After four seasons and forty-nine episodes, Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has finally come to an end. Through years of controversy and discussion on the harmfulness of the series, it carried on nevertheless due to large viewership and a huge social media impact. Unfortunately, the conclusion has come three seasons too late, as the show drones on yet again as it struggles to justify its reason for existing.
The fourth season of the Netflix original picks up almost immediately after the third – continuing the story of Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) as he navigates his final months of high school alongside his girlfriend Ani Achola (Grace Saif). His friends Alex Standall (Miles Heizer), Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn), Zach Dempsey (Ross Butler), Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe), Tyler Down (Devin Druid), Tony Padilla (Christian Navarro), and Charlie St. George (Tyler Barnhardt) are featured along the ride. As the teens strive to move on from the death of Montgomery De La Cruz (Timothy Granaderos) and their framing of him for the murder of Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice), their plans are turned upside down.
Winston Williams (Deaken Bluman), a teen who had a secret relationship with Montgomery, and Diego Torres (Jan Luis Castellanos), a close friend of Montgomery’s, investigate the truth behind the death of Bryce Walker. Thus making the core cast’s fight to survive the final months of high school all the more complex. Their issues slowly but surely begin to pile up. Clay struggles more with serious mental health issues. Alex works with coming to terms with his sexuality. Zach’s future begins to crumble. Justin tries to stay clean and more. Graduation gets closer throughout the season, forcing the teens to make incredible decisions in order to keep some normalcy.
13 Reasons Why’s fourth and final season suffers from the same issues as the second and third – it is entirely pointless. The first season, while controversial in its means, served its purpose. It told a self-contained thirteen-episode story about a girl’s suicide and its cause and effects. It ended the story and could have served as an interesting, albeit misguided, miniseries. Then Netflix renewed for a second season – an incredibly boring one at that, focusing on a trial about the wrongdoing surrounding the suicide. The show attempted to address even more serious issues, and did an even weaker job than before. The third season attempted to give an insane rapist a redemption arc upon facing the repercussions of his crimes, perhaps so that fans would feel bad for him? Frankly, many are still not quite sure why any of these decisions were made. The cherry on top is the long-awaited conclusion, and it is an interesting one, to say the least.
Simply put, 13 Reasons Why’s fourth season is not very good television. While it is an improvement over the show’s second and third seasons, which were miserable experiences, the fourth is still plagued with the same signature issues. The narrative threads and dialogue are still unbelievable. Its handling of serious issues is still far from nuanced. This season mainly deals with the mental health struggles of Clay, rightfully choosing to back away from things like sexual assault after its terrible handling of the subject. Although, the show uses these issues as the basis for a mystery plot – rather than tackling it in a meaningful or emotional way.
Clay’s struggles drive the entire season, and he seemingly moves on from them in the final episodes with little word. A large amount of the character development is just as rushed, particularly Ani, whose character is miserable to follow due to how poorly she is written. When she exits for multiple episodes, it left the season much more enjoyable simply because she was not in it. On a positive note, with a smaller episode count, only being ten episodes compared to the standard thirteen, this season tells a much tighter and interesting story overall. It does not completely overstay its welcome.
Even though the horrible dark filter of the third season is gone, the show still aims for incredibly average cinematography. Static shots command the most intricate scenes. The show shines when going for a more natural look. A breath of fresh air when compared to the color of last season. The score is also almost nonexistent. What pieces there are all sound the same, being quite average.
The best attributes for the season, and probably the only reasons to watch, are the performances. The cast gives amazing performances, especially Minnette, Flynn, and Butler. Despite some very bad writing, the actors manage to sell it in a great way that makes the story seem a bit better than it actually is. These troopers are the only reason to get invested in the story. Their emotions on-screen legitimately pull at the heartstrings, disregarding the unfortunate stories surrounding them.
13 Reasons Why’s fourth and final season cannot exactly be described as a disappointing conclusion to the series, expectations for another season were not that high to begin with. If anything, this season is a bit better than expected. It improves on the last two seasons in many ways, features a better story, and includes some stellar performances from its young cast. However, the series still fails to successfully tell a story well enough to justify its reason for existing, Anyone can imagine that they would be better off without it. 13 Reasons Why struggles to discuss serious topics in a meaningful way. The debate of this Netflix original being more harmful than helpful will live on. Even with the final season being much lighter, so to speak, it still fails in to portray these stories under a competent light. The ending of 13 Reasons Why is ultimately on brand with the rest of the series.