The seniors’ send off

‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ ends its reign of poor storytelling

Ashley Pelletier, Associate Arts and Life Editor

A show that was built to bring awareness to tough topics continually failed to provide its audience with the guidance they needed.

The fourth and final season of Netflix’s “Thirteen Reasons Why,” released on June 5, begins at a funeral for someone unknown. As the preacher, portrayed by Phylicia Rashad says, “How did we get here — again?”

“13 Reasons Why” discusses issues facing Generation Z without addressing their solutions and treatment. (Netflix)

All three of the previous seasons show the band of students from Liberty High School lying to their parents, breaking the law and quite literally covering up a murder. I had hoped that this season they would finally tell the truth instead of digging themselves into a deeper hole. I was wrong. Instead, they get rewarded for it.

An underlying theme of the season is the group preparing for life after high school, but Clay Jensen, portrayed by Dylan Minnette, continually pushes off his college applications. This leads Amorowat “Ani” Achola, played by Grace Saif, to write his college essay for him. Despite that, and his poor grades during senior year, Jensen, somehow, gets into Brown University.

Jensen also struggles with dissociative episodes throughout the season, losing memories of destroying school property, terrorizing fellow students and setting the principal’s car on fire. He does not face any punishment for these actions, which I think is ridiculous.

My major problem with the show lies in the ending written for Justin Foley, played by Brandon Flynn. In season three, it is revealed that Foley used sex work as a means to survive and to support his intravenous drug habit when he was homeless. In the ninth episode of the fourth season, “Prom,” Foley collapses and is rushed to the hospital, where he is diagnosed with HIV-1 that has progressed to AIDS.

The entire series has centered around these teenagers not getting help, and for a show that was meant to start conversations, it has never provided its audience with a good example.”

— Ashley Pelletier

Foley’s condition rapidly deteriorates, and he dies in the first half of the hour-and-a-half final episode. While this is not an inherently bad plot line, the writers of the show had so much potential to write Foley a happy ending to contradict the struggle he faced in life. However, they left audiences with the message that addicts and sex workers can never make it out of their circumstances.

The entire series has centered around these teenagers not getting help, and for a show that was meant to start conversations, it has never provided its audience with a good example.

However, there was a new addition to the show in the fourth season that went against the group’s thought process — Jensen’s therapist, Dr. Ellman, played by Gary Sinise. Sinise’s character constantly challenges Jensen’s angst ridden, “nothing matters” way of thinking with reason and concern. It was refreshing to see an adult who was willing to challenge the main characters, especially after three seasons of ignorant parenting.

Naturally, the most important part of this season was the 90-minute finale. The show ends with Olivia Baker, played by Kate Walsh, returning the original set of tapes to the group of friends. They bury them in the spot where Clay first listened to his own tape.

Clay also sees Hannah Baker, portrayed by Katherine Langford, one last time since he has seen the other characters who died throughout the show. However, this scene was recycled from season one. It would have been nice to see a new scene with Langford, who has not made an appearance on the show since season two.

While this show has had an extensive share of problems, it has become symbolic of Generation Z. The subjects the show takes on the strongest — sexual assault, suicide and gun violence — are all topics that young people have seen take control of society, whether it be through the #MeToo movement, the March for Our Lives movement or various efforts to bring awareness to mental health.

There is no doubt in my mind that this show has started the conversations that are necessary to be had, but we need to hold out hope that next time, they will be started in a more realistic and insightful manner.