might be the only way to stop Bryce from doing this to another girl. Jessica agrees — it’s time. In a surprisingly sweet moment, Courtney, Justin, Ryan and Zach are revealed outside of Jessica’s house to show their support for what she’s about to do next.
Back at school, Mr. Porter is officially terminated from his position. He quietly packs up his office — this did not come as a surprise to him — but before he leaves, he hands over a stack of files to the principal. These are kids who are in trouble, Mr. Porter says. If Liberty High doesn’t do regularly check ins, there will be another Hannah Baker. The growth that Mr. Porter has gone through this season is inspiring — which is why it’s particularly crushing to see the principal leave that stack of files on his empty desk.
At the very top of the pile is Tyler, who posted photos of him and Cyrus’ baseball field vandalism to social media. Tyler is now in trouble with the school, who wants him to go to a special disciplinary program.
It’s Cyrus who apparently narced on Tyler, and for good reason. After Cyrus confronts Tyler about posting those pics, Tyler starts talking about getting revenge… how he has a whole collection of guns they could use to exact it. Cyrus is obviously freaked out, but he plays it very cool. He tells Tyler they shouldn’t hang out until this whole thing dies down… but when Tyler asks if they are still friends, Cyrus offers an enthusiastic “Totally.” It’s hard not to wonder if Cyrus has seen enough school shooting news stories to know that this is the better way to play the situation.
Ultimately, Tyler realizes it’s Cyrus who ratted him out, and berates him in the hallway. Cyrus, despite his punk rock attitude, is very well-adjusted, thanks partially to his very cool dad taking him to see a therapist after his parents’ divorce. (“You see a shrink? How punk rock,” Tyler says, meanly and kind of hilariously.)
I like Cyrus and I’m worried about him. The last scene we see of Tyler in the episode is of him, alone in his room, which has been stripped of camera gear and electronics. Sitting in plain sight, however, is a trunk which looks like the one that Tyler was hiding his many guns in during the season 1 finale.
At the end of the episode, the final verdict in the Baker’s case is reached. The court finds no wrongdoing on the part of the school. I expected as much but it’s still heartbreaking to watch Olivia’s face as the news is delivered, especially since Sonya’s closing statement very much blamed Olivia for Hannah’s death.
On the steps outside the courthouse, Olivia tells reporters that Hannah was not the perfect victim — and that no one is. That didn’t mean she deserved what happened to her.
That’s the crux for the entire season. The more we learn about Hannah in season 2, the more human and less romanticized she becomes. But flaws and mistakes don’t make someone less worthy of human decency. Hannah can be a complicated girl who deserved better than to be called a slut, groped by boys, and raped in a hot tub.
The last five minutes of the episode are a whirlwind of emotion. As Olivia delivers her message to the press, the police show up — they are arresting Bryce Walker for sexual assault. Oh. My. God.
It’s a happy moment for about… 15 seconds. Then the police make their second arrest: Justin, for accessory to felony sexual assault. Jessica tries to stop the cops from taking him, but Justin just turns to her and says it’s okay.
Earlier in the episode, Clay’s mother (who has returned after a short stint at her sister’s) tells Clay that she needs to speak to Justin privately and this was obviously the reason why. Justin never mentioned that he could be arrested to Clay, but quietly made the decision in order to have Jessica’s story confirmed.
It’s a smart move, Justin’s word will likely be taken much more seriously considering it led to his own arrest. But will Bryce actually face consequences for his despicable behavior?
The final episode of season 2 is everything that 13 Reasons Why is, or at least, can be. Beautiful. Tragic. Bleak as hell. But hopeful.
Clay narrates this episode — this time, from Hannah’s belated funeral service. But first, we start one month after Bryce and Justin were arrested outside the courthouse. Was Bryce punished properly for his crimes against women?
One of my favorite parts about 13 Reasons Why is how it would rather operate within the rules of the real world than deliver a message. And so, even though Jessica delivers a powerful speech about how she’ll never be able to look at another boy without wondering if there is a rapist hiding beneath his kind smile, Bryce receives the sentence I assumed he would from a white, male judge — three months probation and an order to walk the “straight and narrow.”
13 Reasons Why delivers a powerful punch during this courtroom scene. Intercut with Jessica’s final testimony are statements from other women in the show. Last episode, Olivia made a point to say that she had never met a woman who didn’t face sexual assault or abuse. Here, we get snippets of each of these stories, from women like Courtney, Nina, Mrs. Jensen, even Olivia herself. Bryce walked out of court with a smile on his stupid face because there are so many more like Bryce in the world.
Bryce operates from a place of privilege — but Justin, the poor kid, gets six months in juvie because his mother won’t claim him. It’s brutally unfair, but when this is pointed out to Justin, he just shrugs it off. He didn’t expect anything different.
Neither did Jessica. No one can believe that she’s okay with Bryce walking out of court a free man, but she’s happy to finally put this legal battle behind her. She feels stronger.
