Explainers

13 Reasons Why Season 3 Ending, Explained

August 23, 2019
13 min read

Netflix is the house of many popular shows, the stories that hook the viewers to their screens, refusing to let go of the hold on them until all episodes have been devoured. ‘13 Reasons Why‘ is one of them. Based on the novel of the same name by Jay Asher, it follows the lives of a group of high school students who go through a tumultuous couple of years. The first season charmed everyone, and the second slacked a lot. But these ups and downs didn’t affect the viewership of the show. The third season returns as the redeeming factor for the story and teases a dark murder mystery. If you haven’t yet seen the show, watch it on Netflix

SPOILERS AHEAD

Summary of the Plot

The second season ended with Clay standing outside the high school with a gun in his hand while sirens blare in the background. The third season picks up with another problem on the horizon for the teens of Liberty High. With the help of Tony, Clay manages to get rid of the guns and calms down Tyler. He calls on others to help him keep an eye on him, not wanting to repeat the mistake he made with Hannah. The timeline flips back and forth as we find everyone struggling with the aftermath of Tyler’s actions while dealing with Bryce’s death. Once again, they are separated into factions, suspecting each other, yet are tied together by the horrible things that they all suffered through in the past. Despite their faith in each other, they can’t get the question out of their heads: who killed Bryce?

The Ending: Who Killed Bryce Walker?

The third season of ’13 Reasons Why’, much like its previous installments, doesn’t take time to introduce the mystery to the audience. The last season covered the arc of who would take responsibility for their actions and testify in court for Hannah’s case. It ended with Bryce being let off with a meagre punishment, unfit for an unremorseful rapist like him. He is transferred to another school but continues to be a part of the lives of his previous friends in Liberty High. His character goes through an arc where he realises the error of his ways and wishes to make amends, discovering that the world might not be so accepting of him still. Some other secrets fuel the fire between him and other characters who have been through a lot themselves. It all culminates to the point where suppressed emotions erupt violently on the night of the Homecoming. The whole team gets into a hustle and everyone comes out on the other end with bruises and wounds that leave an unerasable mark. 

A few days later, Clay discovers that Bryce is missing, when he is called into the station for questioning. Even though everyone wants to believe that Bryce might be passed out somewhere, or might have run off after receiving rebuke from every end, they harbour a common fear in their hearts. What if he is dead? All of them have wanted Bryce dead, at one point or another. In the last season, Clay comes very close to pulling the trigger but is stopped just in time by Justin. Similarly, there are others who have threatened him, openly or latently, and if anything does happen to Bryce, they all have a great many things to lose.

Their worst fears come true when Bryce’s body is recovered from the river. Clay and his friends have gone through a lot of bad things over the course of the first two seasons. They have forged unlikely friendships and have given each other strength to survive all the bad stuff. Hence, it becomes impossible for them to imagine that one of them could have killed Bryce. And yet, suspicions begin to emerge and they question each other’s alibis. 

After tinkering with everyone’s motive and revealing some shocking secrets, the final episode gives away the face of the killer. Bryce had water in his lungs which means he was drowned. But there is also severe injury at the back of his head which points towards blunt force trauma. The murder weapon is nowhere to be found, which is what makes it all the more difficult to identify the killer. A misleading injury leads the cops to believe that Bryce was shot, which automatically turns heads towards Tyler, who had previously attempted a mass shooting. He has also been through severe mental and physical abuse, which was primarily responsible for his previous decision. 

The mention of a gun also brings back the memory of Clay’s breakdown and his confrontation with Bryce. At that moment, Justin had handled things. But what if he wasn’t around the second time. Could Clay have gone through with it? 

Homecoming Timeline

The events after the Homecoming event happened something like this. After finding out about Zach and Chloe, Bryce is enraged. In the chaos on the field, he attacks Zach and breaks his leg. This injury proves fatal to Zach’s career in football, and he knows now that all the chances of scholarships have slipped through his fingers. After getting patched up at the hospital, Zach seeks out Bryce and decides to end his career too. He already has a lot of anger inside him regarding Bryce’s treatment of Chloe and what he did to all the other girls like Hannah and Jessica.

Bryce continues to be his normal self and doesn’t bother to apologise or show remorse of any kind. This further escalates the whole situation and Zach beats the hell out of Bryce. There were some injuries from the Homecoming brawl, but Zach takes it a step further and breaks his bones, to ensure that he too shouldn’t be able to play any sport ever again. He leaves him there on the bridge. Considering that no one found Bryce and that it was a cold night, he concludes that either Bryce died due to the injuries or he succumbed to hypothermia. Or, in his effort to get up and find help, he stumbled into the river. 

Zach doesn’t tell anyone about it but is eaten up inside by the guilt. He stays quiet as long as the cops don’t pin anyone. But the moment they find a culprit in Clay, he realises that it has gone too far and he can’t let Clay pay for his mistakes. He confesses to the cops but is surprised when they tell him that he wasn’t responsible for the death. 

In her interrogation, Ani puts the blame on Monty, who was already in prison for what he did to Tyler. She manipulates the story accordingly and tells the cops that it was him. Before they can question him about it, he is killed in prison. The sheriff knows that Monty couldn’t have done it but decides to go with the theory because the truth could topple his family. 

After Zach left Bryce, Alex and Jessica found him. Bryce begs them to help him. Jessica refuses to do so, but Alex pities him and goes back. While Alex helps him get up, Bryce swears revenge on Alex and begins bad-mouthing Jessica. This is when Alex realises that he is the same old Bryce and no matter what he says or does, he will always remain the same. This leads him to push Bryce into the river. Before he can think about what he has done, it is already too late. He and Jessica decide to keep it a secret and move on.

