For those who thought that 13 Reasons Why's season three pivot from a story of a young woman’s death by suicide and its painful aftermath, to a straight-up murder mystery, don’t get it twisted: 13 Reasons Why is not season one of Riverdale. Though it does incorporate noir tropes — Clay (Dylan Minnette) and new character Ani (Grace Saif) play detectives with their own agendas here — the show is still a lens into the darker side of 2019’s youth. Rape culture, homophobia, drug use, gun violence: 13 Reasons Why wraps what could be considered issues-of-the-week on a different teen drama into one sprawling, if bleak, coming-of-age story. The problem here is how much misery will these teenagers have to endure just to come of age? In case you thought otherwise, the kids are still not alright on 13 Reasons Why, and probably won’t be until the end of the fourth and final season.
But without further ado... let's get to binging.
Episode 1 Recap: “Yeah, I’m The New Girl”
If the season two finale of 13 Reasons Why suggested that the veil of darkness had yet to lift from over Liberty High School, then the third season premiere meets those expectations, and then some. There is much to unpack here, and the person doing that unpacking is a new face: Meet Ani (Grace Saif) our new narrator and a newly-important member of the secret-keeping clique that was solidified when Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) delivered her tapes. She’s the one untangling the web of lies created by her new classmates, but likely has plenty of her own.
Ani is the daughter of a home care worker. In the episode, we discover the family she’s working for and living with, is the Walker clan — specifically, Bryce’s grandfather, whom Bryce (Justin Prentice) and his mother Nora (Brenda Strong) now live with following the breakup of the Walkers’ marriage. Bryce is now attending Hillcrest Academy and playing on their football team. Since Bryce is no longer at Liberty, it’s Ani who is the connective tissue between him and those still at the high school.
Ani proclaims in the episode that she is the new girl who has no interest in “doing the shy thing.” Instead of hiding, she challenges, encourages, and befriends all of our favourite (and not-so-favourite) characters. In flashbacks, Ani encourages Jessica (Alisha Boe) to run for school president and jokes with an aggro Clay (Dylan Minnette) about giving her the “worst” student tour she’s received at any of her five high schools in three years. In present day, she is Clay’s closest confidant, though he doesn’t seem to trust her entirely. Maybe for good reason? Ani, it’s revealed, is narrating this episode — with a promise to spill all the things she knows about this group — in what seems like a police interview.
The first episode of the show toggles back and forth between two important time periods, with Ani’s voice narrating it all. In flashbacks, the show returns us to just after the spring fling dance, when Tyler (Devin Druid) showed up with an arsenal of weapons and intent to murder his classmates.
The second time period is present day, where those involved with the Hannah tapes (as well as others who were at the dance when Tyler threatened a shooting spree) are still terrified that their cover-up of Tyler’s murderous plot will be discovered, as will their involvement in some big fight between the Hillcrest and Liberty High football players.
For those who were waiting to find out what happened to Tyler after the dance, Clay sent Tyler away with Tony so he could get rid of Tyler’s weapons — which he did, successfully. What to do with Tyler was a whole other issue. Clay and Tony come up with the plan that they and a select group of friends — most of whom were involved with Hannah’s trial last season, as well as some of Tyler’s new friends like Cyrus (Bryce Cass) and Mackenzie (Chelsea Alden) — will cover up what really went down, while also taking turns to make sure that Tyler doesn’t commit any other acts of violence. The idea is to create a human shield of companionship around Tyler, which, it should be noted, is hardly a replacement for getting Tyler the help he really needs.
However, eight months after the spring fling dance, Tyler is keeping it together...and everyone else is just barely managing. It’s fall of the group’s senior year, and honestly, it’s amazing they even made it here. Jessica is school president and accused by Principal Bolan (Steven Weber) of inciting a “riot” at the homecoming game, which left many football players, including Zach (Ross Butler) and Monty (Timothy Granaderos) injured. Zach’s in particularly bad shape: Thanks to an injury from Bryce, he’s off the field and in crutches, with his chances of playing college ball cut.
Jessica gives no effs about the principal chastising her, as Hillcrest “started it,” even though Liberty High threw all the first punches. Does this have to do with Bryce, who plays for Hillcrest? Jessica says no, it does not. But also...doesn’t everything come back to Bryce?
At least, that’s what we think because Clay is taken to the police station in the middle of a school day. The gang (plus Ani) suspects that maybe Clay is finally being held accountable for what went down with Tyler, but Deputy Standall (Mark Pellegrino) — who also happens to be the father of Alex (Miles Heizer) says there’s another issue at play here. Bryce is missing. He hasn’t been seen since the homecoming game.
We know from the trailers that Bryce is dead, which means that, as it was with the first season, 13 Reasons Why is once again a mystery series. With Hannah, we knew the “who” of the death, but not the “why.” Here, it seems like everyone has a reason to want Bryce dead...which means narrowing down suspects will not be easy.
Clay, per usual, spirals, as he tells everyone that Bryce is MIA. Most people are surprised but not concerned, as Bryce could just be drunk in some Vegas hotel room. Bryce’s mother isn’t too sure of that: She knows most people hate her son for good reason, and even admits he’s kind of a monster...just one she would really like to know is safe.
Clay’s brain never shuts off, and so he suspects that someone did hurt Bryce — which is very bad, because Clay just sent Bryce a text announcing he wants Bryce dead.
Clay’s not the only person with contact to Bryce. For some reason, Bryce left Tyler a voicemail, telling him that things were “taken care of.” In secret, Zach tries to leave a message for a missing Bryce. Monty’s not sure why he’s taken to the police station, but for some reason, the cops suspect he knows more about Bryce’s disappearance than he let on.
Then there’s Ani, who might have more secrets of her own than anyone. She declares, via voiceover, that her life changed forever when she met Bryce. In a flashback, we see Bryce watching Ani swim in the pool. Does Bryce...have feelings for Ani?
One thing is certain: 13 Reasons Why’s secrets are just starting to surface.
Some other info to remember…
Alex and Jessica are broken up, and are teetering between “friendly” and “don’t ever touch me again.”
Alex may be taking some sort of medication, but it’s unclear why. He’s also working out a lot, and his hair is now a natural brown.
Justin and Clay share a “cottage house” (as Ani calls it) separate from the main house. It’s very Ryan and Seth!
Tyler takes a photo of himself, shirtless, every day in the exact same spot. He starts with a picture revealing bruises left by Monty and the others after they sexually assaulted Tyler with a broom. Is Tyler making a time lapse? Could he be building a case against Monty?
More episodes to come. You can read all 13 recaps from 27th August