“13 Reasons Why is a fictional series that tackles tough, real-world issues, taking a look at sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide, and more,” says Justin Prentice in the opening PSA of the third season of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. Prentice plays serial rapist and primary antagonist Bryce Walker.
Following several reported concerns from viewers, parents and mental health experts, Netflix added this PSA to the series last year. The show does tackle real problems that many teens face today, but the series was met with criticism by people who felt it glorified suicide or could be triggering for those dealing with suicidal tendencies or depression.
Season one of 13 Reasons Whywas simply that, the thirteen reasons why Hannah Bake chose to kill herself. She recorded a series of cassette tapes that was then passed to the people she considered responsible for her death. Her friends who turned their back on her, her rapist and even the school counselor who did so little to help her.
The second and third season has incorporated many more difficult issues, including active shooter drills and drug addiction. Clay Jensen and his friends distrust the school and local authorities, and take it into their own hands to find evidence and protect one another. Season two deals with the trial of Bryce Walker, where he ultimately walks off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. He faces no criminal charges for the damage he has done.
In season three, someone decides to take matters into their own hands and kill Bryce. Clay and a new character, Ani, join forces to find evidence. They know someone in their group of friends committed the crime, but who is the culprit?
The season focuses more on comparing two troubled young men who both committed crimes: Bryce Walker and Tyler Down. Bryce is a rapist, with countless victims, including Hannah Baker, Jessica Davis and his own girlfriend, Chloe Rice. In season one, Tyler secretly photographed Hannah in compromising positions and sent them across the school. At the end of season two, after being raped, almost committed a school shooting. Both are shown seeking redemption.
The thing about season three, is that the series took a shift. It’s more like Riverdale season one than anything. Seriously, think about it. Someone important and rich gets killed and is found in a river. The entire town is on edge, and no one can figure out just who killed him, but a ragtag team of high school students search for the culprit. There’s someone new in town that gets close the primary protagonist. In 13 Reasons Why, it’s Ani Achola. In Riverdale, it’s Veronica Lodge. Literally no one goes to the cops for anything. A bunch of barely old enough to drive kids decide that they know how to take out criminals better than actual trained cops with weapons. I’m just saying, the series were really similar and while watching I got the biggest sense of déjà vu. It might also just be that any dark-crime-teen-drama tends to have the same effect.
13 Reasons Why’s formula has certainly deviated from its first season. But that may just be because it’s no longer looking at an already written book as inspiration. The characters have been further developed and traumatized.
Season three is certainly worth watching if you’re unsure. The series is trying to get its viewers to take away a positive message from the darkness. Channel your inner Jessica Davis and share your trauma. Once you start talking, it becomes easier. Once you start talking, change is inevitable.