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I keep to myself mostly. I don't always tell people things. I'm not good with... like, drama. I learned pretty early on not to rock the boat. To stay in my lane. I try not to be a bully. I try not to be a victim. It's a tough line to walk.
— Zach in court, during the trial, in "The Smile at the End of the Dock"

Zachary "Zach" Shan-Yung Dempsey is a main character in Netflix's 13 Reasons Why. He is portrayed by Ross Butler.

Zach is the son of Karen Dempsey and George Dempsey, the brother of May Dempsey and the ex-boyfriend of Hannah Baker. He is the subject of the seventh tape on Hannah's list of reasons of why she killed herself.

Early Life

Zach lost his dad in the summer of 2017; he implied to having felt depressed and/or suicidal after his father's death.[1]

Throughout the Series

Season 1

Zach is Justin’s good friend. Zach and Justin were walking together on Hannah’s lawn when she first saw Justin. Feeling sorry for Hannah after Marcus tried to use her, Zach tried to comfort her, but she ignored him. The next day, Zach said that he wished he had gotten matched with Hannah for the Dollar Valentine survey. Not believing him, Hannah yelled at him until he finally left. Zach's friends teased him for trying to talk to Hannah, but it is implied that his intentions were pure and he really liked Hannah.

After being humiliated by Hannah, Zach got revenge on her by stealing and throwing away all of Hannah’s notes in the Brown Paper Bag Program, notes that she desperately needed to gain comfort and confidence.

Hannah figured out that Zach was the one who took her notes, so she wrote him a note in order to confront him. In her tapes, she claimed that he read her note and threw it on the ground, however, it is revealed that Zach still keeps the note in his wallet.[2]

Season 2

Zach helped Alex by carrying his book bag and also helped him with his PT. He tried to distance himself from Bryce but still has to see him because they play baseball together. [3] He was the 6th person to testify in Hannah's trial. He revealed that during the summer before she committed suicide they'd spent a lot of time together. He told the court that he and Hannah had a summer romance and had taken each other's virginities, but ended it after Zach was too scared to bring their relationship public which made Hannah believe he was ashamed or embarrassed of their relationship.[4]

We learn that he is the one who had been giving Clay the Polaroids. Clay asked him why he didn't just come and talk to him about what was going on in the Clubhouse. Zach told him that it's because he's a coward.[5]

After the lawsuit against the school was dismissed and Bryce Walker was granted probation rather than a jail sentence, Zach was in attendance of Hannah Baker’s funeral as well as her wake. He later attended the prom with Clay, Justin, Alex, Jessica, Tony, Ryan, Courtney, as they all join in a group slow dance to the song Hannah and Clay danced to together the previous year at junior prom as a way to quietly mourn for their friend.

Season 3

During the homecoming game, Zach's knee is busted by Bryce Walker, meaning that he can never play football again and ruining Zach's dreams. As a result, he brutally beats Bryce before his murder, but doesn't kill him.[6]

He is later brought in by Ani Achola as part of the group protecting Clay Jensen and Alex Standall the latter of whom had killed Bryce shortly after Zach's beating of him and explains to Alex what they did to protect him. At Tyler Down's photo exhibit, Zach apologizes for any pain and bullying he caused him over the years.[7]

Season 4

A month after the events of season 3, Clay, Jessica, Ani, Zach, Alex, Tyler, Tony, and Charlie gathered for the first time since Bryce's murder case to welcome Justin home from rehab. Zach’s now been drinking heavily, showing up to the party drunk. After the party, the mood shifted as they discussed the guns upon Tyler’s leave. Doubt spread over the group, the question being, could they trust Tyler?

At Future Fair, Liberty students gathered to check out the club and institution representatives. Zach approached Mr. Davis about a chance to join the military after high school. He recommended that he join the service academies, as it's a waste to skip education and enlist straight after high school.

As Alex grew close to Zach Dempsey, following his suicide attempt and rehabilitation, trying to understand why his best friend had begun acting so reckless and weird lately, Alex agreed to walk on the ledge of building rooftops with him. When Alex almost fell from the roof, Zach caught him and while laughing, Alex took the chance and tried to kiss him. Zach immediately rejected Alex, explaining he was not into guys. After a little bit of awkwardness, Zach swore to Alex that he would always stay by his side, and their friendship grew even stronger.[8]

Zach's Mistake (Reason #7)

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Zach is Hannah's seventh reason for why she committed suicide.

