Before I start reviewing and getting down to the nitty gritty on 13 REASONS WHY SEASON 3, I’m going to warn you of two things. First of all, I am going to go into major spoilers, and yes, I’m going to reveal who killed Bryce Walker, so if you just want a summation, just finish this paragraph and then read the concluding paragraph. I promise not to spoil anything in those. Secondly, I will NOT be diving into my opinions and/or experiences with suicide and what I really think of this whole controversy with some individuals thinking that this show “glorifies suicide.” I will only be delving into what I think the show did to improve upon its image. That being said: 13 Reasons Why Season 3 does the rare “Daredevil Netflix” thing and is the best season of the show thus far. Those put off by the first two seasons, especially the mediocre 2nd one, will be pleased to know that by turning the show into a who-dun-it and tackling more issues in better ways that it completely redeems itself. I say that those naysayers may want to give it one more chance (you don’t have to though, I understand, truly).
And this is coming from someone who thought the first season was masterful (didn’t like the 2nd one that much). I don’t want this to be a terribly long review, so where should I start? Ah, yes. The main focus of the season. As you know, Season 1 dealt with Hannah Baker and her 13 tapes to people on why she committed suicide. Season 2 dealt with the fallout of those people receiving those tapes, and the trial of rapist Bryce Walker. Like both previous seasons, Season 3 plays with time. It starts with taking place 8 months after Season 2, but then switches back and forth between the present, after what happened with Tyler and how he almost shot up Liberty High School at Spring Fling and something that went wrong during Homecoming (revealed much later in the season) and…the murder of Bryce Walker. Yes, one of the worst villains in television history is killed off almost immediately in the first couple of episodes of the season (he’s missing almost right at the beginning).
Changing the show from being a look into why someone committed suicide and the aftermath of a rapist on trial, to a who-dun-it murder mystery, yyet filled with teen angst, issues, and hardship, was definitely the right AND ONLY direction the show could’ve taken (although I do support those that said it should’ve only been a one off miniseries, I can agree with some points of view on that). When Bryce only got 3 months probation this past season for his rape crimes, I didn’t know if I wanted to see what kind of story a Season 3 could tell. But then when I heard that Katherine Langford and co. were done with the character Hannah Baker (she is only referenced several times, there is no past footage of her really, and her mother is only in one episode, Season 2 stretched out her character wayyyyy too much) and then just several weeks ago when the trailer dropped with the tagline: “Who Killed Bryce Walker?” the show immediately caught my interest again. I thought, “oh shit, are they trying to make up for all the anger and frustration of season 2 and they are probably giving this asshole his just desserts, right? Well, yes, and maybe/maybe not.
When I say yes, I mean that yes, they completely make up for their past narrative flaws for season two, and they also make up for the controversial aspects of season 1 by being really careful and handling all the solutions to all the teen problems that are presented throughout this season. The maybe is a bit trickier. With Bryce’s death, they present a question that is asked throughout all the episodes that they resolve by thankfully not having a definitive answer: can people change for the better? When we get to all of these flashbacks of Bryce throughout the season, some of the flashbacks revert to him and his shitty attitude towards life and women, but then, in many instances, it shows that before he died, he might’ve really tried to change for the better…but that the world wouldn’t let him change. It’s a very tricky topic for the writers to put into this season, but then again, if they would’ve had a definitive answer, “did Bryce get his just desserts?”, people would’ve gotten angry at either a yes or a no. They got smart, and instead answered, maybe…but maybe not. It’s up to you.
Now, when starting the season, I immediately noticed that, during the opening credits, there is a separate piece of evidence of Bryce Walker’s murder for each of the thirteen episodes. And then boom!, holy shit, Clay Jensen isn’t the voice of reason this season! Instead, everything is told from the perspective of Amorowat Anysia Achola, or “Ani’ for short, a new student at Liberty High that quickly befriends Clay. Her and her mother also happen care for Bryce Walker’s asshole grandfather, who is sick and mostly resides in bed. So yeah, Ani kind of lives with Bryce. Now some people have had a huge problem with her, especially when you get to episode 7 and it reveals that she slept with Bryce Walker, several times, by not judging him by his past and also revealing the fact that he was actually nice to her. People also love Clay Jensen’s narration as he is the voice of reason for the series and maybe the only almost flawless character.
I’m going to go on the defensive for Ani here, for several reasons. First of all, we need a new voice. I love Clay, in fact I see a lot of myself in him, but in order for him to be a main main suspect in Bryce Walker’s murder, we can’t have him as the narrator this season (I have a feeling they are going to switch back to him for the final season anyway) as it would ruin a lot of the mystery. Also, in order to give some people reason to doubt that Bryce Walker deserved to be murdered, Ani’s point of view is absolutely essential, because without those scenes, the question is answered definitively, and definitely solving some hard questions has been the knife to the throat for the series in the past. But don’t worry, Clay is still a bigger presence than most and has the most screen time. I wasn’t liking what the writers were doing on episode 7 with him, but then episode 8 and 9, they show us their reasons for doing so, and I was completely satisfied with their choices. Clay not being the narrator I feel made him grow as a character this season as well.
The one thing that has been completely constant throughout all three seasons is the incredible acting by the entire cast. Three seasons in and every single person on the show, no matter how part big or small, have all made their character multi-layered, not just one dimensional, to the point where it feels like you might know them in real life. The two standouts though are of course Dylan Minnette, who plays Clay, and surprisingly David Druid, who plays Tyler. As you know, Tyler almost went on a school shooting spree at the end of season 2, and I was surprised how carefully the fallout of that was handled (except for one of the final scenes of the season, where everything could come back to bite him in the ass anyway). Obviously, they hinted that they were going to help him out and intervened before he started shooting up people, but the resolution on how no one found out and how they handle his behavior going forward was pretty realistic and inspirational.
