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Tear Jerker / 13 Reasons Why

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Justin: It's not supposed to be easy for people like us. We're meant to go through shit and make it out alive.
Clay: That's the trick, you have to make it out alive.
Jessica: You know what? I want better than that. We've been through so much shit and I just want something different. I want more.
— "Let the Dead Bury the Dead"

13 Reasons Why is not just a controversial show, it's also a show that puts everyone through the wringer.

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As Tearjerker pages are Spoilers Off pages, all spoilers are unmarked. Continue at your own risk.


In the Book:

  • Clay's thoughts during the thirteenth reason. He's begging the teacher to just stand up and help Hannah, to not simply ignore her pleas for help. But the Foregone Conclusion makes it very clear that he won't help her.
  • One of Clay's main roles in the story is really to increase the gravity of the massive Tear Jerker that is this book.
  • At one point when he's in the local diner that lead to one of Hannah's reasons, his waiter gives him a free meal after seeing the expression he had on his face after having listened to the tapes.
  • The very last tape. Tape 7, side B. The one that supposedly had nothing on it. Nothing but static for a few minutes, and then, Hannah's voice, whispering, "Thank you."
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In the Series:

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    Season 1 
  • The simple fact that Hannah is already dead, but you still want her to live after her trauma comes to light.
  • Unlike in the book, the series shows us the subplot of Hannah's parents mourning over her death and how it affects them while they prepare for a lawsuit against the school and try to find out why she committed suicide.
  • Throughout the show, Clay denies any romantic or platonic relationship to Hannah, choosing to say that they just worked together or the two of them had classes together when clearly, that wasn't the case. But after he gets to his tape and he finishes it, knowing how Hannah felt about him, he threatens to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff and is sent into a dream sequence where he refuses to leave Jessica's room after Hannah yells at him, begging her to let him in and finally telling her he loves her. He cries in Tony's arms, lamenting that he never got to hold her and tell her how he felt and that he killed her by listening to her and leaving her in that room alone.
    • When Clay pours his heart out to Hannah, her response? "Why didn't you say this to me when I was alive?". Clay hugging Hannah as they both cry doesn't help as well...
    • The worst part? Hannah says in his tape that he doesn't deserve to be on it due to the fact she calls him the nicest and kindest person she's met, but is included as he was there... and blames herself for pushing him away when she needed him.
      Hannah: Clay... Helmet... you shouldn't be on this list...
    • It becomes depressing when as Hannah and Clay are about to have sex, she has an Imagine Spot where she sees herself and Clay dating and being happy, all while holding hands with him and the school (including Justin, Jessica, Courtney, Zach, Alex, Tyler, Ryan, and even Bryce fucking Walker) all being happy for the two. Hannah even imagines Clay and her spending time with her mother as if she accepts Clay as Hannah's boyfriend. It goes into full-blown heartbreaking mode considering the What Could Have Been in-Universe had Hannah gotten together with Clay if she wasn't so broken at that point.
    • Simply put, Clay's Tape boils down to Hannah basically telling Clay that he was the lone bright spot in her life and that she felt the same for him, but she, like him, just could not say so with how damaged she was.
    • The biggest kick in the gut? Hannah firmly believes she would have ruined Clay's life had they gotten together. Clay's reaction is just as painful when he finds out why Hannah forced him to leave.
    • It gets worse once he finishes his tape. Distraught that he did not do more for Hannah, Clay now stands at the edge of a cliff Tony has parked by, looking ready to jump off in despair at his failure to stay. He feels as if he had stayed then not only would Hannah still be alive, but since they were in the room where Bryce raped Jessica, which is what caused Hannah to leave the party and resulted in the accident that killed Jeff, if he had stayed instead of going, Hannah and Jeff would still be alive and Jessica never would have been raped. That's right, at that moment Clay felt HE was responsible for Hannah's suicide, Jeff's death AND Jessica's rape.
