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13 Reasons Why – Season 4 Review

★★★★☆

One of the most controversial shows on TV is undoubtedly Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why that started out in 2017 and just ended on the 5th of June. The show, aimed at a mature audience, tries to deal with equally mature themes like suicide, depression, sexual assault or drug abuse. It was met with critical acclaim at first but quickly received criticism from professionals for its portrayal of self-harm. After 4 years and 49 episodes, what conclusion can we draw from the last season?

Season 4 is a complicated and messy one. Our main characters (especially Clay) all struggle with the consequences of their action in Season 3, bringing them dangerously close to the edge. It goes without saying that mental health is at the heart of this final chapter, with a look at how the school and the adult world impact all of us. The show gets a lot of stuff right, trying to raise awareness on usually forbidden topics, but also fails in some instances, such as the poor representation of HIV. Some of the characters receive worthy and interesting arcs while others suffer from a complete 180º shift in their personas which can be a little disheartening at times. Winston, who was supposed to be at the centre of this season is sadly too often sidelined, but still gives a few incredible scenes. By the time the 1½ hour finale is over, and the tears have dried up, it is hard to resist 13 Reasons Why’s emotional finale. 

Despite all the hatred the show gets, I cannot help but stay in awe at the depth of the characters we’re presented with. Not one of them is a walking stereotype, or a teen character written by men who don’t actually understand what young people are like (I’m looking at you Riverdale). 13 Reasons Why’s strength definitely resides in its diverse cast & characters that represent so many of the challenges teenagers face nowadays. The characters feel so real because they are written with a lot of attention. Watching them grow over the course of four seasons has been a privilege. 

We must give credit where it’s due and God does 13 Reasons Why deliver on the gay content! It has to be one of the first shows I’ve seen where the number of LGBT relationships and love interests is higher than the straight ones, and this comes as a welcome change. Despite the sad lack of lesbian / trans representation, the amount of gay or bi characters is astonishing and gives a fair representation of the gay community. Charlie, Winston, Alex, Monty, and Courtney are all wonderful characters and I truly hope we will see more of them in the future. While it is somehow idealistic, it is also so nice to see supportive parents and friends in a TV show. Some positivity is always welcomed!

One thing however remains certain, and that is that despite all its best attempts, 13 Reasons Why never managed to recreate the quality and the depth of its first season. Sure, it’s no Skins, but we can still praise the show for its bold storylines, amazing actors & characters and for portraying teens realistically. Season 4 was an addictive mess at times, yet its final episodes made it absolutely worth it. What we leave behind is a credible, fascinating universe where teens weren’t written by incomprehensive boomers. I can only hope that future films and shows will be inspired by what 13 Reasons Why tried to achieve and will try harder to create believable, diverse young characters. Our generation deserve to be represented fairly, so don’t let us down Hollywood!

Elie Breton des Loÿs

Elie is the current Editor-in-Chief. He was previously the Lifestyle Editor (2019/20) and is still our resident cinema-goer. He won the 'Best Newcomer' prize at the 2019 Media Awards in recognition of his cinema reviews and world politics pieces.

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