At Hannah’s funeral, Clay delivers a beautiful, moving speech. He quotes Skye when he says: “I can love you and I can let you go.” A conversation with the priest at the funeral (played by Rent’s Anthony Rapp, in a scene where “Seasons Of Love” would have been so unbelievably fitting) makes Clay realize that while Hannah is truly gone, what she taught him will always live on inside him. Compassion. Understanding. Love. All the things that Hannah valued.
Clay throws a post-funeral party at Monet’s. It’s fitting, given that, in many ways, this is the place it all started. Olivia shows Clay a note from Hannah, which she found on a computer at the pharmacy. It’s Hannah’s list of “reasons why not.” Clay is on there twice, but even so… she only made it to 11.
Olivia reminds Clay that, no matter what Hannah thought, there are always, always more reasons to live than to die. Clay knows this now. They say their goodbyes, possibly forever: Olivia is moving to New York, a dream of Hannah’s that she never got a chance to achieve.
Everyone is moving on, or at least, going on. The final episode of the season, in many ways, is full of hope. The Jensens even plan to adopt Justin to keep him out of a group home, which, when Clay informs Justin of, causes the troubled teen to cry. He can’t believe someone wants a messed up guy like him.
Oh, and everyone is going to the Spring Fling — even Tony’s super cute boxer boyfriend.
Alex and Jessica even start dating again, though it might not only be the Jensens who want to keep Justin close. After a tearful talk in the locker room, Justin and Jessica reignite their romance by hooking up. I’d say poor Alex, but… is he secretly in love with Zach? And is Zach secretly in love with him? The two looked very cozy “practicing” slow dancing in Zach’s room before the spring fling.
Despite all outward appearances, there are cracks in these happier narratives. Justin is still using heroin, albeit secretly. Bryce is leaving Liberty for some fancy private school… but he’ll see his old jock friends on the field in time for football season. Chloe reveals the real reason she stayed with Bryce: She’s pregnant.
And then there’s Tyler. When we catch up with him, he is just back from a disciplinary program that, miraculously, seems to have changed his attitude completely and for the better. He tells the school’s new, smart guidance counselor that he understands now that he can’t change how people behave, but how he reacts to it.
I believe Tyler means this. I think Tyler believes this. There’s hope for him. And then… Montgomery happens.
13 Reasons Why was criticized last year for depicting Hannah’s death by suicide in graphic detail. This scene, I imagine, will be the one most talked about this year, as it is so brutal that, even after warned about it by another writer, I had to look away.
Montgomery wants revenge on Tyler, whose actions have all but canceled the baseball team’s season. We know that it’s not just about sports for Monty, but about family — and so, when Bryce tells him to get the hell out of his life, Monty snaps and needs someone to blame. Tyler is the perfect punching bag.
Montgomery and a few unnamed jocks attack Tyler in the bathroom, despite Tyler using every single verbal strategy he learned in his disciplinary program to attempt to diffuse the conflict. Monty smashes Tyler against the mirror. Then the sink. It’s brutal and relentless. Monty then has his goons drag Tyler into a bathroom stall, where Monty uses a janitor’s broom to sodomize a screaming Tyler as his head is plunged into the toilet.
We have seen two sexual assaults on 13 Reasons Why already, and this final one drives home what they are always about: Not sex, but power. It was not enough for Monty to beat up Tyler in the bathroom: He wanted to do something so extreme, so horrific, that Tyler would go home unable to tell his parents out of shame and embarrassment.
It’s not merely Monty’s actions that cause Tyler to drive to the spring fling armed with guns — it’s the final X factor following a particularly hellish year.
The spring fling is a night of healing for the students on the tapes. “The Night We Met,” by Lord Huron, plays — and everyone rallies around Clay as he sobs into Jessica’s arms. It’s a beautiful, tender moment which brings us back to the point of the season, and to the whole show, really: This world will try to bring us down at every turn, but we can combat it by loving one another.
Clay has this message in mind when he learns that Tyler will soon arrive at the dance with his arsenal of guns. He warns everyone to lock the doors… but don’t call the police. Clay doesn’t want Tyler’s life ruined, and he doesn’t want him dead by his own hand or by the cops. Clay has got this.
Pause: I think 13 Reasons Why may receive some flak for this particular Clay plot point. But it does tee up drama for what appears to be an inevitable season 3.
Clay finds Tyler, who is ready to murder his classmates, outside the school. He stands in Tyler’s way and begs him not to go through with his plan. He reminds Tyler that if he does, he’ll just be another story that people can cry over for a week, before the entire world moves on. It won’t change anything. In fact, Clay says, if Tyler really thinks it will he’ll let him inside the dance.
This is not great planning. But, as this is a television show, it works. Tyler hands Clay his biggest gun. Tony shows up in his car and demands that Tyler get in, just as police sirens get louder and louder.
Unfortunately, Clay is left holding the gun and Tyler is still angry and armed. What comes next for the students at Liberty High? While everyone is on a healing path, there is still quite the mess to clean up.
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If you have experienced sexual violence and are in need of crisis support, please call the RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
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.