'13 Reasons Why:' Who Killed Bryce Walker?
All of the students had their secrets, but which one of them did it?
13 Reasons Why Season Three shifted the focus onto a new storyline. Who Killed Bryce Walker? In typical fashion of the series, we quickly learn that everyone had a motive, including new girl Ani who serves as the narrator for events that unfold.
There will be spoilers. So read on only if you have watched Season Three or you don't mind finding out what happened based on this review.
The first two seasons focused on Bryce and all the bad things he did trying to show he was the king of Liberty high school. Season Three shed new light on Bryce as he made an effort to try and change his ways and realize all the hurt he had caused his classmates over the years. We quickly learn where Ani falls into this mix as her mother takes the job as an in home-nurse to Bryce's ailing grandfather. She quickly becomes intertwined in the web of deception that surrounds the students of Liberty.
Season Three started off slower than the first two taking time to really dig deep into what has transpired since the ending of Season Two. What happened to Tyler? How would they help him heal? Could they help him heal? All of that was addressed and more. As the season progresses, we learn the truth as to what each student is hiding and why, starting with Tyler who went to confront Bryce after Monty told him the beating Tyler received was at Bryce's command. Tyler accepts his truth throughout the season and shows his friends that change is possible, leading to the ultimate question of whether or not a man as evil as Bryce is capable of redemption.
Next up is Tony Padilla. Already having been arrested twice for assault, we learn that during the trial, the Walkers were able to find out that Tony's parents were illegals and they were then deported by ICE. Bryce swore up and down to Tony that he had known nothing about what happened, but Tony didn't care. In his eyes, all of this happened because of Bryce. His actions led to the trial, which led to Tony being separated from his family. Tony spends most of the season trying to keep this secret from his friends, leading to them thinking his rage may have gotten the best of him.
It's safe to say that none of the audience actually believed Clay Jensen was the one who killed Bryce Walker, but he was the number one person on the list of the police. This thanks in large part to multiple threats from Clay, including the events from last season where he pulled a gun on Bryce. Clay with the help of Ani, who we learn had an intimate relationship with Bryce, look to clear Clay's name for good. Clay just doesn't want to see anyone else's secrets exposed and once again protects his friends at all costs. Clay is both an admirable lead and a complete idiot at times. His courage is good for a lead, but for being a smart kid he does an awful lot that does make him look suspicious. His new found brotherhood with Justin Foley makes things even more complicated as he is willing to take the fall in order to protect Justin and the things he is hiding.
Then there's the truth. That three people directly lead to the events that took Bryce's life. First up is Zach Dempsey. We learn Bryce deliberately set out to hurt Zach because of Chloe (Bryce's ex who had an abortion). Zach then proceeds after the football game to assault Bryce leaving him with a broken arm and leg, but very much alive, laying on the pier. Which leads to the second and third person. Alex and Jessica. They roll up as Bryce had asked Jess to come see him, so he could give her something. We learn that was a tape with his confession and apology. After Alex reluctantly agrees to help Bryce up, he begins to swear at Jess and promise to ruin Zach, prompting Alex to push him over the edge.
This is where it gets even more complicated. Ani is called into speak with Deputy Standall where she tells him Montgomery De La Cruz is the one who killed Bryce after the game as a way to keep him silent about the assault on Tyler. Standall agrees in order to protect Alex. Monty has been killed in prison, yet we learn that Monty had a solid alibi. He was having relations with Hillcrest student Winston. Monty was very protective of sexual orientation and even assaulted Winston following their first hook up in order to protect the secret.
It was a very engaging season with the murder mystery central premise. It allowed Justin Prentice (Bryce) the chance to show more emotional range than he had been given in the previous two seasons. He was given the daunting task of humanizing a character that had been portrayed as the clear villain if the first two seasons. At times it was hard to feel any different towards Bryce but as the season went along, he did make strides. He made an effort and he wanted to realize how badly he hurt people. Prentice has always been one of the best actors on the show and this was his chance to solidify that. He was easy to hate for the first two seasons and during Season Three, he was easy to both hate and want to see do better.
Brandon Flynn as Justin Foley is probably my favorite performance. Justin is probably the most troubled kid in the series and even more so now. We learn he has not given up drugs like he tells everyone he has. Justin often says the dumb thing. He often is the weird comedic relief despite all the negative things going on his life. Justin is loyal. He loves deeply and is thankful for all the things his friends and family have done to try and turn his life around. He comes clean about the lies with the Jensen's at the end who vow that they will help him no matter what the cost. Justin is a troubled character, but he has many layers and Flynn gets the chance to show us all of them very frequently throughout this season given that the truth is revealed in pieces as we go a long.
Hearing both Alisha Boe and Devin Druid deliver monologues about surviving sexual assaults had me tearing up multiple times. Boe played Jess as a new found badass ready to find justice for people who may have lost their voice because of a trauma while helping Tyler find his voice without even realizing. The assembly scene where the survivors stand was both powerful and emotional. Druid expressing all his heartbreak and sadness as Tyler confesses to Clay what happened was very emotional as well. 13 Reasons Why has always been a hard show for me to watch as a parent and just 10 years removed from high school. Now, my experience of school was not as distressing as the events depicted on the show, but I do remember the days of being pushed into lockers because I was not friends with the jocks. I remember being the kid who sat in the library to avoid the halls because of bullying from kids whose parents were prominent contributors to the school, and no matter what happened, I was always the bad kid.
13 Reasons Why is a powerful show for those who have never felt like they could be heard. For those who never felt like they had friends they could count on to do the right thing, it reminds the good kids to do the right thing. It reminds the bullies that you will face the consequences of your actions. Yes, it does make these points in the most exaggerated way possible, but unless they did that it's doubtful that people would listen in the first place or pay attention to the fact that all these things are happening. The show reminds us to pay attention to differences in behaviour, to see changes in our friends and to stand up for the people who deserve it most. I think it's safe to say that anyone who has been bullied or stood up to bullies or both women and men who are survivors of sexual assaults can see a little bit of themselves in Clay, Jessica, Tyler, and Justin.
With the announcement of a fourth and final season, I can say that I am invested in seeing what they do to wrap this season. I know both Seasons Two and Three have been given very negative reviews, but all of that seems unfair towards a show that has only ever tried to start a conversation and help those struggling with mental health and their secrets. There is no doubt that season four will be just as good as the first three and will continue the conversation about seeking help if you need it. For those struggling, don't be afraid to reach out to counsellors and trusted adults.