While it’s always sad to say goodbye to redeemable characters, the tragic 13 Reasons Why death in the final has a bigger story that is being ironically overlooked.
Caution: There are spoilers from the 13 Reasons Why series finale in this post.
13 Reasons Why certainly ended on a somber note. While many of the students of Liberty High were able to graduate, there’s one who didn’t. We said goodbye to one of the most redeemable characters going.
But while there are many complaints about the death, there’s a bigger lesson that is being ironically overlooked. This death had a huge meaning.
A character who didn’t believe he deserved to be saved
13 Reasons Why Season 4 saw Clay losing control. However, while all that was going on, there were other characters suffering. One of those didn’t believe he deserved to be saved.
That character was Justin Foley.
From the very beginning of this series, Justin has been a heartbreaking character. He came from nothing, living with a mother who was a drug addict with a revolving door of boyfriends. Justin was never safe and quickly learned that he needed to look out for himself because his mom wouldn’t.
The only person who gave him the time of day as a kid was Bryce Walker. For all Bryce’s faults, Justin saw Bryce as a brother and as a savior of sorts. When things went terribly wrong, Justin could always turn to Bryce.
And then Clay came along. After everything about Bryce came out, Justin ran away. What else did he have? However, Clay and the Jensen family as a whole took him in and helped him.
Yet part of him never felt like he should be saved; he didn’t feel worthy of it. And so, he hide his problems from them with serious consequences.
Thirteen Reasons Why
Nobody mentioned the lesions on 13 Reasons Why
One thing I questioned throughout the final season was Justin’s lesions. At first, I wondered if I’d forgotten something that had happened in the third season. But then the lesions became worse. But they were never once mentioned; never brought up by any character.
From the beginning of the season we had Justin’s health deteriorating staring us in the face. His HIV and developed into AIDS early in the season and we consistently chose to overlook it. At the same time, everyone around him ignored it. Even Justin chose to ignore everything that was happening to him.
This is where the bigger lesson comes in. It reminds us to pay attention. We need to look out for our friends and bring up things that worry us. Had someone just asked Justin about the lesion, maybe someone would have led to him going to a doctor sooner? There could have been a chance of saving him.
Instead, Justin covered many of his lesions up. He didn’t mention others to the Jensens, making it clear that he didn’t feel like he should be saved. Or was he hoping that someone would notice that about him before it was too late? Considering his reaction at the hospital, I’d say he was pretending that everything was okay; that the lesions were nothing serious.
In the end, Justin suffering from AIDS shouldn’t have been a huge surprise. If we’d have paid attention from the start, the signs were there. We just chose to overlook them, as Clay suffered from his mental breakdown and others focused on Winston’s search for evidence. That tragic death is all the more tragic because signs were ignored early on.
And let’s not forget that it reminds us that life isn’t fair. People who want to turn their lives around can die the next day (I know because it’s happened to a friend in real life) and yet monsters can live until they’re 100.
What did you think of the 13 Reasons Why Season 4 ending? Did you notice Justin’s health deteriorating throughout the season? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
13 Reasons Why is available to stream in full on Netflix