13 Reasons Why has returned to Netflix – the show well-known for its controversial depiction on teenage suicide is back for a third season. Following Season 2, each episode begins with a cast member explaining the series is not for everyone, since it deals with serious issues and potential triggers. After a disappointing trial on the monstrous jock Bryce Walker, Tyler’s brutal assault and an attempted school shooting; our eclectic bunch of friends brought together by unfortunate circumstances, return to Liberty High for yet another year of school. However, they are struck by news of the death of Bryce, and alas a murder mystery is ignited. Switching between the present and two past narratives, the show’s timeline is fragmented and gradually reveals the season’s brandished question of ‘Who killed Bryce Walker?’.
There’s a new character,and narrator, on the block in the form of Ani Achola (Grace Saif), a British transfer student whose mother just happens to be Bryce’s grandfather’s new nurse. Ani takes over Hannah’s spot of narrating, a choice which has divided viewers, to the point where the actor has disabled her Instagram. The series starts off with Ani being questioned by Alex’s father, Deputy Standall, and the stories unfold from there. Ani’s characterisation is not perfect, but there are a number of reasons why the character has been met with controversy.
Ani magically becomes the second-in-command to Clay as keeper of secrets, even though she has missed two seasons worth of information. Throughout the season she learns more about Bryce Walker, including his dastardly crimes, and she somehow still lives with him. To an extent, Ani’s onlooker approach develops a dimension to Bryce not familiar to viewers. However, it does seem clunky that the first person she meets at Liberty High is Clay (whose relationship later consists of several plot holes) and also befriends Jessica – helping her with the sexual assault survivors club. All this whilst living under and getting to know Bryce, who raped both Jessica and Hannah in Season 1.
The fragmented narrative structure brings an element of complexity to the show and builds the suspense around Bryce’s death. The interchanging past narratives can be easily identified through the changing screen sizes. When we look back on the past narrative told by Ani, the colours are dreary and cold, whereas when characters within Ani’s commentary recall their own pasts, the screen opens up and colours are warmer as if their eyes are opening up.
Above all then what made this season contemplative to view was the number of questions to ask. Themes such as sexuality, ownership, trauma and masculinity are addressed constantly throughout each episode, where a number of characters get a light shone on how these issues differently affect them.For example, with the epitome of toxic masculinity, Bryce Walker. Whilst there is no pardoning for what Bryce has done, the series does attempt to alternate our understanding of what his story is. Sexual assault recovery is addressed sensitively with characters such as Tyler and Jessica. Accountability is the central theme to Season 3, the idea of owning up to what is done is explored and accepting that not all apologies deserve the chance to be entirely accepted. Overall the main reason of the season’s downfall is the number of unanswered plot-holes and shaky narrative.
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