      Clay: I left! I knew I shouldn't have left. And then Bryce raped Jessica. Hannah saw, then Sheri knocked down the stop sign, then Jeff died, and it all started with me!
  • Every single horrible thing Hannah undergoes, especially her rape by Bryce and Mr. Porter essentially telling her to move on from her rape if she refuses to disclose Bryce's name in her rape.
  • Justin is portrayed as a Jerkass, but as time goes on and the story unfolds, detailing his abuse at the hands of his mother's boyfriend and her mother's parental neglect and how none of his "friends" are really there to support him, it's hard not to feel bad for him. There is also the fact that he is obviously both deeply ashamed of his failure to protect Jessica from being raped at the hands of Bryce as well as in deep denial about it.
  • Jessica's downward spiral into recklessness and the PTSD that ensues when she remembers bits and pieces of being raped by Bryce while drunk, which Justin, after saying Hannah lied about it the entire show, confirms to be true. To find out your boyfriend allowed his best friend to rape you at your party, on your anniversary, almost verges into Nightmare Fuel territory.
  • Clay discovering Skye's self-harm scars.
  • Finding out that Jeff, the athlete that Clay tutored, the one who encouraged Clay to step out of his shell and to go after Hannah, was killed in an accident that was indirectly caused by Sheri, who was drunk and driving Hannah home.
  • Tony disclosing to Clay that the reason he has Hannah's second set of tapes and the reason he's so adamant on everyone involved listening to the tapes is because she came to his house to drop off the tapes and he avoided her, due to the drama she had at school, only to go to her house and discover that she committed suicide, and the immense guilt that came from ignoring her when he did drove him to fulfill her wishes, as she trusted him to do so.
    • Tony, telling his boyfriend in a shaken, lost voice everything involving his role in Hannah's tape circulation and the guilt he feels from keeping it all a secret from her parents, who trust and confide in him to help them discover why she would commit suicide.
  • The infamous scene where Hannah graphically slits her wrists with a razor blade and bleeds to death in her bathtub and being discovered by her parents, shortly afterwards. All while being narrated by Clay to Mr. Porter. No poetic music, no artsy camera shots. Just a very despondent 17-year-old girl, hurting herself, with her cries of pain and her last shaky breaths before she silently passes away, alone, depressed, and crying.
    • The lead-up to her parents finding her is... Heartbreaking. You hear Mrs. Baker, asking Hannah about the water leaking from under the door and jokingly commenting about it, but when she opens the door, her face just... drops. There's no scream or terror at first: Just her quietly processing what happened with small no's as she carefully approaches the tub and tries to pull Hannah out, all while telling her she's going to be okay before crying out for her husband and still telling Hannah's lifeless body that she's okaynote . Mr. Baker's reaction is worse, as he just tries to grab his daughter and just gets told by Mrs. Baker to go call an ambulance. Just... every parent's fear of finding their children dead.
    • Hannah briefly running into the man who encouraged her to come to poetry group just before she commits suicide, who tells her they miss her and encourages her to come back, showing there are people who still care about her, but she's too far past the Despair Event Horizon to realize it.
    • The build-up to her suicide is heartbreakingly scored with Ultravox's "Vienna", almost in a pre-emptive Really Dead Montage.
  • When Clay confronts Mr. Porter, the Mr. Porter we see throughout the series slowly dissolves into a man who brokenly attempts to convince himself and Clay that he did everything he could, only to tearfully stop after Clay tells him in detail that after refusing to help Hannah, Hannah would wait outside his office in hopes that he would come after her, and when he didn't, after leaving the school and putting certain things in order, she would go home to commit suicide.
  • Finding out that Alex shot himself in the head and is in critical condition by the end of the series.
  • Tyler isn't exactly a clean individual, having stalked Hannah repeatedly and ruining her friendship with Courtney by inadvertently outing her and releasing a photo of the two girls kissing out of revenge for Hannah refusing his friendship, but he has zero issues with being outed for what he did to Hannah, claiming that he "loved" her, and then the reveal that he plans on shooting up the school as retribution for being bullied, judging by the small arsenal of pistols, a rifle, and a shotgun he has hidden in one of his photography cases...
