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For Everyone Who Fell in Love With Zach Dempsey in ’13 Reasons Why’

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By now you’ve hopefully finished watching season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, and if you haven’t please refer to the image below where I will be playing the role of Clay and you will be playing the role of Hannah. 

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While the season was full of highs and lows, there is one high that we need to talk about…the evolution of Zach Freaking Dempsey (Ross Butler).

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Before we dive into it though, let’s do a quick season 1 recap. We first met Zach in the pilot when he shows up to the party with Justin. He spends a good deal of time orbiting around in Bryce and Justin’s popular (and jerkish) social circle, but he comes back around later in the season after Marcus’ terrible Dollar Valentine date with Hannah where he adorably tries to cheer her up. 

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While often succumbing to peer pressure and wanting to keep the tapes a secret, we eventually came to find out that Zach was deeper than we all thought, admitting to Hannah that he wished he had gotten her on his Dollar Valentine survey and that he liked her. She didn’t believe his intentions though and yelled at him in front of everyone, which resulted in his friends teasing him for talking to her in the first place. Humiliated, Zach gets really petty and takes all of Hannah’s notes from the Brown Paper Bag Program, which could have really helped her with everything going on. 

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Angry, Hannah writes Zach a note that she claims on his tape he threw on the ground, although we later found out that he kept that note and always had it in his wallet. 

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So, heading into season 2 I don’t think anyone expected Zach’s gratifying and complex character arc to be as important as it was, as well as Ross Butler’s nuanced and likable performance. Let’s dig in!

First, even though his feelings were hinted at in season 1, we learned that Zach and Hannah eventually embarked on a truly epic summer romance before junior year. 

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I will be the first to admit here – the timeline is confusing. Essentially their summer romance occurred after the incident with the note. Hannah chooses to not mention their relationship at all on Zach’s tape in season 1.

It all started when Zach went to see a movie with some buddies and notices Hannah working there (Clay is out of town the whole summer). Zach then starts coming to more and more movies to see her until the day he finally apologizes for everything he did in season 1.

Beth Dubber/Netflix

The two then had a full-on swoon-worthy relationship, which resulted in them both losing their virginities to each other. The summer they were together was also when Zach’s dad passed away and he leaned on Hannah to get through it.

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Even though their fling ended when Zach asked to keep things on the down low when school started back up, during his testimony, he was adamant that everyone knew their relationship was way more than physical and that they truly cared for one another. Hannah’s decision to leave it off his tape also alluded to this as well.

Honestly, their romance was probably the best surprise to come out of season 2. I love Clay and Hannah’s story, but there is something so special about the summer she spent with Zach. 

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Zach’s redemption arc didn’t stop at just Hannah though. His friendship with a recovering Alex was another highlight. Despite, Alex constantly lashing out, Zach was always supportive and  often helped him with his physical therapy. 

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Also we have to mention the scene where he helped him practice dancing without his cane. It was a wonderful bromance to watch and showed a much more tender side to Zach’s character, especially since he never acted that way when hanging out with Bryce and Justin. 

I mean, come on…he’s just too presh.

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Romances and bromances aside, there was an even bigger story brewing for Zach throughout the season – his loyalty to Bryce. Zach’s greatest struggle was finding the courage to break away from Bryce’s toxic friendship, which was only made more difficult by the two both being on the baseball team and pressures from his mom. He knew that Bryce was a bad guy and tried to distance himself yet he still walked a fine line throughout the season from an outsider’s perspective.

Beth Dubber/Netflix

Eventually, though we learned that he had been the one giving Clay the polaroids of Bryce so that Clay could bring them all down. It was a moving moment as he admitted that he was a coward and could have done more, but at least he finally picked a side knowing that there would be  consequences from Bryce. 

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Zach Dempsey was truly a shining star throughout the season and quickly became a key player in the 13 Reasons Why universe and in the hearts of fans. To say that people are now obsessed with Zach Dempsey would be an understatement. 

Did you fall onto the Zach Dempsey train in season 2? Thank goodness there’s going to be a season 3, right?!

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Casey is a TV junkie currently living in Raleigh, NC. She studied Writing & Media Communication at James Madison University (go dukes!) and currently works in the pharmaceutical field. Constantly wanting to talk about television and learn more about her favorite shows led her to discovering the joy of recaps. From there, she combined her love of TV and writing to become a recapper for FanFest.