Clay and Hannah grow closer. While Clay spends a heartbreaking night listening to his tape with Tony, tensions boil over at Bryce's house.
The episode that featured Clay listening to his own tape in Hannah's story was going to be a pivotal turning point for the series. He's not the story at the end of all of this. In fact, he is the third pivotal story that Hannah called out from Jessica's party. That was an absolutely devastating night for her as well as the people around her. The previous two stories were about rape and murder. Clay struggled listening to those stories. And yet, listening to his own tape may cause him to spiral out of control even further. He doesn't think anything he did to Hannah was equal to those crimes. In the end, it's not but it's still very important in showing the kind of relationship Clay and Hannah ultimately had and how it couldn't save Hannah from making the choice to kill herself. It's a simple but very effective story that highlights how so much trauma and pressure can affect someone even when they want something seemingly good and perfect.
It's not surprising that Clay is the reason why Hannah was in the room already when Jessica and Justin came in. She was purposefully telling this story out of order. But she did have to circle back to that moment to help everything make a little more sense. And yet, her reason for calling out Clay as one of her reasons for committing suicide is different from everyone else. He hasn't been a perfect character. He wasn't always a nice guy to Hannah. And yet, he was simple, sweet and nice. He may say some bad, hurtful things in the moment and not understand the damage they could do to others. But that never derailed a potential romance with Hannah. In fact, it's still rather sweet to watch them grow close at this party knowing that it's all going to go awry somehow. It's fascinating to see this event from both of their perspectives. Hannah believes Clay was so confident during the party when he wasn't. He needed Jeff to convince him to make his move now. That just shows that no one really knows what's truly going on with someone else. Clay was nervous too and never said what he wanted to say to Hannah.
Clay is included in this story not for anything he personally did to Hannah but because she felt he deserved to hear the truth from her about everything going on in her life. A romance was something she wanted as well. She hoped that this could be her perfect moment. A turning point in her life where she could finally be happy and not just lonely and scared of what the next scandal will be. In the end, it was a turning point but not in a healthy way. This party sent her spiraling into suicide. Jessica's rape and Jeff's death were huge contributing factors. But it's also important that the hopefulness of a future with Clay wasn't enough to overcome Hannah's insecurities from the past. She wanted to move past everything that happened to her. She wanted to be with Clay. She wanted it to be simple and loving. It was for a moment. And yet, her past trauma kept her from enjoying this. It's a devastating reveal. She's the one who pushes Clay away because this moment has forced all of these issues to the surface once more. She didn't want that to happen but it did. She likes Clay but he doesn't know everything that she is feeling in this moment. She pushes him away instead of opening up to him. She doesn't trust him with her trauma and isolation. It's simply easier to believe that his life will be so much better without her in it constantly bringing it down.
Of course, Clay's life isn't easier without Hannah in it. He's actually been experiencing one existential crisis after another because of what's on the tapes. Hannah knew that Clay didn't belong in this story like everyone else. And yet, she also felt that he deserved to know the truth even though it may cause him more pain. This season has seen him lashing out at so many people because of the tapes. They warned him not to act before he listened to his own. And now, he's simply lashing out at anyone because he can't lash out at the one person he wants to right now - Hannah. He is filled with regret over how he handled this situation. To Hannah, Clay was simply doing what she asked. He didn't push for more because he didn't know what to do. This season has shown just how dim Clay can be. He just left instead of asking her what's going on. That's now all he can think about. He wants to say all the things he wish he did in that moment. That's a very powerful scene. At first, it plays as Clay's recollection of that night. How he didn't just accept her efforts to push him away. And yet, it's inevitably revealed to be his own mind trying to find a way to cope with all of this knowledge. It's quite a burden placed on him. He wishes he could go back and change everything about this night. But he can't. He can only find a way to process this information and do better in the future.
All of this just showcases that no one really knows what's going on in someone else's life. This season has highlighted how one action can change another person's entire world. A series of actions like that could force them into some dark places. The audience has been seeing that play out in the present day story as well. The existence of the tapes and Clay listening to them has forced the others to truly realize what they actually meant. It has forced them into dark places as well. Clay still really hasn't learned his lesson to be better because he never knows how something might be perceived to someone else. He still lashes out at Tony and Skye here even though they wanted to help him. Meanwhile, it's fascinating to see Justin and Jessica's relationship hit it's breaking point. Justin can no longer deny what happened to Jessica. He needs to tell her the truth because she's spiraling into despair and relying on her rapist for support. And yet, that revelation only further isolates Jessica. It's a brutal storyline that shows that she has no one to rely on in this moment. This horrible thing happened to her and the aftermath has been just as complicated and confusing. Justin wants to be seen as hero protecting his girlfriend. But he too is simply a high school teenager who doesn't always know what the right thing to do and say is. He didn't handle this well either and that may be the thing that pushes all of this to the surface in ways that could have major consequences on all the characters involved.
Some more thoughts:
- "Tape 6, Side A" was written by Diana Son and directed by Jessica Yu.
- The Bakers' lawsuit is continuing to move forward and subpoenas will be issued very soon. The kids being served with those documents and needing to share details about their connection to Hannah could really be a game-changing twist for all of them.
- Clay also promises to tell his mother the truth. He's not ready to do so yet because he hasn't listened to all of the tapes. But he is aware that he played a role in Hannah's death. One that will further be analyzed on the record for the lawsuit. He has to prepare for all of this as he has to figure out how far he is willing to go to find justice for Hannah.
- Skye reads Clay's fortune through tarot cards. They unsurprisingly reveal that he's filled with pain, turmoil and existential crisis. That's easy to guess. But this scene is important because it reveals that Skye cuts herself and Clay lashes out at her for doing so in the aftermath of Hannah's death. This dynamic is only getting worse. Is Clay going to be responsible for another tragedy on campus?
- Clay calling Tony an "unhelpful Yoda" is pretty great. I've complained about Tony this season as him being a one-note all-knowing character. And yet, the way he cares for Clay throughout this episode is quite strong. Clay at least has a friend in the moment he listens to his own tape.
- Mr. Porter's home life is seen for the first time. It shows that he's sticking to the same story with his wife even though that's very likely not true. Plus, it's clear he's trying to cover something up because Mrs. Bradley comes to him with the anonymous note that Hannah left in communications class last year.
- Olivia is still looking through Hannah's things for anything that could help with the lawsuit. She finds a piece of paper that may be the outline for the tapes. That could be a huge discovery - if the Bakers learn about the tapes and what's on them. Hopefully they do. They deserve some closure.
- There are two tapes left. So, I'm guessing they are about two people who don't even know they exist and the roles they played in Hannah's death. I wonder who they could be. Skye? Bryce? Mr. Porter? Her parents?
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.