  • Hannah's poem from episode 8, especially the last four lines:
    It must be possible to swim in the ocean of the one you love without drowning.
    It must be possible to swim without becoming water yourself.
    • Of course, the kids at school all dramatically miss the point and focus on the first line, that mentions her Black Bra and Panties.
    • Then Clay, not knowing who wrote the poem, calls them a "dark human being" and says, while he likes the poem, he's not sure he'd like to hang out with its author, unwittingly hurting Hannah even more.
  • Zach telling Clay that he never threw away Hannah's letter and even still has it in his wallet. While Clay's reaction and his refusal to read Hannah's letter is bad enough, that one part where Zach stares at the note and even his lip quivers shows such...such regret.
    • Even worse is the flashback: After Hannah drops her note to Zach, deducing that he's lonely like she (and by some extent, majority of the school) is, she watches Zach go through the small rack-bag and pull out the note and begins to read it out of the class. When she slowly follows him, she 'sees' him ripping the note]]. Hannah's reaction well...it's [[Broken Bird like everything else that she's endured.
    Hannah: WHY ZACH?! WHY?!
    • The worst part is as mentioned above, Zach never ripped up her note, implying either Hannah firmly believed Zach to be like all the douche jocks at the school or she's so broken at this point that she thought she saw that.
  • In "Tape 2, Side A", Hannah describes how she'd go to a certain liquor store where she "felt safe", only to have that "safe" location ruined by Bryce Walker, who tries to play off as a nice guy and even pays for Hannah's items, only for him to grab her ass and smugly tell her she does have a good ass. What makes the scene unbearable is that as Clay listens to Hannah describe how defeated she felt about the incident and imagines her running out of the liquor store, in tears, and he tries to approach and comfort her when she's not there. GOD.
  • It's small, but one of Tyler's targets for his planned school shooting is revealed to be Clay.
    • And in the season 2 finale, Clay goes to talk to Tyler to stop the shooting from happening, and Tyler tells Clay to go home. In the course of season two, Tyler has come to think better of Clay to get him off the list.
  • Seeing Clay getting beaten up by Bryce after confronting him about his rapes of Jessica and Hannah.

    Season 2 
  • In Season 2, Alex's left leg is partially paralyzed after his Bungled Suicide, and over the season's first half he slowly realizes that it's never going to get better, with his doctor finally confirming that his recovery has "plateaued."
  • "The Smile at the End of the Dock". All of it. Zach reveals in court he and Hannah started a relationship together, even losing their virginity to each other, after he apologized for his behavior towards her. However due to Zach's zig-zagging loyalty with his friends, it lead to the two literally breaking up. Suffice to say, Zach's broken up about his ex's death, which he blames himself for.
    • Zach himself gets more development in the season, revealing his reasons of loneliness and dissolute nature with his friends and the school stems from the death of his father, not helped that his mother attempts to pretend all is okay when it isn't.
    • Clay's heartbroken reaction to the fact Hannah lost her virginity to Zach, causing him to lash out at him and accuse him of lying to protect himself. Ross Butler's broken and teared face makes it worse.
  • "The Missing Page", which features Mr. Portner's immense guilt over how he wishes he could have helped Hannah more. Despite Sonya's attempts to paint Hannah as the one in the wrong, Porter still (with a cracking facade) remains firm that despite the school's regulation, he as a faculty member should have done more to reach out to Hannah. He even tearfully apologizes to Mrs. Baker for not helping Hannah more that day she was alive.
    • His Imagine Spot. Dear god. Porter imagines himself stopping Hannah from leaving his office and gives a firm, but still heartbreaking speech about how she is loved and how she needs to be strong and that she will overcome her struggles and pain. Hannah however...
    Hannah: It's too late. Because I'm dead...
    • Porter says that even if she's dead, she can still be someone to prevent another event like hers. Both are crying at this point...
  • "The Little Girl" reveals that Mr. Baker was seeing another woman, which was probably a factor in Hannah's suicide. What's worse is that in an earlier episode, it seemed Mr. Baker was going to reunite with Olivia and even took her out to dinner, only for him to ask her to finalize the divorce papers. Not helped that after this episode, he disappears all together until the finale.
  • "The Third Polaroid" has Alex undergo a meltdown at his own birthday party about how "broken" he is after trying to commit suicide and furiously tells his parents and his friends that he wishes the bullet had killed him. While everyone else is either driven to tears or awkward silence, Jessica only becomes angry and furiously tells him off, reminding him how much his words and actions hurt the people who love him and how much she needed him after losing Hannah and learning of her rape.
  • The revelation that Zach was the one sending Clay the Polaroids confessing that he thinks he's "a fucking coward" and felt that Clay was a better man than him.
  • "Bryce and Chloe". Clay almost killing Bryce and then himself.
  • "The Box of Polaroids". In spades. The court finds the school not guilty for Hannah's suicide, meaning Mrs. Baker suffered for nothing.
    • The bittersweet silver lining: Thanks to Jessica and Justin's testimonies, Bryce is found guilty of rape and is taken away by the police, but Justin is as well, as an accessory to rape. Jessica and Clay both are horrified, but it goes into a heartbreaking Heartwarming Moment since Justin was told it would happen by Mrs. Jensen, and he still went with it as a way to finally get justice to Jessica for his mistake.
  • The finale "Bye" has a multitude of these.
    • Clay speaks at Hannah's service and confirms that he did love her and that he'll miss her, but now he finally will let her go. He then sees Hannah in the back of the church; she smiles at him and walks out the doors into a white light.
    • Mrs. Baker gives Clay something Hannah wrote that she found. A list of eleven reasons why not to kill herself. Even more tearjerking is that two of her reasons were Clay, one as Clay and the other as Helmet.
    • Mrs. Baker leaves town to go to New York like Hannah wanted.
    • Clay asking the pastor if he believes Hannah will go to hell for committing suicide is pretty heartbreaking.
    • Despite the fact he's on the road to redemption and even adopted by the Jensens, Justin is still using drugs.
    • The fact that Bryce only gets three months probation while Justin gets six months is saddening and infuriating, a tragic Truth in Television.
    • Crosses over with Nightmare Fuel, but the entire scene with Montgomery and his friends assualting Tyler in the bathroom, culminating in raping him with a mop handle. The complete lack of shame of the attackers and the extent of the physical and mental trauma just make it worse.
    • During the Spring Formal Dance, Clay is actually enjoying himself with his friends...until "The Night We Met" plays, causing him to suffer a Heroic BSoD in the middle of the dance floor and slowly be embraced by Tony, Jessica, Courtney, Zach, Ryan, and Alex with Cyrus and his friends keeping watch as they all break down crying.
      • Add to the fact that it probably also makes Clay remember Jeff, who was also there when Clay and Hannah danced that night.
    • Clay stopping Tyler from shooting up the school, telling him that he doesn't want him to die and doesn't want him to do something he'll regret. It actually strikes Tyler who begins to snap out of his broken and raged stupor.
      • Unfortunately, there is even more salt piled upon this already gut-wrenching moment. Tyler is talked down, yes, but he ends up leaving in Tony's car. The police end up arriving and surrounding the building, all while Clay stands alone, holding Tyler's rifle. This can easily lead to him being arrested. For a moment, you are just counting your blessings, due to a tragedy being barely avoided... but then this happens, of all things. In short, CLAY CANNOT CATCH A FUCKING BREAK.
    • Following the verdict in Episode 11, Mrs. Baker tells reporters she does not know a single woman who has not experienced some form of assault, harassment or sexual trauma. One episode later, during Jessica's testimony about her rape, she begins detailing what happened to her that night. The footage is then intercut with various female characters talking about their experiences being raped, assaulted or harassed, including:
      • Hannah, describing her own rape by Bryce.
      • Courtney, describing verbal harassment and groping at school.
      • Nina, talking about the night she was raped in the Clubhouse.
      • Sheri, discussing her assault while at the juvenile detention facility, by a guard who allegedly "had a reputation.
      • Mackenzie, talking about being assaulted by a baby-sitting client.
      • Olivia Baker, revealing that she was assaulted by an eighteen-year-old when she was only twelve.
      • Lainey Jensen, who says that a male superior attempted to seduce her numerous times on a work trip and she was terminated after turning down his advances.
      • An unnamed (but previously seen) Liberty cheerleader who says she was assaulted by her youth pastor.
      • Jessica's mother, who says she was assaulted by her second cousin.
      • Made even worse at the fact that all of the confessions (minus Jessica) are more than likely Imagine Spots.
  • Hannah's 11 "Reasons Why Not," the fact that on some level she didn't want to go through with the Suicide, but it wasn't enough to convince her.
    • "Mom and Dad"
      • They will blame themselves and it's not their fault.
    • "New York"
      • I could get their someday, if not college, then after college.
    • "Clay"
      • He'll also think it's his fault, and it isn't. He'll think he could've saved me. But we can't save people, not that way at least-it's more complicated than that.
    • "Writing"
      • I might-might-write something great someday. Get it published. Even be a writer. Seems unlikely but possible.
    • "Dad"
      • Loves me without question. Always wants what's best for me. Even though I'm mad at him, it would be unfair to him to leave.
    • "Mom"
      • I don't know if she could live through it. She is always so on edge already. Maybe that's already my fault. I know she loves me-I wish she knew I knew.
    • "Mom and Dad"
      • Worked so hard to give me a better life. Would be letting them down.
    • "Helmet"
      • Is genuinely a good guy. And I genuinely like him. And maybe we're supposed to be together. Don't know, but maybe. And if I go, we'll never find out.
    • "Maybe"
      • Someday I could make a difference in somebody's life.
    • "Maybe"
      • I'll have a kid of my own someday, and maybe she could be that somebody else.
    • "Maybe"
      • It's not as bad as I think it is. Maybe it will get better.
        • To those contemplating taking their lives, Reason 11 is always true.
  • Clay and Hannah as a whole. Just Clay and Hannah. It gets worse when you realize that what stopped them from moving forward was an unfortunate Truth in Television. Clay, being the shy guy he is and often humiliated by his peers, didn't have the courage to confess to the woman he loved how he felt for her. And for Hannah, all the trauma she suffered from the guys she dated or attempted to before (Justin, Zach, etc.) stopped her from accepting and acting on her own feelings. She was so ruined by the guys before that she couldn't get past her fear that Clay would be just the same as the rest, even KNOWING he wasn't like the rest. All in all, the way the show portrays the pair just shows you that if either would have been able to make that first move, then both would have probably been happy and Hannah would likely still be alive.

    Season 3 
  • Chloe got an abortion with Zach's support, but not before being harassed and further traumatised by pro-life protesters outside the clinic.
  • Winston was genuinely nice to Monty and just tried to reach out to him, and Monty responded by savagely beating him up.
    • Even after Monty beat him up, Winston clearly still cared for him to some extent, and they had sex a second time. He is deeply upset over Monty's death and the fact that he got the blame for Bryce's murder, because even though he did terrible things he was still a human being.
  • Tyler breaking down and telling Clay about his assault.
    • Also, Tyler showing Jessica the video he created before him attempting to shoot up the school dance. His facial expression is completely different to his season 3 version showing how broken and angry he is. He only says goodbye to three people in the video (his parents and Alex) further showing how alone he feels he is. To top it off Jessica cries during the video knowing the pain he was going through and likely knowing she had some role in rejecting him during the first two seasons.
    • Tyler even told his rape by Monty to Bryce who is shocked speechless and genuinely apologizes to him for the pain Monty caused him.