After being humiliated by Marcus on their Valentine's Date, Zach reached out to Hannah and tried to cheer her up. Hannah was actually appreciative of this. However, when Zach tried reaching out to her again at lunch and revealed that he wanted to be her Valentine's date, he unintentionally insulted Hannah and as such she insulted and rejected him in front of his friends. Out of revenge, Zach began stealing the positive notes from Hannah's compliment bag in their English class, notes she enjoyed getting. Hannah discovered it was Zach that was the thief and wrote him a note, however after reading the note he did not apologize and Hannah believed he just threw out the note (though he actually kept it). Hannah wrote another note which was read in front of the whole class though Zach still did nothing to help Hannah and let Skye take the fall for apparently writing the note.


Zach, you're just an entitled idiot who does cruel, stupid things even though you probably have a decent heart.
— Alex describing Zach[src]

Zach is shown to be a kind-hearted person and a good friend to those around him though he is also extremely cruel and uncaring to a degree. Like the other jocks at Liberty High he is somewhat shown to be a bully and disrespectful towards girls as he himself admits during his deposition that he said insulting things about Hannah. He is physically aggressive to as he threatened Tyler he would break his arm if he didn't leave him and the others on the tapes alone at lunch and is shown to have a temper as seen after Hannah rejected him and his help. Zach is also inconsiderate of how his actions effect others. When he began bullying/slut-shaming Hannah he may have see it as all fun and games, but he did not take into consideration how Hannah may have felt due to the betrayal she suffered from Justin Foley, Jessica Davis, or Alex Standall.

In spite of the other jocks, Zach appears to shown concern for the feelings of others as he tried to cheer Hannah up after Marcus humiliated her on their valentine's date though he himself insulted her while trying to tell her she was the valentine he himself hoped for and as result led him to cruelly torturing Hannah by stealing the positive notes that she strongly desired getting which ultimately broke her spirit. Zach is shown to be selfish like a majority of the others on Hannah's list and is willing to keep the tapes a secret to protect himself and even claims that Hannah was too much to deal with and that she screwed up her own life and even though he was well aware that Hannah was calling out for help after stealing her notes for weeks, he did nothing to help her. He is shown to be in agreement with the plans to keep Clay from ratting them all out to and participated in intimidating him along with Alex and Justin. However he is also one of the few people who is civil to Clay as after the latter took revenge against him after hearing his tape, he only forgave him and admitted the truth.

In spite of this Zach is not completely heartless and Alex even once says to him that he is simply an entitled idiot who does cruel stupid things while on the inside has a decent heart. He even kept the note that Hannah personally wrote to him (despite her belief that he threw it out) and during his deposition admits that Hannah was indeed bullied at school and that he took part in it as well, possibly showing he is willing to admit the truth.

Physical Appearance

Zach is a tall and athletic Asian-American with short-cut dark hair and dark eyes. He is typically seen in sporty wear like varsity jackets, jeans, sneakers, and snapbacks. He is also often found in his basketball uniform.


Hannah Baker

Hannah is Zach's ex-girlfriend.


Hannah and Zach kissing in "The Smile at the End of the Dock"

Zach first interacted with Hannah when he tried to cheer her up after Marcus used and attempted to assault her, but Hannah ignored him. The next day, he tells her that he wished they had been on each other Dollar Valentine's list and says that he likes her for so much more than what other guys like her for. Hannah doesn't believe him and gets offended, yelling at him to leave her alone. Zach tells her that he was just trying to be nice and tells her "fuck you". He starts to steal notes with compliments that Hannah gets, and Hannah writes him a letter about how lonely she felt, which he did nothing with.

The next summer, Zach goes to the movie theater a lot just to see Hannah, and also apologizes to her. Later, he invites Hannah to watch a movie with him at her house. Hannah is there for Zach after his Dad passes away, and they start hanging out more. They lose their virginities to each other, start dating and have sex all summer. They broke up after Zach didn't want anyone to know about their relationship, making Hannah think that he was ashamed of her.

