Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why took viewers to plenty of bleak places, but one uplifting highlight was the reveal of Hannah's relationship with Zach. Prior to Season 2, we still may've felt heartbroken about Clay never getting his chance at love with Hannah, but it turns out that Hannah had her own epic love story before her death. I definitely didn't anticipate her secret bond with Zach, but Hannah and Zach's relationship on 13 Reasons Why was a shock to actor Ross Butler as well. This post contains spoilers for 13 Reasons Why Season 2.
Butler, playing Zach on 13 Reasons Why, recently spoke to Vulture about the couple's backstory and how, despite imagining a strong connection between them, he found their intimate relationship to be a huge surprise:
I didn’t know [the full backstory] in season one either. But I had built something along those lines. I had created this relationship between Hannah and Zach as being really strong. It was really ambiguous, but I knew I wanted something very loving about it. I don’t know if it was love or not, but I definitely wanted something there.
In Season 2, Zach doesn't spill about him dating Hannah until it's his turn to testify in the Bakers' court case. Episode 6 follows his description of their sweet summer fling and how they kept the relationship a secret, resulting in a delightfully light, charming segment that briefly took the series in a far calmer direction than what we've previously seen.
According to Butler, the scene in which Hannah and Zach both lose their virginity to each other was originally more comical, but the script was soon altered to highlight the moment's happiness. Seeing as we've all cringed through one too many awkward teen sex scenes on TV, I agree with Butler's opinion that the tonal shift was much welcomed. He told Vulture:
[The scene] was more comedic than the original draft — at one point, Zach started to go under the covers and Hannah’s like, 'Well, what are you gonna do down there?' And Zach pops back out like, 'Uh, I don’t know.' It was really funny, but we decided that it would be nice to play it more straight. Not really playing into the awkwardness of it, but more into the happiness of it. They’re so happy. Katherine [Langford, who plays Hannah] and I have bonded a lot over the past couple of years, so in real life, we get each other’s sense of humor and click really well. When we actually had to do it, I personally didn’t have any awkwardness at all. It was comfortable and sweet.
I'm not crying, you're crying.
As Butler explains, Zach and Hannah's relationship soon reaches a deeper, serious level that many high school couples fail to emulate. Zach's journey in Episode 6 explains how the pressure to stay aligned with his athlete buddies ultimately ruins his relationship with Hannah and causes guilt for Zach after her death. Butler says about Zach's Season 2 progression:
I actually saw Zach in a little bit of a darker light after the first season because, in this, he had another shot to save her. It was probably her best shot at being saved. He strikes out twice with her and I would say that he’s a coward for not helping the first time during this relationship, then also not helping sooner after she took her own life. I think he’s constantly battling with trying to defy these social cliques and pressures that are trying to define him. Yes, he finally does in the end. But how many times did he have to fail?
The internet may now be shipping Zach and Alex together after certain Season 2 scenes, but Butler's interpretation of the Zannah relationship has officially given the couple a special place in my heart. As with any story on 13 Reasons Why, they faced a tragic ending, but finally knowing that Hannah experienced some genuine happiness is definitely satisfying.
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.