The trailer for the third season of 13 Reasons Why is here, revealing the death of a major character in what appears to be the series’ attempt to pivot from a misguided drama about the teen suicide epidemic to a murder mystery-style whodunit.
The murder victim? None other than Bryce Walker, the serial rapist and predator who has been at the center of much of the 13 Reasons Why controversy.
With the ousting of Bryce, the trailer seems to promise a new start for the Liberty High crew, though that start may be built on old secrets. Hannah Baker, our narrator and central protagonist for seasons 1 and 2, is nowhere to be found. Instead, a new narrator is on the scene, presumed to be newcomer Ani (Grace Saif).
“Here’s the thing about the kids the Liberty High,” she says in voiceover as the trailer opens with a crime scene, eerie music creeping into the background. “They’re connected by their secrets. Connected and forever changed.”
The camera then swings through the high school in a Degrassi-style trailer, and we pan across reintroductions of our old favorite characters – who all look like they could be equally guilty of committing murder.
Given the show’s troubling correlation with real-life teen suicide, killing off its most controversial character and realigning the series to center around a murder mystery instead could be the smartest thing the series has done since its inception. After all, 13 Reasons has received sizeable backlash for its portrayal of suicide, so much so that Netflix recently deleted Hannah’s graphic suicide scene from their season 1 finale.
And where season 1 wavered between promoting awareness of and inadvertently glamorizing suicide, season 2 left our characters spiraling into an unrelenting depression and slogging through a sexual assault trial. Even though Netflix deleted Hannah’s suicide scene, they allowed season 2 to lean further into the reckless storylines and gratuitous violence that critics took issue with in season 1. (The season 2 finale, for example, featured a graphic bathroom sodomy scene that was, for many viewers, the final straw.)
The show’s writers didn’t seem to know how to adeptly handle grief or assault and they clearly didn’t know where to go with Bryce’s character after the trial was over. I was one of many who had all but written off the show. Until now.
Despite 13 Reasons Why’s many, many, missteps, I can’t help but think that the season 3 premise just might allow the series to dig itself out of the Bryce Walker-shaped hole it’s trapped in. Bryce was a predator; he was a serial rapist whose character arc had nowhere left to go. Killing him off and pivoting the show to focus on his murder is a brilliant move by series creators.
The trailer ends with the characters surrounding a casket, next to a blown-up photo of Bryce cloaked in flowers. We are presumably at Bryce’s funeral, mourning his murder.
So, who killed Bryce Walker? According to our narrator, “given the right circumstances, the right motivation, anyone could have done this.”
13 Reasons Why returns to Netflix on Aug. 23.