Bryce Walker

Bryce is Zach's ex-best friend and enemy.


Bryce and Zach at the baseball field in "The First Polaroid"

Zach and Bryce seem to have been friends for years. Zach and Bryce used to be close; Zach was often seen around him and Bryce considered Zach his brother and best friend. Zach never defends Bryce for his actions, but keeps hanging out with him, even at the beginning of the second season. Bryce doubts Zach's loyalty to him when he starts to hang out with Alex, but Zach assures him that he and Alex aren't like that and that he got Bryce's back. They grow further apart; their friendship seems to end when they argue during a baseball game where Zach says that he "can't do it anymore" and walks off the field.

During the homecoming game incident, Bryce purposefully tackled Zach's leg, breaking his knee to the point that he could never play football again and effectively ruining Zach's life and ending his career. Zach brutally beat Bryce in revenge, leaving Bryce with serious injuries including a badly broken leg and possibly a broken arm. After Bryce was found dead, Zach initially tried to cover up his own involvement, believing he was the killer. After Clay was arrested, however, Zach felt guilty, though mainly about Clay going to prison rather than Bryce being dead, and turned himself in, but was released after it was revealed that Bryce drowned, and was not beaten to death. Zach eventually helped cover up the true circumstances of Bryce's death, showing he didn't have respect for him anymore.

Alex Standall

Alex is Zach's friend.


Zach helping Alex practice dancing in "Bye"

Zach and Alex were friends in the first season, mainly because they were in the same friend group. They become very close in the second season. Zach gives Alex rides to and from school, helps him with PT and with a lot of other small things. At first, Alex still doubts their friendship as he still hangs out with Bryce and doesn't want to tell his Mother that he is with Alex. At one point, Alex gets aggressive towards Zach in the locker room. Zach tries to calm him down, and Alex gets a boner. After learning that Alex killed Bryce, Zach helped to protect him and suggested that they should be the kind of friends who tell each other everything.

Justin Foley

Justin is Zach's friend.


Justin and Zach in "Tape 4, Side A"

Zach and Justin are often seen together and are good friends. Their relationship is a little tense at times at the end of the first season and beginning of the second season, as they disagree about how to deal with Clay and Zach doesn't show any excitement about Justin being back and is even a little rude to him. However, Zach still calls Justin his best friend and attacks Bryce when he sees him fighting with Justin. After Justin returns from juvenile detention, Zach's very excited to see him again and they hang out at the dance. In the third season, Justin persuades Zach to lie about what happened at Spring Fling when they are questioned by the police. Later, Zach persuades Justin to return to the football team, and even helps him pass a drug test despite knowing he is still using. During the fight at Homecoming, Justin helps get Zach off the field after Bryce breaks his leg.

Clay Jensen

Clay is Zach's friend.


Zach trying to give Clay Hannah's latter in "Tape 4, Side A"

In the first season, Clay dislikes Zach because of his tape; he has daydreams of him beating up Zach during a basketball game and he carves the side of Zach's car. Zach, on his side, helps with threatening Clay to keep quiet. However, he wanted his Mother to forget about Clay carving his car and tried to explain himself to Clay about his tape.

In the second season, Zach gives Clay the Polaroids of girls getting sexually harassed in the Clubhouse because, according to Zach, he is a "coward" and Clay's not.

In the third season, Zach helps cover for Clay after he gets Tyler away from Spring Fling, though he refuses to participate in Tyler's recovery despite Clay asking him to. He is also surprised when Clay agreed with him about Justin rejoining the football team, and afterward, teased him by throwing grapes at him alongside Justin. Throughout the season Zach refused to believe Clay was guilty of murder despite others suggesting it (though he had his own reasons for this). He even lied about why he didn't tell the truth about Bryce breaking his leg at Homecoming. Eventually, after Clay was arrested for Bryce's murder, Zach felt guilty, and turned himself in, though Clay was not released due to this.

Karen Dempsey

Karen is Zach's Mother.


Zach and his Mom in "Two Girls Kissing"

Zach and Karen aren't very close. Karen doesn't show or say how she feels after her husband's death, to Zach's frustration. She also doesn't seem to care about what Zach wants or about how he feels about things, but about what she wants for him. Karen usually seems to think her son is better than any other kid.

