23 August 2019
RP18: Contains rape, suicide themes, drug use, and bullying
Season 3 takes place seven months after the events of the Spring Fling dance, at the end of Season 2. Bryce disappeared that night, and is later found dead. The season alternates between present day, and flashbacks of previous events - narrated by new character ‘Ani’ - as it unravels the mystery of his apparent murder, and the motive many characters have in seeing him dead.
Tyler is clearly suffering from physical and emotional trauma after being sexually assaulted at the end of Season 2. Over the course of the series we see him struggle with suicidal ideation in a manner that is distressing, but which he finally overcomes. His friends are unaware of what has happened to him, though he eventually confides in Clay.
Jessica overcomes her own issues around body image and physical intimacy after the rape she suffered at the hands of Bryce, and learns how to take back control of her sexuality and sense of self.
Chloe chooses to terminate her pregnancy to Bryce, but not before experiencing judgement for her decision from a pro-life clinic. Alex and Jessica split. He visits an escort, and is also revealed to be abusing steroids – along with many of the football team. Bryce was dealing drugs, and Justin is revealed to be addicted.
The series also explores issues of homophobia and the psychological harms of rigid male gender stereotypes, as closet-gay Monty externalizes his self-loathing through violence against other men he is also sexually attracted to.
The show explores issues like bullying, suicide, drug use, gun violence, sexual assault, rape and homophobia, and features limited nudity during sex scenes.
Adults are largely shown to be ineffective or actively unhelpful when young people are dealing with challenging issues. The young characters in the series often feel they have to take matters of punishment and justice into their own hands.
The series finishes with a revelation about which characters are telling the truth and who is lying, revealing exactly how Bryce died that night.
Parents and caregivers need to know: This first episode is preceded by a short video involving several actors from the series talking about the sensitive issues that the series tackles. Netflix has referred to this as a trigger warning. There are sexual assault, suicide, and bullying themes throughout as we learn how the characters are dealing with the aftermath of Season 2’s trial, and Tyler’s thwarted attempt to shoot people at the school dance.
This episode jumps back and forth between the end of Season 2 (when Clay convinced Tyler not to open fire on his classmates at the Spring Fling dance and the group got him away before the police arrived) and the present day.
Present day is the Monday after Homecoming, seven months after Spring Fling; and news has broken that Bryce Walker has gone missing.
Bryce played for the rival team in the Homecoming football game before it was cancelled due to a riot the school blames on Jessica and her sexual assault survivors’ group, for starting.
We meet Ani, a new student, and narrator of this series. Her mother is the live-in nurse for Bryce’s senile Grandfather.
Note: Flashbacks from Season 2 briefly show Tyler being dragged to his sexual assault, as well as Tyler carrying numerous weapons to the school dance in an extremely agitated state. This episode also contains discussion amongst Tyler’s friends over when adult intervention is required, and if Clay stepping in front of Tyler’s gun was brave, caring, or foolish.
Parents and caregivers need to know: We learn that Chloe, Bryce’s girlfriend who lied under oath for him during the trial, found out she was pregnant to him shortly after. Seeking advice, she attended a clinic only to discover it was run by a pro-life organisation. She confided in Zac who accompanied her to a women’s clinic, where she was seen, advised, and made the decision to terminate her pregnancy. He accompanied her to the procedure and supported her afterwards.
Jessica decides to run for School Council on a feminist, anti-rape, anti-bully platform.
Tyler is not handling Bryce’s disappearance well and seems increasingly jumpy and emotional, with no one sure where he went after the game on Friday night.
The episode ends with him climbing up a bridge getting ready to jump, when he sees the bloated corpse of Bryce Walker in the river below.
Note: Chloe’s first visit to a clinic seeking advice on terminating her pregnancy sees her receive misleading advice. The second clinic she attends does provide a brief and accurate description of a medical procedure, which we then see her undergo. It is filmed in a sensitive manner, however, the scene may be upsetting to anyone who has undergone a miscarriage or D&C procedure.
Parents and caregivers need to know: Jessica wins the election for School Council but faces pushback from the sports teams when she tries to curb their activities.
After confessing to Ani that since her rape, she no longer feels attractive or sexual, and as a result her sex life with Alex has suffered, Jessica takes time to rediscover herself sexually. She breaks up with Alex and starts exploring her sexual boundaries with Justin in safe, consensual ways.
Clay discovers that not only does Tyler still have one gun, he also has graphic photos of Bryce’s dead body.
Note: There are several short sexual scenes involving Jessica; Jessica and Alex; and Jessica and Justin. Ani & Jessica also buy sex toys together. Jessica and Justin explore low level elements of dominance and restraint together (she blindfolds him and his wrists are restrained). All scenes are shown as being clearly consensual, enjoyable to both parties; a box of condoms and lubricant are shown, and Jessica is the one calling the shots.
Parents and caregivers need to know: Tyler kept one gun after Spring Fling. He reveals this was not to hurt anyone else, but in case he wanted to kill himself (which he came very close to doing). However, he was unable to go through with shooting himself, so planned to throw himself off the bridge – which is where he was when he spotted Bryce’s body in the water. He was the one that called the police, and after having seen Bryce like this, he knows now he wants to live.
Note: In an emotionally harrowing flashback, Tyler is depicted trying to shoot himself in the head, but is unable to pull the trigger. It is an upsetting scene. Tyler also confronts his attackers about the rape.
Parents and caregivers need to know: This episode deals with the aftermath of Bryce’s death being ruled a homicide, the discovery he was dealing in steroids, and the impact of these drugs on different people.
