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'13 Reasons Why' Season 2 Episode 6 Recap: 'The Smile at the End of the Dock'

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“13 Reasons Why” was one of the most talked-about shows of 2017. This season, we’re analyzing what each episode means for the mental health community.

Editor's Note

This post is a review of season two, episode six of “13 Reasons Why” and contains spoilers. 

Content warnings: This episode of “13 Reasons Why” references rape, suicide and illicit drug use.

Hold up!

If you watched this episode and had an eyebrow raised the entire time, you are not alone. Before we get to the Hannah and Zach storyline, let’s get a few relatively minor — in comparison — plot points out of the way.

Justin’s back at Liberty high, at least, he was for one lunch period. The scene is major drama, Justin walks in, his eyes lock with Jessica’s from across the cafeteria. But instead of running and embracing each other — as one may have expected and Justin likely hoped for — Jessica reiterates that she wants him out of her life, that she wishes he were dead. Justin growls at Bryce and then collapses on the floor, leaving Clay and Tony responsible for him, once again.

Both Jessica and Justin deserve some credit here. In episode five, Jessica goes to group therapy and makes some progress. Seeing Justin could potentially set her back or trigger her, but she stands her ground. At the end of the episode, she even shares the story of her rape in group therapy. It’s nice to see her take two steps forward and no steps backward.

Justin also handles the less-than-ideal situation well. Instead of running away or turning back to drugs, he tells Clay’s parents about why he can’t go home and is invited to stay at the Jensen’s indefinitely. Justin’s still hiding something though. A person breaks into Clay’s house and steals something from Clay’s room. When Justin dumps out his bag it seems as though something is missing, though he tells Clay everything he has is accounted for.

Alright, let’s get to it.

During Zach’s testimony, he reveals that he and Hannah spent a whole summer sleeping together. I audibly gasped at this point, and if you didn’t think this plotline was a huge deviation from season one, then I want to hear your reasons why in the comments below.

Hannah and Zach repair their fractured relationship the summer after sophomore year. The same school year that earns Zach a spot on Hannah’s tapes for stealing her compliments and throwing out her note. Zach’s dad dies and so he spends he spends a lot of time at the movie theater taking solace in Hannah’s company. He apologizes to Hannah for the offenses she’d later detail on the tape, and she accepts his invitation to watch a movie together.

Their relationship unfolds and it’s clear they both take comfort in each other’s company. Hannah wants to lose her virginity on her terms, so she and Zach come up with a very rational plan for their first time. Their relationship continues and they remain intimate for the remainder of the summer until it’s time to return to school. Zach tells Hannah he wants to keep the relationship between them, and it’s pretty clear Hannah is hurt by this. I don’t think Zach is ashamed of his relationship with Hannah, I think he’s ashamed of his friend group and doesn’t know how to be both “Liberty High Zach” and “Zach and Hannah Zach.” Later in the episode, Zach blames his difficulty communicating on his mom’s stoicism and his cultural upbringing. His mom didn’t show much emotion after his dad died and now Zach is struggling with something similar.

As lovely as it is to see Hannah enjoy what appear to be some true moments of happiness, it’s almost impossible to believe her relationship with Zach doesn’t make it on to the tapes. In our recap of season one, Juliette pointed out that we never see Hannah struggle with mental illness. Instead, suicide is distilled down to: bad thing + series of other bad things = suicide. But now the show is throwing a wrench in its own formula. Hannah seems to have recovered from how Zach wronged her in his tape, and if anything should have been on the tape, it should be that he picked his friends over their relationship. And yet no word of that. Hallucination Hannah tries to rationalize this dramatic change in plot to Clay, claiming maybe Hannah was protecting what she had with Zach. But even hallucination Hannah doesn’t seem to be buying what she’s selling.

It’s hard to believe such a major development in both Hannah and Zach’s lives wouldn’t come up at all in season one or the tapes themselves. In season one, I found the chemistry between Hannah and Clay lacking. It was hard to believe that Hannah was as infatuated with Clay as she said she was on the tapes. Although indirectly, she placed a lot of blame on Clay for what could have been. But if her relationship with Zach was so intimate and significant, how did Zach manage to have one of the most minor tapes? I don’t know what making Hannah and Zach an item brings to the overall “13 Reasons Why” storyline, but it pokes a lot of holes in the idea that Hannah had no one to turn to. She and Zach shared something significant, if she was looking for human connection, she could have tried reaching out to him.

Hannah and Zach’s relationship doesn’t sit well with Clay either. Clay has been angry this entire season, but now we see his anger reach its breaking point. Clay feels Hannah’s relationship with Zach minimizes what Clay and Hannah, did, or didn’t, have. It’s hard not to side with Clay on this one. But Justin enters as the voice of reason. Justin’s logic: we don’t judge guys for having multiple relationships, why are we judging Hannah?

However, I think Justin’s missing something here. We aren’t judging Hannah for having multiple relationships over the course of a year or so. We’re judging Hannah for hiding a huge part of her life. It’s almost impossible to believe that if she took her life because of a series of tragic events, that the end of what seemed like the best thing to happen to her didn’t play a role.

Stray Observations and Future Questions

  • Clay is going to testify. He has to talk about how “pure” Hannah was and their relationship. This seems like a pretty big and painful ask following Zach’s testimony.
  • Alex finally gets it up, though fighting with Zach probably wasn’t the way he wanted to get an erection. Seems Alex’s concern that he’s plateauing may be unfounded.
  • What is going on with Mr. Porter? He keeps talking about wanting to do good with “his time left,” I’m starting to wonder if he has a terminal illness since he talks about his “time” and potentially getting fired as two different things.
  • Also in the Mr. Porter realm, seems he now owes the baseball coach one for the get out of jail free card.
  • Tyler and Cyrus’s friendship grows more and more concerning with each episode. A lot of kids are bullied or shy or punk — and it doesn’t mean they become obsessed with guns. There are a lot of factors that led people to be perpetrators of gun violence, this show is oversimplifying it and that’s a dangerous message to send.

Our rating:  one star out of four

Sorry, I’m not buying the whole Hannah and Zach storyline. Any good the show did in the episode is highly outweighed by such a deviation from the show’s first season.

What would you rate this episode? You can vote in our Twitter poll below or in the comments section at the end of this article. 

You can follow along with the rest of our “13 Reasons Why” reviews here

Want to watch “13 Reasons Why” with us? Use the hashtag #WatchWithTheMighty when you post your thoughts on social media or let us know what you think in the comments below.

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you think of the Hannah and Zach storyline?
  2. Should Zach’s testimony change how Clay feels?

Header image via Netflix.

Originally published: May 19, 2018
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