TV Show Review: 13 Reasons Why Season 4

If someone were to ask you to describe a show you’re currently watching in a few words or less, depending on what it is, it might be extremely easy or difficult. When I watched the final season of 13 Reasons Why, there were two words that stuck out in my mind—disjointed and hallow. The fourth season of this oftentimes controversial teen drama finally came to an end, and the supposed closure this finale should have offered to the story and characters was terribly lacking, frustrating, and pointless. Warning: Some spoilers ahead about the last season.

[Credit: Netflix]
The final season of the show concludes with Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) and his fellow classmates entering their senior year of high school and getting ready to graduate. Being that this is 13 Reasons Why, the road to graduation doesn’t go smoothly for any of them. An explosive secret on the verge of being exposed, losing a grip on reality, and addiction relapses are just some of the issues plaguing the Liberty High kids in between college applications and shopping for prom dresses. This season may have axed the 13-episode format of previous seasons and opted to wrap up the entire series with 10-episodes instead, but 10 still feels like one too many to get to its long overdue conclusion. The fourth season is largely directionless and grossly offensive with nothing meaningful to say or offer teens who may be struggling with anxiety, depression, or thoughts of suicide.

Every episode is a painful, slow crawl to the ending. At this point 13 Reasons Why has been reduced to teen torture porn. I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes in the writers room for this show, but I’m just about convinced that the writers must seriously hate these characters so much that they really wanted to watch them suffer in every way possible. This season dives headlong into Clay’s rapidly unraveling mental state after spending his entire high school life carrying the weight of others’ secrets on his back, including covering up Bryce’s murder in the third season. What could have been an interesting exploration of Clay’s fragile mind, from the long-lasting effects of Hannah’s suicide to his obsession with playing the hero to his troubled friends, winds up devolving into over-the-top hysteria, petulance, and plenty of out-of-character moments.

I like how Clay presented himself in the first season. I found him to be a sympathetic character who maybe was naive at times, but largely a decent and sensitive kid who wanted to do the right thing and be a good friend. This season? I wanted to punch Clay more times than I can count with every episode I watched. Everything he did made no sense and came out of nowhere with no rhyme or reason for why he would act in the way he does. Maybe you can blame it on Clay’s severe anxiety and depression for making him act out, but I highly doubt that what I’ve seen Clay do in this season comes close to being a realistic portrayal of what people struggling with anxiety and depression go through. A lot of what happens to Clay is played up for the sake of shock and drama. And Clay isn’t the only character whose personality and actions are inconsistent with how he has been written in previous seasons. There are a good number of other characters, such as Zach Dempsey (Ross Butler) and Alex Standall (Miles Heizer), who are inexplicably unrecognizable this season. Am I watching the same show? Have I missed something from the prior seasons? By the end of an episode I was more confused and irritated than I’ve ever been with a show. If that isn’t enough to realize 13 Reasons Why had overstayed its welcome on Netflix, the tenth episode decides to kill off a major character for no other reason than to force an emotional response from the viewers still putting up with this show.

In the first half of the last episode Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn), and Clay’s adopted brother, is in the hospital and dying of AIDS. This is another example of random plot developments being thrown into this season that doesn’t match or line up with everything that has come before this moment. As if 13 Reasons Why really needed to cram anymore serious issues in an already overcrowded and dizzying blend of hot button topics. What should have been a sad and moving scene for a character attempting to pull his life together, after struggling with drug addiction and homelessness, failed to deliver the emotional poignancy it aimed for. Throughout the entire sad montage of tearful goodbyes that led up to Justin’s death I felt nothing. Normally I can get pretty emotional when these type of scenes happen on television or film, but when I don’t even feel my eyes watering just a little then the story or characters didn’t do its job. I think the fourth season succeeded in making me feel dead inside by the end of it, which is a shame because I genuinely like the cast playing these characters. I only hope these young actors manage to move onto better projects than what they were given in the last three seasons of this dumpster fire of a show.

My grievances with the final season of 13 Reasons Why aren’t close to being completely aired out, but like the show, it’s better to move on and not dwell on it any further. The fourth season is a major disappointment and the worst one out of the series. I didn’t really expect the last season to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be complete garbage either. The good intentions the show set out to do had all been lost and abandoned to become another vapid teen show.

13 Reasons Why is now a cautionary tale of how not to adapt a book for TV. If the first season was allowed to live as just that, a standalone season, the show would have been remembered as a genuine effort at opening teens up to discuss difficult issues they may not always feel comfortable talking about, despite some of their questionable approaches. The addition of three seasons severely weakened the show’s goal and mission statement to stand apart from the rest of the teen dramas out there.

I’m relieved 13 Reasons Why is finally over. It’s just too bad that the show got warped into an empty, massive waste of time after everything has been said and done.

Reviewer Rating: 0/10

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