May Dempsey


Zach and May at a baseball event in "The Little Girl"

May is Zach's little sister.

Zach and May appear to be close. Zach is protective of her, as he became violent towards Tyler when he found out someone took pictures of May.


Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4


Just 'cause Hannah fucked up her life doesn't mean she has to fuck up ours.
— Zach to Alex about Hannah and The Tapes[src]
Zach: "I know you think every guy likes you because you've got this great ass, but I like you for so much more than that."
Hannah: "Oh, my God. You're such an idiot."
Zach: "What? What'd I say?"
Hannah: "The fact that you don't even know."
Zach: "I meant it as a compliment."
Hannah: "Zach, walk away."
Zach: "Come on, I know why you're pissed at Marcus..."
Hannah: "Zach, go."
Zach: "If you just gave me a chance..."
Hannah: "Leave me alone!"
―  Zach tries to talk to Hannah[src]
Zach: "I freaked, okay? That letter. That sh*t was heavy, and… I didn’t know what to do."
Clay: "So you threw it away."
Zach: "No. No, I didn’t. Hannah lied about that. Maybe that’s what she saw, I don’t know. I freaked out. But I never threw it away. I’m sorry, Clay. I’ll always be sorry."
―  Zach after he and his Mom come over to tell Clay's Mom about Clay keying his car.[src]
One thing. If one thing had gone differently somewhere along the line maybe none of this would have happened.
— Zach when talking about life after Hannah's suicide and the tapes[src]
Zach: "I freaked, okay? That letter. That shit was heavy, and… I didn’t know what to do."
Clay: "So you threw it away."
Zach: "No. No, I didn’t. Hannah lied about that. Maybe that’s what she saw, I don’t know. I freaked out. But I never threw it away. I’m sorry, Clay. I’ll always be sorry."
―  Zach about the letter Hannah gave him[src]
Zach: "This shit that happens to you… I think some of it you bring on yourself."
Hannah: "Is that what you think? Thanks for the insight, genius."
Zach: "I was… I was trying to be nice."
Hannah: "Well, you failed."
Zach: "Well, fuck you."
―  Zach and Hannah after Hannah told Zach to leave her alone[src]
Zach: "This shit that happens to you… I think some of it you bring on yourself."
Hannah: "Is that what you think? Thanks for the insight, genius."
Zach: "I was… I was trying to be nice."
Hannah: "Well, you failed."
Zach: "Well, fuck you."
―  Zach talking to Hannah in the lunch hall[src]

Alex: I meant to ask you guys about my note.
Zach: What note?
Alex: My suicide note. [takes it out]
Zach: Jesus, put that away!
Alex: It's not radioactive.
No, I know, it's just... we're not allowed to talk about suicide. Or you, or Hannah.
Jessica: Says who?
Zach: Says the school. They made a rule, the day after you... after that day. And if you talk about it on campus, you get suspended.
Alex: That's so fucked up.
Zach: Yeah.
— Zach, Alex and Jess on the new suicide-suspension rule at Liberty High.[src]
I don't even know how you feel about Dad dying. I don't know how you feel about anything. What if I felt like Hannah did? Because I have, Mom. I actually have.
— Zach to his mother.[src]
You fool yourself into thinking that by keeping things hidden, it makes it easier for you to get by. Even though you know you'd feel a lot better if you just came clean. Hannah had nothing to be ashamed of. I made her feel like she did. Because I don't tell people things, like I said. Hannah didn't tell me how she felt either. But now... I guess I know. And I'll be ashamed for the rest of my life. And shame burns.
— Zach during his testimony[src]
Sometimes it's obvious and sometimes it's not. Sometimes a kid gets roughed up. A lot of the times, though, it's just stuff that people say. Especially athletes.
— Zach about the bullying at school[src]
Karen Dempsey: "Why would you keep this from me?"
Zach: "'Cause that's how we do things, isn't it?"
Karen: "What does that mean?"
Zach: "I don't even know how you feel about Dad dying. I don't know how you feel about anything. What if I felt like Hannah did? Because I have, Mom. I actually have. What would you do?"
Karen: "Zachary Shan-Yung Dempsey, that is enough. Don't say such things."
Zach: "Why not?"
Karen: "This trial... That girl has put thoughts in your head. You do not feel that way. You're fine."
Zach: "Yeah, exactly. I'm fine."
―  Zach and his Mom on Zach's mental health and his Mom finding out about his secret relationship with Hannah after he testified[src]