Football players caught with the drugs are facing suspension; there is open discussion that Justin isn’t using steroids but heroin, and Alex wasn’t caught in the raid but has been outed as a steroid user. In a fit of rage, he corners Jessica and screams at her, demanding to know why she would have sex with Justin - the guy who let his best friend rape her. Jessica is terrified.
In a series of flashbacks, we discover that Alex and Bryce became friends for a period over summer until a revenge prank against Bryce’s father went wrong, and a little boy ended up being emotionally harmed. Bryce thought it was funny, Alex did not. We also learn that Bryce had been seeing an escort to vent his sexual frustration, and that he introduced Alex to this practice.
A flashback also shows us that Monty had a rough, but consensual same-sex encounter at one of Bryce’s parties, only to turn on his partner less than an hour later and beat him bloody in an unprovoked and brutal homophobic attack.
Note: Alex’s visit to the escort touches on feelings of anger towards Jessica. The escort, Mel, encourages him to talk to her. He uses aggressive language before quickly climaxing. Alex’s bare buttocks are seen from behind.
Parents and caregivers need to know: Bryce’s funeral is a stress-filled affair with his father arriving drunk, sexual assault survivors protesting the funeral (and being forcibly removed) and an emotionally difficult eulogy from Zac about how conflicting it is to mourn someone you once loved, but who also did a horrible thing.
The episode ends with the police finding security footage of Clay pointing a gun at Bryce threatening to kill him.
Parents and caregivers need to know: Clay is brought in for questioning by the police who tell him they have proof that Ani & Bryce were more than just friends. This contradicts both Ani and Clay’s testimony.
In flashback we see Ani kiss Bryce, and she initiates sex on more than one occasion. Ani is seen topless from the back and Bryce’s bare buttocks are shown. There is no genital or full frontal nudity.
Bryce confesses to feelings for her but tells her they shouldn’t be together because he’s broken and unfixable. It’s an emotional scene with Bryce vulnerable and concerned for her. At the same time, Ani is telling the police that Clay is obsessive, jealous and frightening, with flashbacks that suggest this is true.
Jessica is told by members of the Sexual Assault Survivors’ group that she is a bad rape survivor for not being ‘radical’ enough, and for having sex with someone who enabled her rapist.
Clay imagines a conversation with Bryce who tells him to think of Bryce “fucking” Hannah, Jessica and Ani.
Clay’s parents discuss a mental health defense with him. He is not open to it.
Note: The imagined conversation that Clay has with Bryce is deliberately provocative and contains brief snippets of the sexual assaults of both Hannah & Jessica from Season 1. Nudity is not seen, but distressing audio is used.
Parents and caregivers need to know: We discover that Mr. Porter, the former school guidance counsellor, was working with Bryce and his mother. As part of their therapy, Bryce learns about his mother’s crippling Post Natal Depression, the abuse his grandfather and father subjected her to, and how she feels she has failed him. She learns that Bryce thinks she hates him, that he doesn’t think he can change, and his fears that no one will love him. Together they start to make progress.
Bryce confesses to Mr. Porter that he’s met a girl he really likes, but when they’re having sex, he can’t help having thoughts of choking her, hurting her. Does this mean he will be a rapist forever? Mr. Porter tells him he needs therapy and that he shouldn’t be having sex.
Tyler breaks down and tells Clay about the sexual assault with the mop in in an extremely distressing scene.
Clay confronts Monty about Tyler. Monty tells Clay that Justin is a heroin addict who was buying oxycontin off Bryce.
Note: The scene between Clay and Tyler is distressing to watch. Tyler’s description of his sexual assault is graphic, and he is in so much emotional pain he can barely breathe, let alone stand straight.
Parents and caregivers need to know: This episode deals with Justin, his heroin addiction and its echoing repercussions through all areas of his life.
Parents and caregivers need to know: Tony gives Bryce a copy of Hannah’s tapes to listen to but insists on listening to them with him.
Note: The use of the tapes from season 1 is to drive home to Bryce the damage he did. Audio snippets - distressing, accusatory - from the season are used to highlight this.
Parents and caregivers need to know: This is the episode where we discover what happened on Homecoming night.
It is an interwoven story involving the individual and interconnected experiences of multiple characters that evening.
Note: Some of the issues highlighted in this episode include Tyler’s sexual assault by Monty, bullying by members of the football team, freedom of speech and to protest by the sexual assault survivors, abortion, and drug use.
Parents and caregivers need to know: Several students identify themselves at an interschool assembly as being survivors of sexual assault. Jessica is one. Tyler is another. And so is Justin. Clay is arrested at assembly.
Justin tells Jessica about being abused as a small boy and about being sexually exploited as a young person living on the streets.
A flashback gives us a more detailed breakdown of the riot at the game on Friday.
Someone confesses to killing Bryce.
Note: Some people will find the scene where Justin discusses his child sexual abuse particularly triggering. Other issues highlighted in this episode include Tyler’s sexual assault, bullying by members of the football team, freedom of speech and to protest by the sexual assault survivors, abortion, and drug use.
Parents and caregivers need to know: For large portions of this episode, what is being narrated does not match what we are being shown. This may cause some confusion for some viewers.
Monty is arrested for Tyler’s sexual assault. His father visits him in prison, calls him a faggot, and spits in his face. Monty is murdered a few hours later.
Ani tells the cops Monty left the game, followed Bryce, beat him and threw him into the river in a dispute over drugs, money and fear Bryce would out him.
We are shown who goes to meet him - as previously arranged by Bryce himself - and that his death was not premeditated.
We’re also shown where Monty really was - he went home with the boy he beat up at Bryce’s party, and they had sex.
The police declare the case closed.
If you or someone you love is struggling with any of the issues raised in this series, help is available: