A new week, brings a new series review! This week I’ll be reviewing Season 3 of 13 Reasons Why. The show continues to follow the major theme: everyone is fighting a battle that can’t always be seen. However, the drama filled, mystery series creates a major twist in Season 3 as the premise is a murder mystery much like the Original Series: Riverdale, leaving their audience with a “who-dunnit?” effect.
I will use questions from Victoria O’Donnells, “Guidelines for TV Critcism” to deeper examine and critique Season 3 of 13 Reasons Why.
- Is the program novel in some way, especially in comparison to other television programs?
Being an active Netflix binge-watcher, I can conclude that the two Netflix Series: 13 Reasons Why and Riverdale share similarities. These range from characters from both shows sharing similarities, presenting their teen audience with thrill, mystery and cliff hangers by displaying social issues of depression, bullying, and LGBTQ. More importantly, the major plot line of both shows are the death of high school students, which is evident in Season 1 of 13 Reasons Why with Hannah Baker’s suicide, and Season 1 of Riverdale “murder mystery” of who killed high-school student Jason Blossom.
Season 3 of 13 Reasons Why also creates a “murder mystery” of who killed villain Bryce Walker. Characters in these series share similarities as well, in Season 3 of 13 Reasons Why and Riverdale, Clay Jensen is framed for the murder of Bryce Walker and Archie Andrews from Riverdale is framed for the murder of Cassidy Book. Another similarity is the personalities and lifestyles of Cheryl Blossom from Riverdale and Bryce Walker from 13 Reasons Why, both manipulative, selfish, privileged, wealthy teenagers, that behave in ways that reflect their wealth. However, in Season 3, viewers got to see layers of Bryce’s personal life such as the neglect and personal issues that served as the reasoning behind his actions. Although that does not justify his wrongdoing, he attempted to become a better person prior to his death. For instance, he attempted to apologize to both Jessica and Mrs. Baker for his actions. Along with Bryce, Cheryl suffered her own battles and emotional trauma from her family which made her the way she was. I think 13 Reasons Why and Riverdale wanted to create a message that anyone can change, regardless of what they have done in the past and everyone is struggling with something.
2. Do the actors express their feelings through facial expressions? Can you observe what the character is feeling but not saying in the subtexts of facial expressions and physical movements? Does sound reinforce the subtext?
All of the characters in 13 Reasons Why struggle with something and their pain is displayed through their facial expressions. Season 1 and 2 portrayed Bryce Walker as the typical high-school douche-bag who felt no remorse for his actions, but a major shift is seen in Season 3. Season 3 tries to humanize Bryce, despite his wrongdoings. Viewers get a glimpse at Walker’s dysfunctional upbringing that shaped him to be such an awful human. However, through flashbacks we see Bryce tried bettering himself as he attempted to apologize to Mrs. Baker and Jessica for his actions. Season 3. Ep 10, includes the flashback of Bryce apologizing to Mrs. Baker for the death of her daughter, Mrs. Baker shuts the elevator on him saying, “You’ll never know what sorry means”, you can see the authentic emotion form in Bryce’s eyes, as he starts tearing up displayed in the image below. For once and all, Bryce Walker is no longer an emotionless character as his pain and emotions are displayed through flashbacks. It is easy to observe the guilt and remorse Bryce feels for all his actions and that he is genuinely working on making himself a better person.
Another character who expresses his feelings through facial expressions a lot is Clay Jensen. Since the start, Jensen is never seen smiling. His expressions range from distraught, angry, confused, worrisome, to disoriented. 13 Reasons Why presents Clay as someone who is broken, suffering his own personal battles and the emotional trauma of his crush, Hannah Baker’s suicide. From his expressions it is easy to observe that Jensen is feeling isolated, alone, anxious, depressed. At times, he looks more unwell than others, not focusing on his own mental issues because he tries to save everyone besides himself.
3. What ordinary personal issues and attributes are recognizable?
13 Reasons Why highlights different topics each season and shows that each character has something they are going through. In Season Three, the battles that affect multiple characters are social issues that are present in today’s culture. Not only do we see how these issues greatly affect these characters but how they learn to live and cope with them as well. For instance, in season one and two Jessica Davis is a victim of sexual assault and suffered significantly from it. In Season Three, we start to see Davis growth she becomes the school president, finds her voice by creating an activist group for sexual assault survivors, and finally feels comfortable in her skin again. Jessica’s strength is truly remarkable.
In addition, Justin Foley moves in with Clay Jensen and Jensen’s family begins the process of adopting Foley in Season 3. However, we learn Justin Foley has a drug addiction and witness his struggle to stay clean. Season 3 also unfolds that Justin is selling drugs to pay back his debt to his mother’s ex boyfriend, Seth, and Bryce has given Justin heroin and pills that he has become reliant on. Ultimately, Justin comes to a realization that he needs to seek professional help for his addiction.
With the return of Ms. Baker in Season 3 shows she still struggles with the death of her daughter, but learns ways to cope with the pain which is evident in her conversation with Bryce Walker’s mother in which she gives advice on how to handle the death of her son.
4. Can you attribute an intention to the program? If so, is it to persuade or inform?
I would argue that the Netflix Original Series: 13 Reasons Why intention is to inform people by depicting dark social issues that are present in our society. As the season goes on, it appears that the series still strives to tackle different issues but their message has changed. Season One focused on the suicide of Hannah Baker, whereas Season Two focused on the lawsuit of the Baker family and Liberty High and the girls opening up about their personal accounts with Bryce Walker. But, season three shifts as it focuses on who murdered Bryce and creates a message that regardless of one’s pasts actions they can change. Despite its graphic content the show does a fantastic job of displaying the current trends in teen culture and portraying how these issues are often mishandled or go unnoticed. Ultimately, 13 Reasons Why’s main purpose is to educate and inform the public to be compassionate towards others because someone might be fighting a battle and actions can have serious consequences.