  • Zach seems to be the only person out of the group that seems to actually consider Hannah's feelings and tries to think twice before doing something stupid. Although this is proved controversial because Zach steals things out of Hannah's bag of what is supposed to be people saying nice things to her and takes them so that she doesn't find them, this is only after being verbally rejected by Hannah.
  • Zach kept the letter Hannah put in her own bag to see if he was doing what she thought he was, although Hannah stated on the tapes that he threw the letter away.
  • Zach is currently the only person on Hannah's list to actually prove that she lied about something on her tapes, in this case she accused him of throwing out the personal note she wrote to him after discovering he was stealing her positive notes out of revenge though in reality he kept it and still has it in his wallet.
  • Zach's mother mentions that he wants to become a marine biologist.
    • Zach's shown multiple times to find biology important, as he didn't want miss his biology classes and didn't want to drink before his biology test.
  • Zach and Hannah lost their virginities to each other the summer before she committed suicide.
  • Zach was the one sending Clay the incriminating Polaroids, two of Bryce raping an unconscious Chlöe, and multiples of other jocks sexually assaulting girls. Zach's explanation for doing this was because he is a coward but Clay isn't. This means that Clay has the ability to expose Bryce and the jocks and get justice for the girls who have been assaulted.
  • In The Smile at the End of the Dock, Zach reveals to his mother that, after his father's death, he felt the same way Hannah did.
  • According to a video posted on 13 Reasons Why's Instagram account his iPhone password is 4278.
  • The name of his official Instagram account is 'dempzee'.


See also: Category:Images of Zach Dempsey

"Tape 1, Side B"

"Tape 2, Side A"

"Tape 2, Side B"

"Tape 3, Side A"

"Tape 3, Side B"

"Tape 4, Side A"

"Tape 4, Side B"

"Tape 5, Side A"

"Tape 6, Side A"

"Tape 6, Side B"

"Tape 7, Side A"

"The First Polaroid"

"Two Girls Kissing"

"The Drunk Slut"

"The Second Polaroid"

"The Chalk Machine"

"The Smile at the End of the Dock"

"The Third Polaroid"

"The Little Girl"

"The Missing Page"

"Smile, Bitches"

"Bryce and Chloe"

"The Box of Polaroids"


"Winter Break"



  1. Bicknell, Julia (writer) & Hittman, Eliza (director) (May 18, 2018). "The Smile at the End of the Dock". 13 Reasons Why. Season 2. Episode 6.
  2. Benjamin, Elizabeth (writer) & Araki, Gregg (director) (March 31, 2017). "Tape 4, Side A". 13 Reasons Why. Season 1. Episode 7. Netflix.
  3. Yorkey, Brian (writer) & Araki, Gregg (director) (May 18, 2018). "The First Polaroid". 13 Reasons Why. Season 2. Episode 1.
  4. Bicknell, Julia (writer) & Hittman, Eliza (director) (May 18, 2018). "The Smile at the End of the Dock". 13 Reasons Why. Season 2. Episode 6.
  5. Moore, Kirk A. (writer) & Candler, Kat (director). (May 18, 2018). "Smile, Bitches". 13 Reasons Why. Season 2. Episode 10.
  6. MacDonald, Allen, Malone, M.K., Higgins, Thomas, Tyler, Hayley, Smith, Trevor Marti (writers) & Dowling, Kevin (director). (August 23, 2019). "And Then the Hurricane Hit". 13 Reasons Why. Season 3. Episode 12.
  7. Yorkey, Brian (writer) & Kretchmer, John T. (director). (August 23, 2019). "Let the Dead Bury the Dead". 13 Reasons Why. Season 3. Episode 13.
  8. Yorkey, Brian (writer) & Mulcahy, Russell (director). (June 5, 2020). "Winter Break". 13 Reasons Why. Season 4. Episode 1.
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