Peeling off Hannah’s story one layer after another, the last episode brings the show to a heart-aching conclusion. The thirteenth person on her tape is revealed to be the student counsellor, Mr Porter. After listening to his part of the story, Clay decides to pass on the tapes, but not before confronting the teacher and letting him know about the part he played in the death of Hannah Baker.
Whenever someone commits suicide, the people left behind have to grapple with the mystery of why they did it. What was going on in their mind? What was going on in their life? They appeared to be the part of a perfect world, what could have possibly gone wrong? All such questions emerge, everyone toys with different possibilities. The closest to the victim- their friends and family- try to move beyond the meagre act of contemplation, they try to find solid proofs to understand their state of mind. They go through their stuff, read their journals, stare at their pictures, they try to find someone who knew something, anyone who could give them a mere hint of what drove a person they loved to take their own life.
For most people, however, this quest doesn’t exist beyond the random thoughts that pop in their mind. The thoughts that grow rarer as time goes on, and eventually, they forget about it, until something reminds them of it. And it’s quite normal. If you didn’t really know the victim, you can only go so far as to understand what was happening to them when they were alive. How could you know what they were thinking before they killed themselves? Making peace with the unknown is what allows people to move on. And this is what Mr Porter told himself. Despite being a counsellor, he didn’t actually know the problems and affairs and dramas of all the students walking around the halls of the school. He wouldn’t know about the bullying and the sly comments until a student would come up to him and tell him what was going on. When Clay confronts him about his last meeting with Hannah, Mr Porter asks him how could he possibly know anything like that? How could he possibly know what Hannah was thinking?
What Happened in the Last Meeting?
Considering what actually happened in his last meeting with Hannah, Mr Porter’s response to Clay’s questions seems crass. In her final tape, Hannah reveals the thirteenth reason why she committed suicide. After Bryce raped her, she gave serious thought to how her life could have gone so wrong. How could she have ended up with no friends, no one to love her, no one she could tell what had happened to her, to the point of getting raped in a party that she wasn’t even supposed to go to? She sits down and traces her steps to the one point that kickstarted everything. She lists down twelve people who had played a defining role in her story and pours it all out in the tapes.
Why Did Hannah Commit Suicide?
A lot of horrible things happen to people. Tragedy is present in the world in the cruelest of forms, and yet, people find a way to heal. They find a way to deal with their problems and survive whatever life throws at them. But they don’t do it alone. They get help. They have someone that they can talk to, someone who can nudge them forward when they don’t know how to move at all. Hannah didn’t have that. Yes, she had her parents, and had she talked to them, had she shared the tapes with them, it would have been a completely different story. But there was a detachment there. She felt she was a disappointment to them. They already had a lot of problems and she thought that if she added hers on the pile, she would only be making things worse for them. She could have talked to Clay, but he too had been in an emotionally difficult spot after the loss of Jeff. After pouring her heart out into the tapes, she feels lighter. She feels like giving herself another chance, to see if her life is still salvageable. She gives out one final cry for help to see if someone hears it.
Hannah had been under a perpetual state of mental torture since the beginning of school and by the end of it, the torment had materialised to physical assault. A lot of bad things happened to her, and as Skye puts it, most of these things happen to all teenagers but they don’t go around killing themselves. Of course, she doesn’t know the whole story, but she does say something that a lot of people might have felt while watching the show. So what if her name was on a stupid list? So what if people said things about her? So what if a couple of pictures of her were thrown around? But all these things have been piling up on her. If there is just one thing that troubles you, you can deal with it. However, if one bad thing after another happens, you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with you. Hannah had been feeling that for a long time, and just like a lot of people, she didn’t know with whom she could talk to about it. Witnessing a rape and being raped were the final straws for her. This is the time when she thinks about killing herself. But the most heart-breaking thing is yet to come.
When she finally musters the courage of telling someone about the rape, she chooses Mr Porter. Surely, he should help her. That’s his job! She tells him about the rape, without going into any details. He sympathises with her, but again, gives the most insensitive response ever. He doesn’t realise how difficult it is for someone to talk about sexual assault (any assault for that matter) and gives her only two options. Either tell him the name of the rapist or move on with her life! There are a lot of bad things that people should try to move on from when they can’t do anything about it, but rape is not one of them.
Instead of making her give a more comfortable environment to share her story, instead of encouraging her to take the matter to her parents if not the police, he showers her with the questions that most victims have to go through. “Are you sure you were raped?” “Can you prove it?” “Did you take the first step?” He might not have used these exact words, but the undertones weren’t something you can miss. Hannah is outraged by his response and walks out of the office, but hopes that he will realise his mistake. That he will follow her, ask to start from the beginning, and promise that something will be done about it. When that doesn’t happen, she accepts her fate.
What this tells us is that when someone comes to you for help, give a serious thought about your insensitivity can do to them. Everyone wonders, why the victim didn’t ask for help before going forward with the decision of suicide? And that’s the thing. They do ask for help. Some do it actively, some do it latently. Hannah tried both ways. The only mistake she made was to choose the wrong person to go for help, but we can’t really blame her for that. Mr Porter sucks at his job. She clearly states that she had been raped, but he does not take it with an ounce of sensitivity that he should. Maybe he was uncomfortable discussing a situation like this (again, who hired him?), but he could have done something about it. If nothing, he could have at least called her parents and let them know what their daughter had shared with him.
“Let it go” is not the answer a victim needs to hear. While others had been cruel to her, even if in a very immature manner (except Bryce), they were just children. They were going through their own issues and Hannah happened to be the one they could torment to feel good about themselves. This, in no way, justifies their actions, but they didn’t know better. Mr Porter was a grown-up; he was a counsellor. So, when he tells her to move on, when he fails to understand her situation, when he shrugs it off like it is nothing, when Hannah’s final cry for help isn’t heeded, she finds it best to end all of her problems.