13 Reasons Why has enjoyed an extended life on Netflix and, despite the dismay of some seeing it receive a second season, it has now received a third season. Where the first season was incredible and the second season was a disaster, this third season is a return to form for the controversial coming-of-age series.
Where season two desperately tried to build on Hannah Baker’s story and failed, this season thankfully does away with the Hannah character almost entirely. Her presence is felt, although the focus is elsewhere this time around. This time, the season is about the mystery of who killed Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice) and it’s narrated by a new character, Ani, played by Grace Saif.
The story itself is obviously the main draw of the season and seeing how it’s going to continue on from the cliffhanger ending of last season. When the season begins, some time has passed and there’s a lot of information we need to catch up on through the 13-episode run. This season deals with two main plots simultaneously; the aftermath of Tyler’s (Devin Druid) attempted school shooting, and the lead-up to and aftermath of the death of Bryce Walker. Two incredibly engaging storylines that span the entire season.
Despite both being very engaging, it results in a lot of jumping back and forth between the storylines and back and forth in time. The change in aspect ratio helps differentiate the setting of the scenes, but the constant jumping can be a lot to take in. If you zone out for 5 minutes, by the time you check back in you’ll feel like you missed half an episode of crucial information. This is fine for anyone who can keep up, but some episodes are packed with info and sometimes a little too much of it.
Each of the characters has their own personal little arc that they’re going through. This helps to give everyone something to do across each episode and also something for the audience to engage with. It brings depth to each character and makes them more than just one of the ‘suspects’ in the murder mystery. Speaking of the murder mystery, it’s handled phenomenally across the season with enough twists and turns to keep you wholly engaged the whole way through.
13 Reasons Why has, rightfully so, become synonymous with not shying away from talking about serious topics, highlighting major societal issues and dealing with confronting content. That’s no different in this third season which is still insanely emotionally heavy and touches on a lot more distressing themes and ‘taboo’ topics of discussion. This is covered really well in this third season as it’s all handled very carefully with a deft touch and makes for some genuinely engaging and insightful content. None of it is forced, the themes are integrated into the lives of these students seamlessly to where it feels very organic and you can connect with the characters and their hardships.
It is, at times, a very emotionally distressing series, but that doesn’t do anything to deter you from continuing to watch. The realism behind all of the scenarios characters are involved in and the emotional impact of certain key scenes only increases investment in these characters’ lives, even the characters you never thought you’d care to learn more about. There’s also a small touch of very light humour weaved into some scenes to remind you that not everything in here is grim. It’s a great addition because there isn’t so much humour that it ruins the tone, but theres enough to briefly lighten the mood.
The season does give you a different look and a new insight into the life of Bryce Walker. It should be noted that it doesn’t try to redeem the character because it’s seemingly impossible at this point. But it treads a fine line of showing you there’s more to him than just the monster we’ve seen so far. It’s actually a great angle that this season takes that I really liked.
When it comes to the characters and the performances behind them, they’re all incredible across the board. I want to kick things off with Ani, the newest member of the crew who actually has one of the most important roles in the story, if not the most important. She’s such a strong character with a memorable presence that every moment she’s on screen is a great moment. She’s very likeable, has a great personality, a strong mindset and this all makes it really easy for the audience to get on her side. She has an interesting dynamic with Clay (Dylan Minnette) throughout the season and is an all-round much-needed addition.
The performance from Grace Saif is remarkable. To just appear out of nowhere, slide into an ongoing story and make an impact greater than some existing members is a testament to her ability as an actor. Aside from Grace, the other lead performances are all very strong including those from Dylan Minnette, Christian Navarro (Tony), Alisha Boe (Jessica), Brandon Flynn (Justin), Miles Heizer (Alex), Ross Butler (Zach) and Timothy Granaderos (Monty).
Two more powerful performances I need to highlight are from both Devin Druid (Tyler) and Justin Prentice (Bryce) whose characters have riveting arcs this season. Devin is forced to go to some deeply emotional places to sell exactly what Tyler is going through and he does so impeccably. He shifts right into some dark places and sells all of the fear and emotional trauma with hardly an issue. Justin is given so much more to do with Bryce and delivers a much more varied performance than before. He does things with Bryce we haven’t seen before from the character and sells it perfectly.
13 Reasons Why made it beyond a first season, and despite stumbling its second season it hits back with a strong third entry. The Hannah Baker character is largely left behind and that paves the way for a fresh, new story to take centre stage. The introduction of Ani is a very welcome one as she fits right in with the crew and is integral to the story in ways you won’t see coming. It’s a bit of a long and heavy watch that doesn’t always nail the pacing an jumping between storylines but it sets it up for a potentially promising final season.