’13 Reasons Why’ Series Finale Recap: A Beloved Character Tragically Dies Before Graduation

The final season of '13 Reasons Why' was an emotional roller coaster. The series finale had so many tear-jerking moments, including the death of a fan-fave, a surprise return, and more. SPOILERS AHEAD!

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The 13 Reasons Why series finale picks up a week after penultimate episode. Justin has been hospitalized in the ICU for a week after collapsing at prom. Clay and his parents learn that Justin has tested positive for HIV-1. The doctor believes it has progressed to AIDS.

The doctor tells Clay’s parents that Justin’s past IV drug use and extended periods of homelessness made him more susceptible to such a rapid progression. He’s never been tested until now. Clay’s mom says he had a physical. Testing requires consent, and the doctor says it’s not uncommon for a young man like Justin who has done IV drugs and sex work to avoid testing. Clay is shocked. Justin never told him about what happened when he was homeless. In addition to Justin’s late diagnosis, Justin also has a neurological infection.

Brandon Flynn
Justin tragically succumbs to AIDS in the series finale of ’13 Reasons Why.’ (Netflix)

Meanwhile, Winston tells Tyler that knows it was Jessica who killed Bryce, and he knows Clay and the crew framed Monty. He almost has what he needs to go to the police, but says he doesn’t have to include Tyler’s name. Tyler denies Winston’s claims and stands by his friends. Alex goes to see Winston and confesses that he killed Bryce. Winston thinks he’s lying, but Alex explains what happened.

Justin begins getting lots of visitors, including Jessica, Charlie, and Alex. Zach comes to the hospital, but he says he can’t come in. He watched his dad die in this hospital. Charlie tries to convince Zach to come inside and says he’ll regret not seeing Justin.

Justin is put on a ventilator, and the doctor says he may never be able to breathe without it again. The disease in his lungs has advanced, as well as the neurological symptoms. When Clay learns what this really means for Justin, he runs out. He says he needs space. Clay runs all the way to the sheriff’s department. He walks in and tells everyone that he has a gun. People run out and the police surround him. Tony walks in, too. Sheriff Diaz talks Clay down. “I promise no one will hurt you,” Diaz tells Clay. When Clay pulls his hands out of his pockets, he reveals that he never had a gun.

Later, Clay tells Dr. Ellman that he didn’t want to die in that moment. He wanted someone to notice him and see he was hurting. Upon reflection, Clay realizes Sheriff Diaz has just been worried about him all this time.

Justin’s condition continues to deteriorate. Clay has been losing track of the days. Time just moves so slowly now. Alex and Charlie go find Zach, who is drinking away his sorrows. Zach acts like he doesn’t want help, but Alex and Charlie refuse to leave him. They bring him to see Justin.

In the waiting room, Jessica talks to “Bryce.” He acknowledges that he’s responsible for all of this. Ghost Bryce continues to be an as*hole, even in death, telling Jessica that she’s probably sick, too.

In the midst of everything, Clay got into Brown and was voted class speaker. Clay doesn’t want to give the speech. He doesn’t know what to say. With all that’s going on with Justin, he doesn’t think there is much of a future.

Tony’s dad finds out about the college offer and wants him to go. He tells Tony that it’s time to sell the shop. The shop was his dream, not Tony’s. Coach Kerba offers Zach a coaching job at Liberty.

Justin is taken off his ventilator so he can speak for a few hours. The doctor reveals that Justin has signed a DNR. Everyone prepares to say their goodbyes. Jessica is first. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me,” Jessica tells Justin. He replies, “You’re out of your mind. I ruined your f**king life.” Jessica says that’s not the case whatsoever.

Everyone says their goodbyes, and Clay is the last to go. Clay thanks Justin for saving his life. “I love you,” Clay says. Justin says it back. Justin admits to Clay that he’s afraid of what’s about to come next. Justin is surrounded by Clay and Clay’s parents when he dies. As he takes his final breaths, Clay is holding Justin’s hand.

At Justin’s funeral, Tony shows up early to support Clay. Jessica tells Ani that she doesn’t know if she can do any of this anymore. Ani, always so encouraging, tells Jessica that she’s strong. She can and will get through this. Alex tries to speak but can’t make it through his speech. Zach gives a simple but powerful eulogy about his friend. When the funeral is over, it’s just Clay and Jessica. At the end of the day, these two are the people who meant the most to Justin.

Winston shows up to talk to Alex at Monet’s after the funeral. Alex explains what happened with Bryce again. He admits that he’s sorry for what he did. When Winston asks whether or not Jessica was there, Alex doesn’t answer. “Did you ever really like me?” Winston follows up with. Alex tells Winston that he opened up a whole new world for him. “I loved being with you,” Alex says. Winston reveals that he’s not going to go to the police. He loved Monty and still loves Alex. The pain has to stop here.

Diego takes a moment to apologize to Jessica for everything that’s happened. He knows how much Justin meant to Jessica. He saw it when they danced together at prom. Diego asks Jessica for a second chance, and she’s willing to give him one after some time passes.

Clay gets a package — it’s Hannah’s tapes. Mrs. Baker sent them after getting them from the police. She thought Tony and Clay should have them. Clay finally breaks down in therapy over Justin’s death. Dr. Ellman comforts Clay and says that maybe there was a part of Justin that wouldn’t let himself be loved or felt he deserved to be loved. Clay tries to make sense of it all and move forward.

At graduation, a number of familiar faces return. Chloe, Courtney, and Ryan come back to show their support. Jessica gives a speech, as does Clay. After graduation is over, Clay sees the ghosts of Justin and Bryce on the bleachers. He wonders why Justin is hanging out with Bryce in the after-life. Justin explains why: “We loved each other, me and him. We were brothers. You know you can love people who did bad sh*t. You can forgive people. Even the people who hurt you worst.”

Dylan Minnette
Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen in ’13 Reasons Why.’ (Netflix)

Clay says, “You’re talking about Hannah.” When he looks across the gym, he sees Hannah. “When you forgive someone, it’s more for you than them,” Justin says. The hurt Clay feels about Hannah is his own doing. He knows he falls for girls too hard and too fast. Clay stands up and prepares to meet Hannah in the middle like they did at the dance. Suddenly, a girl cuts in. Her name is Heidi, and she’s also going to be at Brown in the fall. She wants to meet up to go over the course catalog and the freshman handbook. Clay gives her his email and looks forward to meeting up.

Clay, Zach, Jessica, Courtney, Tyler, Ryan, Tony, Ani, Alex, and Charlie come together to bury Hannah’s tapes where Clay first listened to his. It’s time they truly rest. When Clay goes home, he holds onto Justin’s diploma. Clay tells Ghost Justin that he found his college essay when he cleaning out his locker. Justin had to write about a positive influence in his life, and he wrote about Clay. “He’s my brother,” Justin wrote. And he always will be.

The series ends with Clay riding off with Tony, just like they did after Hannah’s death. Like before, they don’t even need to say a word to each other as Tony drives. Everything that’s happened has gotten them here, and now the future is a wide-open road.