One of the reasons people want a second season of 13 Reasons Why is to resolve a number of seeming cliffhangers that the season finale leaves us with. Though I've argued that these cliffhangers are resolved or deliberately open-ended, making a second season unnecessary, there is a plotline that's troubling in how murky it is, and that's Alex's fate.
At the end of episode 12, we see Alex talking to his dad about his deposition, looking physically bruised and emotionally exhausted. His dad tells him he's a good kid. It's clear from Alex's face that he doesn't agree. It's the last time we see him: In the next couple of scenes, we hear an ambulance going past the Jensen house, then we're in the ambulance, and hear that they're taking a "17-year-old with a gunshot wound to the head" to the hospital.
In the final episode, Principal Bolan rushes in to tell Mr. Porter that it was Alex, and that he shot himself in the head the night before and is in critical condition. Open and shut case, right?
But here's where the showrunners throw us for a loop: with Tyler. The bullied photographer and Hannah's erstwhile stalker had bought a gun a few episodes earlier, and in the season finale, we see a box with multiple guns and ammo, implying he was planning a school shooting. The very next scene, he's giving his deposition and expounding on the torture he's endured at the hands of his classmates. But in the same conversation, he blurts out that Hannah made tapes, which has the effect of blowing the case open, and quite possibly, unburdening Tyler's soul just a little bit. Enough to make him give up a plan? Maybe. I'd be satisfied with that thought if not for the next time we see Tyler, which is where things get, as I said, murky - and a connection between him and Alex's shooting emerges.
In his dark room, Tyler is looking at a set of photos, and then he has a memory: one of Montgomery bullying him in the halls and Alex coming to his aid. Back in present day, he takes down the photo of Alex, and you realize taking his photo down is a symbol. Even more bone-chillingly, the camera pans on the paparazzi-style photos of a certain group: Courtney, Bryce, Montgomery, Sheri, Marcus, Justin, and Clay. All of these people had a hand in Tyler's more recent pain, many of them having kept him from being a part of the weird little 13-reason secrets club. (Tellingly, he puts up a new photo of someone in this scene: Clay, who had blasted a photo of Tyler's bare butt as revenge for Hannah).
So, of course, a lot of viewers are theorizing that this could mean Tyler is connected to Alex's shooting. It's so gray, though, that we think there are three possibilities for what happened to Alex offscreen:
- Tyler shoots Alex, as part of his revenge plan. This would mean Tyler was not planning on going to the school with his arsenal and attacking the whole school, but instead would target the people on his list one by one. This makes sense, given the individual shots of people that appear to be his intended victims. Since we only see up to the day after Alex's shooting, it's possible that it hasn't been determined whether the gunshot was self-inflicted or not yet (and Principal Bolan may not have had his facts straight).
- Tyler helps Alex shoot himself. This theory supposes that Tyler was still involved in Alex's death, but instead gave him the gun with which to shoot himself. Yes, Alex's dad is a cop, implying that he'd have home access to the guns, but I could see Alex not wanting to do that and implicate his father in any way. In some ways, this makes more sense when you factor in the dark room scene, because Tyler is having a memory of Alex helping him. Perhaps this is Tyler's twisted thinking of how he has "helped" Alex.
- Alex shoots himself. This is the aforementioned open-and-shut case scenario. Of course, this is where we need to factor in the dark room scene. Tyler could have removed the photo of Alex because Alex has already eliminated himself from Tyler's list.
See? Not so clear at all, especially when you consider that word may not have spread yet about Alex, making it stranger that Tyler already knew if he wasn't involved.