WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Secrets. Lies. Revenge. Everyone at Liberty High has something to hide ... and the truth is about to come out.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
13 Reasons Why isn't the easiest show to get through. Dealing with themes of mental health, bullying, sexual assault and suicide, the students at Liberty High go through more than any teenager should. And the way the show works at building up and developing each character arc makes it all the more challenging to see.
But while the series has undoubtedly garnered its fair share of controversy – and I stand by Netflix's decision to remove the graphic scene of Hannah's suicide – I've always felt it's important for teenagers, young adults – for everyone - to watch the show for that very reason.
In season one, we followed Hannah as she explained posthumously in 13 90s-style cassette tapes what – and who – led her to take her life. In the hype of the #MeToo movement, a year after the Brock Turner case, season two followed the trial of Bryce Walker, her rapist. When the trailer for season three came out with the tagline 'Who Killed Bryce Walker?' Naturally, fans of the show were intrigued – maybe, even excited? I know I was.
Having moved on from Hannah's death, the new season follows much of the same formula, with a few new tropes. For one, there's another big mystery to solve – this time a murder mystery – told by this season's narrator and a new character, Ani. Switching between the past and present once more, differentiated by a bright, full-screen view and a desaturated present when things seem far more somber, the way the story's told hasn't changed much, and it's easy to follow. Adding to themes of mental health, sexual abuse and bullying, the show also deals with drug use, trauma, abortion, toxic masculinity, sexuality and immigration – all of which makes the show even more poignant and relevant.
The show tries very hard to pull at your heartstrings, and it succeeds for the most part. But as the characters keep going for several episodes – thirteen to be exact – it becomes a bit much and even draining after a while.
The narration that seemed to work so well in season one and two drags – and no, not just because Ani is so debilitatingly cryptic. Everything seems to move exceptionally slow. Bryce's death is only revealed at the end of episode two, even though that was something we'd already seen in the trailer, and every episode after that is just an investigation into each character, because everyone is a suspect, everyone has secrets.
I'm sure if I took every audio clip of Ani uttering the word "secret" in the first two episodes alone, I could probably put together an entire cassette tape of my own - both sides. How this small group of Liberty High learners collectively accumulated so many secrets in just one summer, I'll never know.
Still, we beat on, as the show continues to figure out who killed Bryce Walker, all the while painting him in a sympathetic light in attempting to redeem his character by revealing more of his back story. Feeling as strongly as I do about the importance of all the themes in the show though, there's a disconnect for me here. After a sentence of six months probation and a fresh start at a new private school, I couldn't get myself to feel anything for Bryce Walker – the privileged, straight, white boy who comes from a very wealthy family – and that only made the show harder to get through.
Having watched the show from the very beginning, I buckled up for season 3 and made it through, nevertheless, just because I felt like I had to. I think for many fans of the show it'll be the same, even though they'll drift off now and then.
Let's just say when Ani said right at the beginning of the season, "I'll tell you everything. Settle in; this could take a while," well, I guess she really meant it.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: