A distraught Hannah gets a ride home from the party. Jessica's behavior grows increasingly erratic. Clay learns the truth behind a tragedy.
Hannah's death has been very overwhelming to the narrative of 13 Reasons Why. That's the point. Her suicide was caused by all of these characters. And now, they are being affected by her death. That's the purpose of this show. It's been a fascinating and emotional journey so far. Every piece of this story has chipped away at Hannah's soul and pushed her closer and closer to suicide. Clay is learning of the roles all of these characters played in that moment. And yet, the narrative has barely even mentioned that another student at this high school died just a few weeks before Hannah did. That was a contributing factor in her suicide too. It hopes show that the school is really bad at reacting to these big life changes. The administration thinks they can just hang up posters after the fact. That's not really helping anyone. And yet, this episode sags a little bit because it revolves around a death of a character who has been such a minor part of this season. Yes, death is still a huge turning point in this story. It shows just how intense things got for Hannah. She wasn't just making big drama about petty things. This moment just doesn't quite work as well as some of the other reveals.
It's definitely been mysterious why Jeff hasn't been a larger part of the show. He's been seen a couple of times - largely through Clay tutoring him. It was noticeable that he wasn't in the actual present-day story. He wasn't there as a friend for Clay while he was struggling with the major revelations on the tapes. Jeff was also friends with more of the people in the secret-keeping group as well. Plus, it was casually mentioned a few episodes ago that two students have died at this school. But nothing was really made of it. Not until now at least. Death is an appropriate way to intensify the narrative heading into the final stretch. It adds to the overall sense of tragedy in this community. How the actions of many people can destroy someone else. Hannah's life was changed at the party. She saw Bryce rape Jessica and she saw Sheri knock over a stop sign. That may have been a factor in Jeff's death. No one is entirely sure on that. Hannah was on the sidelines for both of these actions. They didn't affect her personally. But seeing how others react so horribly to all of this made her feel even more alone.
That isolation is abundantly clear in the narrative. It's an overwhelming feeling that Hannah has had for a long time now. She wanted a fresh start going into her junior year. And yet, that was quickly denied to her. Instead, her life only continued to worsen. She saw the worst that humanity had to offer. She had no justification for living any longer than now knowing that it will never get any better. Bad things like this happen throughout the world. They'll continue to happen. Things won't get better. These are dark thoughts that she's expressing. Things are only getting more intense until the end. She doesn't have anyone to confide in. Clay is distraught about Jeff's death while her parents are too busy fighting about the store's finances to care about what's going on in her life. It was a devastating moment in the previous episode where Hannah was desperately asking her parents for a reason not to go to this party and they offered her nothing. If they did, this night could have played out very differently. It may not have changed Bryce raping Jessica or Jeff dying in a car accident. But those actions wouldn't have directly affected Hannah. She wouldn't have experienced them firsthand. And yet, she did.
Of course, Hannah wasn't the only person with a role to play in these events. This is Sheri's tape. It's the story that she didn't want Clay to listen to earlier this season. She likes him and doesn't want his perception of her to change. And yet, it inevitably does. That's what happens whenever Clay listens to a new tape. He suddenly lashes out at the person Hannah calls out and questions why they could have done such a horrible thing. However, Sheri sees things differently as well. She doesn't dispute that she made a mistake that could have contributed to this tragedy. She still believes that Jeff was drunk driving. But more importantly, she's taking this whole experience to try and be a better person. That's the lesson she has learned from all of this. She has to show Clay that she's helping the family of the person who Jeff hit that night. She wants to show that she's trying to make up for her mistakes. It's just a mystery as to whether he'll accept that as enough. It's very difficult for him to do because he was Jeff's friend. It's brutal for him to face Jeff's parents knowing more of the details about that accident. He can't provide them with any more comfort or clarity. It just shows that Clay was very much affected by this tragedy as well. And yet, he and Hannah had no idea that they were both going through the exact same things.
All of this sets up the final reveal that the next tape in Hannah's story is Clay's. He feels as if he is ready to listen to the next one. He has come to terms with everything that happened with Sheri and Jeff's death. It sucks but he's found a way to process it. He feels ready to move to the next one. But he's not in the proper headspace at all. It's good that Tony is there to warn him. And yet, that only allows Clay to spiral even more with uncertainty. Clay sees these last two tapes as rape and murder. He wonders how this story can get anymore tragic than it already is. He doesn't see how anything he did could have been worse than that. He's completely dumbfounded. He has no idea what's going to happen. He doesn't know how he hurt Hannah. It's clear to the audience that something more happened at Jessica's party. Hannah did say that three big events happened that night. She's been telling things out of order as well. So whatever Clay did is likely the reason why she was in Jessica's bedroom to witness the rape. The season has been building to this reveal of Clay's guilt in all of this. Once he learns the truth, it will be a key turning point for the show. It will either make him complicit in the actions of the rest of the people on the tapes. Or it will make him look at his actions more carefully and understand the impact they have on others. Either way, it's going to be absolutely devastating to see what happened between Clay and Hannah.
Some more thoughts:
- "Tape 5, Side B" was written by Nathan Louis Jackson and directed by Carl Franklin.
- Those scenes between Jessica and Bryce in the present-day are just so difficult to watch. She's reaching out to him because he's supportive of her drug and alcohol spiral. He doesn't know any better. Nor does he actually care. He's the king of the world and this girl wants what he has. It's a toxic dynamic that can't end well.
- Meanwhile, Justin is increasingly seeming like a good guy who simply doesn't know what to do to help Jessica. He's just running away as soon as she acts like a crazy person. He doesn't understand her and doesn't put in the effort to at least try. That's what pushes her away.
- A lot has been said about the lawsuit against the school. And yet, that story hasn't made a whole lot of progress so far. In fact, this is the first official sit-down to negotiate a potential settlement. Signing a non-disclosure agreement is the deal breaker for the Bakers though.
- It is fascinating to see Olivia and Laurie talk in the bathroom. They know that their children had a relationship but they are clueless to how deep it actually was. It's also tragic that they are on opposite sides of this. Clay's sympathy to Olivia and Andy may not be enough to compensate for his mother being the lawyer representing the school.
- Ryan has apparently been trying to get the second set of tapes from Tony. But he has hidden them too well. Plus, Ryan is totally complicit with the rest of the secret-keeping group even though he hasn't been seen hanging out with those characters until right now.
- When he went on the rock climbing trip with Tony, Clay said that he had never seen a dead body or crime scene before. However, this episode reveals that isn't true. He was the first to respond to Jeff's accident. Jeff was seemingly dead already. Plus, Clay was still there when the police and ambulance arrive to give a statement.
As noted in previous reviews from this show, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.