That surprised me because I thought I might have to suspend some belief at the beginning of the explanation but as time went on, that route taken proved to be more than efficient storytelling. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but there is a scene between Clay and Tyler toward the latter half of the season that almost made me tear up. You’ll know which one it is, and in any other dimension, both Dylan and David would get Emmy nominations. Also, I know people don’t like Ani, but newcomer Grace Saif I thought did an adequate job in being our new narrator, and I think she’ll get the chance to maker her character more well rounded and likable next season. And I know everyone loves to hate Bryce, but Justin Prentice gives us his best performance this season, showing a side to Bryce we didn’t even know was there.
Going back to answering questions and having resolutions on many of the trials and tribulations of these teens, this season manages to provide some kind of exploration of a solution instead of definitive answers, which completely works in the shows advantage. There is great tension building with multiple extravagant payoffs that just strengthen the season and series as a whole. I could get into it one by one, but there is even a moment of looking at suicide a way the show hasn’t presented before, with two characters that manage to overcome it and try to get help to make their lives seem better. If there are a couple of episodes that are going to incite controversy this time around those would be episode 2, 7, and the finale, 13. Episode 2 because it tackles abortion, episode 7 I already mentioned that Ani sleeps with Bryce Walker, knowing full well what he had done in life to be the person he is today, and the last episode, maybe, because of how they wrap up “Who Killed Bryce Walker?”
Okay, now is that paragraph where I’m going to reveal the who, what, where, when, and why and how the situation seems to be handled right now (I have a feeling there will be lingering ramifications in Season 4 before the kids graduate), so if you’ve been reading and haven’t gotten to the reveal of who murdered Bryce Walker, and don’t want that spoiled, stop reading and go to the last paragraph. The season tries to trick you multiple times, as everyone has multiple reasons for wanting Bryce dead. In fact, Zach reveals that he beat the shit out of Bryce on the pier, and turns himself in because he doesn’t want Clay, who is innocent btw, taking the rap. Turns out though, after Zach beat the shit out of him, he left him conscious, and records show that Bryce got water in his lungs before he died, and someone comes to the scene right after Zach leaves. Who is it? Alex…with Jessica in tow. Bryce had told Jessica initially that he wanted to meet her on the pier because he had something to give her, and Alex came for back up. Bryce wanted to give her a tape, confessing all his rapes and apologizing for everything, and he wanted to tell her that she could use the tape as she saw fit.
He was claiming he was trying to get better, but as Alex tried to help him up (both of Bryce’s legs were broken by Zach), Bryce unfortunately screamed out that he was going to kill Zach for what he done. Alex took this as meaning Bryce was never going to change, and pushed him over the bridge and watched him drown, as one arm and both legs were broken so he couldn’t swim. And the resolution to all this? Alex gets away with it. The students banded together to frame Monty (the sadistic fuck character that sadomized Tyler with a broom stick last season, the reason Tyler was about to do a mass shooting) after Monty was arrested because Tyler finally went to the police about what Monty did to him. Monty is conveniently killed in prison (I was afraid they were going to show that scene, stirring up more controversy, but again, wise decision by the writers, they didn’t). Alex’s dad is a cop, and put two and two together and knew his son really did it, but accepts the Monty evidence as true. So basically it’s all resolved as a “dead bury the dead” (the title of the last episode ) kind of thing, and cased closed.
Even though there are little hints and clues where the frame up of Monty might not hold up and likely Alex gets his penance for killing Bryce in season 4, I actually really loved the resolutions. Even though it showed a little more of where Monty was coming from with his monster of an attitude in every season (hence asking the question if Monty deserved it, but not giving a concrete resolution), I think the sadistic fuck deserved what was coming him. In many ways, he was worse than Bryce and probably would’ve caused much more harm in the future than Bryce, who was possibly trying to get better. And Monty technically didn’t get killed because of the frame up, he went into prison because of what he did to Tyler, and while we weren’t told what he did to get himself killed, it infers that he probably had an attitude with one of the inmates who didn’t take shit.
Yes, what Alex did was wrong, and he’ll probably end up not getting totally away with it by the time the final season comes to pass, but that’s the whole message the season is trying to ask, “what do we ultimately deserve for our actions?” It also tries to prove that not everything can be tied up in a pretty bow, and I ultimately loved where they went with it. I do want to know what happens in the last season and will eagerly await its release probably about a year or more from now. As Clay says in one of the final scenes, they all maybe deserve some bit of happiness in the future, as the past year or so has been grim and dark as fuck. I really do hope the writers find some way, some logical way, to bring the series to a close with each of the characters, some more than others, finding their happiness. Some of them truly deserve it, I believe. Anyway, discuss with me via FB messenger or in person if you’d like to talk about it further as I just looked to see how fucking long this review was and realize I need to wrap it the fuck up.
In short, I loved 13 REASONS WHY SEASON 3 and could talk all day about why I think it is the best season of the three and how the show has redeemed itself from the awkward storytelling and decisions of season 2 and some of the controversial moments of season one. You can tell I really like a season/series if I’m reviewing it literally the weekend after it was released. It really did strike a great chord with me, and I hope the momentum that writers seemed to have possessed this year just keeps on going and we get a fantastic 4th and final season. I was ultimately surprised on how they managed to not let the story drag, it being still thirteen episodes and not a shorter season like other series have recently done. I’m guessing we will still get thirteen episodes the final season, being that 13 is in the series title for crying out loud, I just hope that these characters find that state of melancholy, they’ve been through some traumatizing shit.