13 Reasons Why season four premiere spoilers.
While he's talking specifically about new character dynamics and how they propel the story, news that season four tries to mix things up can only be a good thing. Listing all the ways this show has courted controversy would take longer than it took Clay to listen through all those tapes back in season one.
Most of these issues with the show can be traced back to Hannah's death, and while Netflix have since deleted that scene in particular, 13 Reasons Why has been plagued with problems since. Season three took a particularly dangerous route with what many perceived to be a redemption story for Bryce, the rapist who terrorised multiple characters on the show.
Season four will likely have issues of its own too, especially since fans have been questioning why it even exists in the first place. However, upon watching the first episode, there's at least one thing that 13 Reasons Why does get right, at least in the premiere, and it's particularly rewarding for longtime fans too.
Back in season two, fans started to ship Zach Dempsey and Alex Standall, even though neither of them had ever declared romantic or sexual feelings for each other on screen.
This all started when Zach began helping Alex recover following his suicide attempt at the end of season one. Everywhere Alex went, Zach would follow, holding his bag, helping out with physical therapy in the pool... Zach even taught Alex how to dance ready for prom, which resulted in one particularly adorable scene followed by a whole lot of shipping.
The bromance was initiated at first because of Zach's guilt over what happened to Alex, but their connection soon became more genuine. All of the lovely things Zach does for Alex are drenched in queer subtext, at least for queer viewers watching at home, and this all came to a head when Alex got angry with Zach and then became physically aroused.
In fact, this was the first time Alex had an erection since the incident. While nothing came of that in the moment — aside from some major awkwardness — it seems now this all foreshadowed a major development which takes place in the season four premiere.
Zach and Alex are actually boyfriends in 13 reasons why and no one can convince me otherwise pic.twitter.com/2CDQx2rC1Y— kait (@sadkxit) May 20, 2018
Acting once again as Alex's mentor, Zach takes him up to a rooftop towards the end of the first episode. Together, the pair walk along the edge, looking down at the huge fall below. in what's supposed to be a teaching moment of sorts.
Zach even starts by saying, "You have to let go of the shit you can't control." As you might expect though, things don't go according to plan and Alex slips. Thankfully, Zach catches him with those big strong arms before Alex can fall.
Sounds like fan fiction, right? This could very well be an attempt to appease viewers who have shipped the couple since season two, especially when it comes to what happens next...
Wrapped up in Zach's arms, Alex decides to take a chance and kiss his friend on the lips. Unfortunately for him and fans shipping Alech (?) worldwide, Zach rejects his advances, and looks pretty surprised about the whole thing too.
"Shit, wow. No seriously man, look. I don't... I mean, I'm not into guys. Otherwise I would..."
While the writers could have introduced this dynamic more gradually, what happens after that kiss actually redeems the moment and the premiere as a whole.
Alex is understandably down about the whole thing, and at this point, viewers might expect Zach to be grossed out by the whole thing – and perhaps even try to cut Alex out of his life completely.
After all, it's a sad trope, but a prevalent one, particularly in teen shows of this nature. Thankfully, Zach doesn't do any of that. Instead, he treats Alex with kindness and respect, reminding his friend that he still cares and that nothing would ever change that.
"Listen man. I, um, you know that I care about you right? No matter what. Always. You hear me?"
When Alex tries to leave out of embarrassment, Zach stops him and says, "No, we're hanging out tonight. Seriously."
Instead of resorting to the same homophobic traits we're so used to seeing in these kind of situations, Zach proves himself to be a true friend while also setting a strong example of male kindness and sensitivity.
This scene proves that 13 Reasons Why does get it right on occasion, just like in season three when Clay asked Tyler for permission before hugging him. This moment happened right after Tyler finally opened up about his sexual assault, once again emphasising characteristics that are all too often sidelined on this show in favour of male toxicity.
Unfortunately, Zach's kind acceptance of Alex's developing sexuality doesn't quite excuse the troubled queer representation which took hold in season three. There, Monty's malicious behaviour was suddenly blamed on his newly-discovered homosexuality, which he resented and then punished others for.
Not only was he then killed off at the end of the season in yet another unfortunate example of 'Bury Your Gays', but the boy Monty beat up and kissed then starts plotting revenge on the kids who got him locked up in the first place. By doing this, 13 Reasons Why's final season is now inescapably grounded in a queer love twisted by trauma and abuse.
Sure, the first episode of season four does include a rare example of male kindness and queer acceptance. Unfortunately, 13 Reasons Why hasn't diverged enough from the mistakes of the past to right all the other wrongs it still perpetuates. And now the show has come to an end, it's probably best to just bury this story for good, instead of yet another gay character.
13 Reasons Why season 1-4 are now available to watch on Netflix.
We would encourage anyone who identifies with the topics raised in this article to reach out. Organisations who can offer support include Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org), and Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 or visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
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