Hannah and Clay in ’13 Reasons Why’ will break your heart

Image: Beth Dubber/Netflix

From the beginning, 13 Reasons Why sets you up to want Clay and Hannah together. We know the outcome from episode 1; Hannah Baker killed herself, and there will be no reversing that, no matter what other consequences ripple through those she left behind.

Beyond watching it alone in a safe environment, little can prepare for the devastating episode (spoiler alert!) in which Clay listens to his tape and relives a pivotal part of his relationship with Hannah.

Episode 11 is the third in a row about events that transpire around Jessica Davis’s house party. The other two stories are horrifying and criminal, but this one is heartbreaking in an entirely different way. We already know that Hannah and Clay talked and hung out at the party, and the episode confirms that they spent the early hours together, chatting and flirting, and eventually kissing in Jessica’s room.

“Clay Helmet?” Hannah says in the tapes she left behind, Katherine Langford’s voice wavering slightly as she invokes the intimate nickname. “Your name does not belong on this list…You’re good and kind and decent and I didn’t deserve to be with someone like you, I never would.”

Image: Beth Dubber/Netflix

Even with their obvious chemistry, Hannah and Clay are incredibly nervous to spend time alone together outside of work. They exchange light banter, but tentatively, furtively. There’s more than one missed opportunity to kiss before it actually happens, but as things start to point toward having sex, Hannah puts a stop to it.

In that moment, she sees all the boys who have betrayed her in Clay, who she genuinely likes. She freaks out and orders him to leave, and he does, not getting an explanation until after she’s long gone.

Hearing about it on the tapes, Clay sees himself as the arbiter of all the horrible events that follow on that night, and not staying with Hannah eats him up from the inside. Dylan Minnette gives a shattering performance as the guilt, regret, and pain overwhelm Clay, but then the show runners take it a step further, showing us the conversation Clay and Hannah could have had.

“I was an asshole, and I’m sorry,” Clay tells Hannah, in what looks like a flashback but is just his imagination. “I can never make it right, I can never say all this to you, but I love you, and I will never hurt you. I’m not going, not now, not ever.”

And then, Hypothetical Hannah asks him: “Why didn’t you say this to me when I was alive?” She’s crying, he’s crying and crying, it seems, is all there is to do, as he hugs her in this reality that never was or will be.

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