Could Bryce Have Changed?

From day one, there is no doubt that Bryce Walker is a spoiled brat. He is a bully who feels entitled to torment everyone around him. What further encourages his behaviour is that no one fights back. The ones on the receiving end of his atrocities accept their fate, believing that nothing can touch him. His family is too rich and influential to bring any harm to him. By standing up to him, they will only make matters worse for themselves.

Furthermore, none of his friends tries to knock any sense into him. Some feel obligated to him for the troubles he has got them out of, while there are others who don’t want to mess up their friendship with him by pissing him off. His parents might have had some idea of their son’s character, but they never do enough to rein in his behaviour. Minor bullying turns into violent behaviour which takes the form of rape. Because he has helped all of his friends and has allowed them to use his stuff as theirs, he believes that their stuff is his, which also involves their girlfriends. Any remarks he makes, no one speaks up against it, and he continues to enjoy his “entitlement”.

Soon, he doesn’t need to have helped someone to have a claim on them. He likes something, he takes it. And this is how he views the girls in his school. If one of them catches his eye, the chances of a sexual assault increase considerably. Even if someone spoke out previously, they were silenced or made to leave school, which further fed his ego. Had it not been for Hannah, things would have remained the same. Had she not had the courage to tell her story, even if from her grave, Jessica and all the other girls would have continued to suffer in silence. The first two seasons give us a glimpse of Bryce’s animalistic behaviour and we see the story from the perspective of the victims. The third season turns the tables and places him in the hot seat. Do his crimes make him fair-game for anyone looking for revenge? Is it right to take the law into your own hands if you think justice hasn’t been served? 

’13 Reasons Why’ hasn’t shied away from exploring morally grey areas. In the second season, a subplot tells us about Hannah’s past, the one where she had been the bully. From the perspective of the rest of the characters, we get to see how she had misread their intentions towards her and, at some points, hadn’t treated them so well. There is no question about the fact that terrible things happened to her, but does that erase the bad she did, no matter how small? In a similar vein, this season explores the character of Bryce. Everyone hates him and he does deserve that. But what made him so? Was he also a misunderstood soul, or is he just pure evil? 

Through flashbacks, we see that every character had been touched in a way by Bryce that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. He had been like a brother to Justin; he had always looked out for him. He even tries to help Tyler by confronting Monty. After the trial, he begins to see the flaws in his character and accepts his wrongdoings. After listening to the tapes, he is shattered and seems remorseful. He begins to feel the changes inside of him after meeting Ani, acknowledges the bad feelings that grip him while in the company of a girl, and even makes a tape in which he confesses and asks forgiveness for what he’s done. Does that mean that he has changed? Does it mean that someone like him can change?

Bryce honestly believes that he didn’t rape anyone until he listens to Hannah’s tapes. Even with Jessica, he has told himself that they were “just having fun”. He tells himself that all the girls he has forced himself upon were into it and hence, there never really was any rape. Even in the first season, when Justin can’t take any more of the emotional torture and lashes out at him, he seems baffled about the whole situation and tries to talk to him. He believes he has done nothing wrong and that’s what makes him so dangerous. We could say that after everything, we can see some changes in him, but can his random acts of kindness be counted as change? He had always been good to his friends, but that didn’t stop him from raping his best friend’s girlfriend. He had always been open about allowing kids to his house parties, the ones who were never invited elsewhere. He gave free passes to a lot of students over the course of his time in school, but that doesn’t cancel out all the bad he did. He did need help and he does accept that after the trial.

So, yes. There was some change. But was it enough? He doesn’t acknowledge his bad behaviour towards Chloe. If he did, he would have accepted her relationship with Zach. Instead, he gets angry at him for stealing her, when he himself drove her away. After he is beaten up by Zach, he doesn’t take much time to revert to his old behaviour and blames Jessica for all that happened. Had Alex not thrown him into the river, had he lived, Bryce would have made true on his word about destroying Zach’s life. He would have also directed his anger towards Jessica and who knows how that would have turned out. With his career down the drain, he would have used all of his free time to get back at people responsible for his current situation, which would have led him back on the old path. 

To think that Bryce had completely changed would be tomfoolery. Was he on the path of becoming a better person? Yes. But he was still taking baby steps which is why it was easier for him to turn back. The road to his recovery was long and hard and he was nowhere near finishing it. Also, his goodness was a result of him trying to set things right. Unlike Clay, who helps people simply because he thinks he should, Bryce wants it to be his redemption.

13 Reasons Why Season 4: What to Expect?

The finale of the third season brings an end to the Bryce Walker mystery. The group dodges the bullet with Ani’s help who cleverly dumps the blame on Monty. They all celebrate at Monet’s and wish for things to be better from now on. But their problems haven’t ended yet. There are loopholes in their stories that will demand explanations. They have made mistakes that will come back to haunt them. The stage for the ’13 Reasons Why’ season 4 is set by two events. The first one is the guns. After helping Tyler curb his killing spree emotions, Tony and Clay dump the guns in the river, which eventually find their way to the cops. The group had covered up the whole thing and were worried that it might come out. It doesn’t happen in the third season, and we are led to believe that this subplot has met an end. But the ending proves otherwise. The next season will build upon this investigation and will once again bring the teens of Liberty High in crosshairs with the law. 

Another thing is Monty’s alibi. His death proves useful in framing him for Bryce’s murder. But he still has an alibi. He shared that night with Winston, who isn’t happy with what Ani did. What if he finds out the worst time to bring up the truth and reopens the investigation? Does that put a target on his back? Will Winston die next? 

Read More:

13 Reasons Why Season 1 Recap 

13 Reasons Why Season 2 Recap

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