13 Reasons Why is already known for pushing the envelope. Already, one school had warned parents about season 3 as soon as it dropped. According to KSL, a school district in Utah sent out an email to parents telling them that: “The show is based on a young adult novel in which a young teenager takes her life. However, due to concerns expressed by organizations like the National Association of School Psychologists and the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, along with the TV-MA rating, we highly discourage students from watching this series.”
In the 3rd season, they go even further, turning the tables and making the likes of Bryce Walker, whom anyone who has watched the show would instantly dislike, into a fleshed out character that one can even sympathize with. However, the humanization of characters labelled as “rapists” is best explained by the actors and creators themselves.
As actor Justin Prentice, who plays Bryce Walker, told The Cosmopolitan, “It certainly doesn’t redeem the things he’s done.” He added that, “Bryce has caused irreparable damage to people, and that’s not something that can be fixed. But I think it is a step in the right direction, in that he finally is able to look at his actions head-on and go, ‘Oh. I’m the cause of these people’s pain, and that’s not okay.’”
Alisha Boe, who plays Jessica, a survivor of rape in the series, also commented on this. “I don’t believe that people are born evil,” said Boe, referring to both Monty (Timothy Granaderos)and Bryce characters, who both have a backstory in season 3. “Maybe there are a few exceptions, but there’s usually something that happens in your childhood, your family life. In the first two seasons, you only see Bryce and Monty as villains, but what I find fascinating in the third season is that you get to see what created the monster and what drives a person to be this evil. I think this season really explores toxic masculinity, because both in Monty’s family and Bryce’s family, that’s what it is. There’s no support system.”
The series does not try to dismiss the appalling acts that both Bryce and Monty committed. In a pivotal scene in season 3, Bryce is forced to come to terms with what he did to Hannah. “He’s able to really see how he essentially obliterated another human being. He really is like, ‘Okay, yeah. I’m a monster. I see it now,’” Prentice explained. “It was kind of rewarding to see him start to unravel his empathy that he’s kept hidden dormant for many years. He’s been a horrible person, one of the worst people in the world, so where do we go from there?”
Although mixed feelings surround this season, Christian Navarro, who acts as Tony Padilla on the series, said it best, clarifying that the show “is in no way validating or justifying or bringing some sort of redemptive quality to [Bryce and Monty], but I think it’s important to try and understand why all these characters have become who they are. Bryce Walker has done damnable, horrifying things, but he is a human being and he at least deserves that much.”