Following the shocking end to the previous season, the waters have calmed at Liberty High School. Clay (Dylan Minnette) and Justin (Brandon Flynn) have settled into a newfound family dynamic, Jessica (Alisha Boe) has been elected Student Body President, Zach (Ross Butler) is the new football captain and Tyler (Devin Druid) is recovering from his horrific assault at the hands of jock Monty (Timothy Granaderos). With the story of Hannah Baker finally reaching its climax, new girl Ani (Grace Saif) takes up the mantle of narrator; to a mixed effect as we shall see.
The first, and perhaps the most deadly, sin of this season of 13 Reasons Why is that it’s rather dull. Whilst the eponymous thirteen tapes might have justified a initial thirteen episode run, there is no reason for this format to have continued in subsequent seasons. As a result, the middle few episodes require an unbeatable mental fortitude, not just due to the graphic content, but to merely allow the viewer to push through unnecessary subplots and bland, vague attempts at characterisation. This is no dig at the cast however, they remain the saving grace of this once-interesting TV show. Particular praise has to go to Druid who guides Tyler out of the darkness imposed upon him by his actions last season with aplomb. The real MVP of these episodes however is Bryce Walker (Justice Prentice).
It is no secret that season three of 13 Reasons Why focuses upon the disappearance, and subsequent murder, of Bryce; the show’s arch villain and serial rapist. It would be all too easy to have Bryce continue upon his progressively evil spiral so the show deserves credit at least for trying to flesh out the character beyond the stereotypical ‘bad jock’ trope. Whether or not this is successful is at the discretion of the individual viewer however, some may well feel that trying to nudge the character slightly more into the grey is in bad taste. Either way, Prentice brings (once again) his all to the character and it will be a real shame to lose his talent just before the final season.
The other major problem I identified with the series is admittedly slightly more of a personal taste. I found the editing to be mildly sloppy and, in some cases, rather odd. Travelling across three timelines is a challenging task for any show (just ask Westworld) and whilst using different camera tints and aspects may be a solid idea on paper; in reality, the execution comes across as disjointed. The decision to switch to greyscale for certain scenes is baffling and doesn’t fit with the other creative decisions made across all three outings of the series. As a result of the constant timeline-hopping, it does require a certain mental concentration to ensure the threads of the story entwine together by the season’s end. It also does severe harm to the character of Ani who I found rather grating and obnoxious towards the season’s end – by no means the fault of Saif who will likely come out of the show with her dramatic reputation enhanced. The final ‘whodunnit’ reveal also casts certain questions on the actions of a number of characters in one of those all-too-common cases of the reveal being hidden far too well during the main crux of the episodes.
Overall, season three of 13 Reasons Why is a step up from the frankly pitiful and rather tasteless second run although it comes nowhere close in matching the heights of the original. The acting remains strong throughout but all are sadly let down by the poor scripting, unnecessary editing and the all-round pointlessness of having this show continue for yet another run of episodes next year.
Final Rating: **