There’s no doubting the fact that 13 Reasons Why has overstayed its welcome on Netflix. An incredible first season led into an entirely unnecessary second season before being saved with a pretty good third season. Now, the final season has arrived and rather than going out with a bang, it’s just more unfocused and uninteresting high school drama that feels too contrived.
Going into this season, I thought the finale of season three set up a couple of things that could become interesting and thrilling arcs. Those things being Tyler’s (Devin Druid) guns being found in the water and Winston (Deaken Bluman) knowing that Monty (Timothy Granaderos) was framed for the murder of Bryce (Justin Prentice). Only one of those two arcs has a prominent role in this season, and neither of them are enough to make the season a good one. The first half of this season is just straight-up boring. There’s a handful of moments that are interesting and well executed… but that’s all they are… moments. The bulk of the first five episodes or so had me questioning whether it was worth following through.
These early episodes feel unfocused, like there isn’t much of a purpose or an end goal that we are heading towards. The beginning of the season even teases us with the death of an unknown character before jumping back six months to tease us. However, unlike the mysteries of the previous seasons, this one did nothing for the suspense of the show. Season three began with Bryce Walker being dead, resulting in the rest of the season being focused on being how and who killed him. That was an engaging murder mystery. This season also begins with someone being dead, but we don’t know who died or how they died, so it doesn’t add anything to the story up until the moment happens, and even then, it’s a pointless addition to the first episode.
That being said, the season picks up a little as it moves into the second half and certain story arcs start to come together. However, it’s the final two episodes that I’d say are the only great episodes of the season as they’re more of a celebration of the series as a whole as opposed to just focused on closing the arcs of this season. The finale is the best episode of the season by far. It’s a spectacular emotional ending and a farewell to the great characters who have made the series enjoyable, even when the story wasn’t. So, even though the early episodes are a bit of a mess, it’s great to see it go out on a high note.
The one thing that has stayed consistent through every season is the writing of the characters and the character relationships that evolve over time. No matter which character is at the forefront of a scene, everyone has their own individual qualities that make them engaging and interesting to follow. The great thing about this show is that regardless of whether a character is good or bad and whether you like them or not, they are all strong characters who feel like they could be real. This strengthens the relationships with other characters and makes everyone feel integral to the story being told.
Since the first season, the characters have changed a lot and that is shown in their actions throughout this season. The character development over the course of the show is great and pretty consistent, for the most part, making the journey very worthwhile and rewarding. The only character in this season who’s development I didn’t like is Zach (Ross Butler) as I feel like his character makes some odd choices that I’m not on board with. Clay (Dylan Minnette) also has a lot of shit going on in this season, some of which is good and some of which is dumb, but I won’t get into that here for the sake of spoilers.
In terms of the actual performances, they’re as strong as ever. You’d hope that by the fourth season everyone has a grasp on who their characters are, and that’s exactly the case here. There’s not a single performance in here that I can knock down as everyone is fantastic. It’s one of the better ensemble casts put together in a show as the way everyone contributes to the emotional strength of key moments is great. Every one of the main cast feels like they are friends and they have gone to school together for all these years, so it makes it really easy to get engrossed in their lives.
I need to give a shoutout to Gary Sinise who plays a prominent role as Dr. Ellman and is by far the best new addition to the cast. His scenes are some of the most interesting even in the episodes where it’s actually quite boring.
In the end, 13 Reasons Why doesn’t go out with a strong season, but it does go out with a great final two or three episodes. In terms of the cast, everyone gave their all and delivered emotionally impactful performances that made even the worst episodes somewhat bearable. The first half of the season may be a chore to get through as it’s boring and there’s not much more than a few glimmers of engaging story arcs, but it’s worth the ride to close out the series on a high note.