13 Reasons Why killing off Bryce Walker is actually the best move for the controversial show
13 Reasons Why is no stranger to controversy. The first season of Netflix’s adaptation of Jay Asher’s 2007 YA novel followed Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), a teenager who died by suicide and left behind 13 cassette tapes explaining her decision. The series tackled many sensitive subjects, but the decision to show Hannah’s suicide in graphic detail in the season 1 finale faced intense backlash. That’s why earlier this month Netflix announced that the scene depicting Hannah’s death by suicide has been altered to exclude the moment where she slits her wrists in an effort to “help the show do the most good for the most people while mitigating any risk for especially vulnerable young viewers,” according to showrunner Brian Yorkey.
But now 13 Reasons Why is going one step further to right the wrongs of the past. Netflix just released the season 3 trailer for the YA drama that reveals the biggest twist yet: Bryce Walker’s (Justin Prentice) death. According to the new, highly-stylized trailer, the serial rapist is going to be murdered and the new season will revolve around the mystery of who killed him. The new season’s logline reads: “Eight months after preventing Tyler from committing an unthinkable act at Spring Fling, Clay, Tony, Jessica, Alex, Justin, and Zach find ways to shoulder the burden of the cover-up together while helping Tyler move toward recovery. But when the aftermath of a tumultuous Homecoming game culminates in the disappearance of a football player, and Clay finds himself under police scrutiny, it’s up to a shrewd outsider to steer the group through an investigation that threatens to lay bare everyone’s deepest secrets. The stakes are raised in this riveting third season of 13 Reasons Why, as the consequences of even the most well-intended actions can alter a life forever.”
For some viewers, the intense and graphic scenes throughout seasons 1 and 2, including but not limited to Hannah’s suicide, multiple rape and sexual assault scenes, gun violence, and more, prove to be enough reason why they’ll never return to this drama. But for others, the twist of Bryce Walker getting murdered is exactly the right move to get this show back on track.
While the first and second seasons showed in minute detail all the people who wronged Hannah before her death, Bryce is the person who raped her and then gaslit her as if the assault was consensual (and continued to do so even after her death). The second season focused at length on a trial where Bryce not only didn’t face any consequences for raping Hannah, but he also only received three months’ probation after being convicted for raping Hannah’s best friend Jessica (Alisha Boe). And that’s not even taking into account all the other women he raped or assaulted in The Clubhouse, where the male athletes repeatedly took advantage of females and photographed the assaults for their own enjoyment, as well as his own girlfriend Chlöe (Anne Winters), who was revealed to be pregnant in the season 2 finale.
Bryce is a serial rapist and the perfect example of toxic masculinity run rampant. Season 2 saw him face no justice for any of his crimes (probation is just a slap on the wrist considering the severity and amount of the crimes he’s committed). Setting aside any other issues one might have with this series, the decision to let Bryce go (relatively) free after all he had done, while horrifyingly realistic considering the headlines seen all too often of young men escaping consequences of rape or assault due to their privilege, felt like a punch to the gut. Even knowing that season 2 was mirroring the highly publicized and all-too-real Brock Turner case didn’t help the feeling that watching 13 Reasons Why became joyless. What was even the point of all those disturbing scenes when all they amounted to was this villain getting off scot-free? It was not only disappointing; it was downright infuriatingly wrong. If this injustice keeps on happening in the real world (and entirely too often), why does it have to happen in these fictional ones to which we use as an escape from real-world horrors as well?
So while murder is certainly not a real-world answer to a very real-world problem, having Bryce pay for his crimes in the new season, even if that means getting killed for them, is absolutely the right move. If he wasn’t going to face legal consequences, he needed to be stopped in any way possible. He’s a cruel bully protected by his privilege, his rich parents, his legacy as a celebrated athlete, his loyal crew of other toxic male followers. It didn’t even seem to matter that he literally confessed to raping Hannah on tape, a confession that was disseminated to all the students and parents via the internet. Nothing seemed to bring him down.
Until now. The decision to kill off Bryce not only feels deserved, but there’s a renewed interest in watching all these characters for another season. We know that the villain is finally defeated. Now it’s just the question of how, when, and who kills him. Reframing the series in the structure of a murder mystery gives this series new life. That’s why, even without knowing the details of how his murder happens, fans are already cheering the show for killing off Bryce in the new season:
And some viewers who gave up on watching the series are actually promising to return for season 3, all because of Bryce’s death:
This series still has a long way to go to atone for some of the creative choices of the past two seasons, but if the twist of Bryce’s murder is any indication, season 3 might actually do right by viewers … and the characters themselves. With only a few weeks until season 3 hits Netflix, we won’t have to wait long to find out.
13 Reasons Why‘s season 3 premieres Aug. 23 and has already been renewed for season 4 (which will be its last) on Netflix.