  • The subplot about Tony's family. Due to Tony testifying making it harder for Bryce, Bryce's father rats on the Padillas and ICE takes everyone but Tony and his little sister Graciela from the family to a detention center. They are deported and Tony has to send Graciela to an aunt and uncle so she would be safe. Accentuated by Tony and Graciela standing in front of the mirror next to each other, saying the names of their parents and their brothers as they appear behind them in the mirror.
  • With the knowledge that Bryce was trying to make amends to the people he hurt in the past and that he was getting help from Mr. Porter, his death can be considered this (the way he died being utterly cruel). Emphasis on can though.
    • Even if he was still scummy especially to Zach his quote "I want to change but the world won't let me" can be heartwrenching.
    • Hell some of his last words. While he really shouldn't have been spiteful to Zach (which caused his death afterwards) he also lashes out at Jessica who was one of the people he genuinely wanted to make amends with. The pain in his voice is visible.
  • Bryce's mother grieving. She never excuses Bryce's actions but Bryce is still her son. His funeral being crashed didn't help.
    • On top of that, she's also dealing with her abusive father, who's in failing health. He undermines her parenting and gives her a hard time for divorcing her awful husband, and doesn't have any sympathy for her when Bryce dies.
    • In his final moments, her father finally tells his regret that he couldn’t raise her better, implying that his own father was just as abusive and he couldn’t help passing it down.
  • Bryce breaking down out of guilt/remorse while trying to bond with his mom over yoga.
  • Bryce gets a "homework" for therapy to write about himself as he imagines his mother would write about him. It's evident from it he thinks even his mother thinks him a monster and would be glad to be rid of him, that he hates himself and thinks even his mother hates him too. Then the therapist shows this writing to Mrs. Walker and Bryce is in tears while she reads it.
  • The way Tyler acts at school following his rape.
    • Him going off campus whenever he has to use the restroom.
    • Him avoiding people touching him regardless of who it is.
    • The way he shuts down whenever he encounters Monty in the halls.
    • Tyler almost committing suicide and likely would have had he not found Bryce's body.
  • Justin admits that he was molested at a young age by one of his mom's boyfriends, and he experienced more sexual assault while he was homeless in season 2.
  • Justin breaks down at Thanksgiving after admitting that he's still using drugs. Luckily, the Jensens support him.
  • Alex and his father breaking down in each other’s arms in the finale, and especially the father rambling about finding Alex after his suicide attempt, and wishing it was him instead.
  • Bryce listening to Hannah's tapes. When he gets to his own he's a regretful, remorseful, sobbing mess.
  • As terrible as he is, Monty getting a final rebuke (as in getting spat in his face) from his homophobic abusive father before being killed in his jail cell, is pretty disquieting. Considering his scenes with him being intimate with Winston are the only times on the show where he looked genuinely happy, one could wonder just how he would’ve turned out had he not been abused and shamed for who he was (and if he wasn't terrible himself).

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     Other 

  • The show also (but subtly) utilized social media (mainly Instagram) to go along with fans in the show's lore. Hannah's instagram is overly heartbreaking, especially a Instagram story where the aftermath of "Tape 1, Side B" is shown, where Jessica burns bridges with Hannah over Alex putting her name on the "hot list". Just seeing Hannah trying to tell Jessica the list is a lie only for her to block her on her own Instagram account and on Facetime is heartbreaking. Katherine Langford's heartbroken expression as she attempts to Facetime Jessica only to be told she can't Facetime her is hope-shattering..
  • The song "The Night We Met" by Lord Huron is a tearfully bitter ode to a long lost lover and his unrequited feelings to her, just like Clay's realization he loved her.... but will never get the chance to tell Hannah that he was in love with her.
  • Justin Prentice (Bryce) got a lot of hate from fans, with many going as far as accusing him of being an actual rapist like his character with even Prentice himself saying that Bryce was beyond redemption. When an interviewer had him read the response of a fan who essentially said "I know you're a good person even though you play a monster", he actually started crying.
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