13 Reasons Why Season 4 review: A stretched, mostly forgettable season
What initially revolves around teenagers helping a friend cover up a murder, freely ventures into several other serious issues, and handles it all very loosely
If you have managed to sit through the third season of 13 Reasons Why, the worst is behind you. The new season is relatively better, though it is all style and no substance. You can guess the basic plot and the climax of this teen drama simply by taking a look at some of this season’s episode titles — Winter Break, College Tour, Valentine’s Day, Senior Camping Trip, College Interview, Acceptance/Rejection, Prom and Graduation.
Developed By: Brian Yorkey
Cast: Dylan Minnette, Alisha Boe, Brandon Flynn, Grace Saif
Streaming on: Netflix
Following the template already laid down, the writers desperately kill a character this time too. The suspense here is this season opens with a funeral without revealing who died. From here, the narrative shifts to six months earlier. What initially revolves around teenagers helping a friend cover up a murder, freely ventures into several other serious issues, and handles it all very loosely. Multiple topics such as teen suicides, feminism, bullying, what punishment rapists deserve, addiction, and declining school system are touched upon. However, an episode focused on school shootings in the US is the closest the makers get to showing the fear and raw emotions of students at such times.
In between, we get a few engaging sequences thanks to the editing and the deceptive storyline of Clay Jensen as he deals with his trauma. The dark backstory and tragedies of Justin Foley, one of the beloved characters, also make for an emotional watch.
Most other primary characters in this season are flat. Take, for instance, Alex who committed the murder last season. We barely see him navigating through the trauma of it. Instead, he is figuring out his sexuality. The narrative voice of Season 3, Ani Achola is completely shelved this season. I never really understood why Ani and Jensen began dating in the first place and I couldn’t care less when they broke up. The storylines of Jessica, Tyler, Zach Dempsey and Tony Padilla too fail to strike a chord.
Agreed, this is a teen drama made for younger audiences. But it is still disappointing to watch a series that suggests it aims to ‘raise conversations around issues’ not advocate any real solutions. It is mostly fixated on the problems without giving a full account of those either. One of the very few instances where the series steers towards any solution-based narrative is during Jensen’s therapy sessions. But this too soon turns into repetitive rants and outbursts that add to our frustration. Meanwhile, the settings and performances continue to impress.
While the first season raised eyebrows across the world, all the subsequent seasons are forgettable and stretched beyond the point. Unlike previous seasons with 13 episodes each, this final season has only ten (all nearly an hour-long) but it still manages to push one's patience to the limits.
This latest season gave me a renewed appreciation for Riverdale, another teen drama steaming on Netflix, often compared to 13 Reasons Why by fans. An unabashed teen soap, Riverdale sticks to its intentions. 13 Reasons Why, despite its tall claims, is all over the place and falls shorts of even being a teen soap.