Spoilers for the ending of 13 Reason’s Why Season 4 are discussed below.
After four seasons, Netflix’s controversial teen drama 13 Reasons Why came to an end. The series’ final season bowed on the streamer this past Friday (June 5), and among the many things stirring up a conversation around 13 Reasons Why is that significant death. Star Dylan Minnette is now opening up about how he felt about it.
In 13 Reasons Why’s series finale, Justin Foley tragically dies from AIDS complications. Season 4’s death marked another searing loss for Clay, who had bonded with his adopted brother despite earlier events, namely Justin starting the domino effect that resulted in Hannah’s suicide. Reflecting on the loss of Justin, Dylan Minnette told EW:
I remember all season Brandon and I were specifically hoping that it would be Justin, and we were pushing for it and we would plead to Brian making the case of why we feel like it should be him, because he and I both felt that it would have the biggest emotional impact on the series given Justin's entire arc. Of course it's devastating and tragic and we know that people would love to see him survive, but I think that's what makes it all the more powerful. Obviously it's the most depressing move the show could make, but I feel like it's also in line with the show to make that choice in the last episode, to make the most devastating choice. It feels really poetic because the biggest arc of a relationship that Clay has had in the show is with Justin.
Dylan Minnette acknowledges the depressing nature of Justin’s death in Season 4. However, 13 Reasons Why is notorious for its dark and unrelenting twists, so Justin’s passing is not entirely without precedent. Minnette also cites the arc between Clay and Justin as acting as a through-line for the series.
Hannah, whose titular reasons for committing suicide, dominated the first season, did not return for the series’ third outing, but Justin was a major character throughout the show, including Season 4. For Dylan Minnette, it made total sense for the series to track back to that with the full circle nature of Justin’s death. As Minnette said:
The first conversation you see Clay have with anyone in the very first episode is with Justin, and it's actually Clay's first lines of the show. They're clearly enemies in Season 1, and then it goes all the way to them loving each other more than anyone and becoming brothers and holding his hand on his deathbed. It's also the last conversation between Clay and any of the students — it's in Clay's head, but the college essay scene. It feels like the perfect bookend because the finale sort of feels like the story of Justin and the first episode did because he was the first tape. I feel like it was a strong choice to make and as devastating as it is, I am so happy that Brian ended up making the decision to do it because it just felt right. If we were going to do it to anyone, I feel like we needed to go there and put the bookend on it.
It is undoubtedly not lost on 13 Reasons Why’s viewers that Justin started the fall of dominos that ultimately led to Hannah’s death, which was the tragedy that began the series and impacted its many subsequent events, including those tapes. Season 4’s conclusion meant that the person who started Hannah towards her death also died.
Thus, Hannah’s death in 13 Reasons Why’s premiere and Justin’s death in the finale also act as bookends to one another. For Dylan Minnette, the main bookends lie in Clay’s relationship with Justin, and it turns out Minette was not the only one on board with Justin dying in the abbreviated final season. Brandon Flynn was, too!
From enemies to brothers -- there is no greater journey for these two characters. Justin had struggled with his heroin addiction throughout the series’ run, but despite the devastating nature of his ultimate death and many fans hoping it would not come to pass, Dylan Minnette stands behind it and sees it as a “strong choice.”
Whether Justin would get to the other side of his addiction was one of the seven questions we had heading into Season 4. Sadly, his death puts a tragic end to that query. Do you think that 13 Reasons Why made the right call by killing off Justin in Season 4? Vote in the poll below and let your feelings be known.