One of the biggest storylines in season two involves Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice), the entitled rapist/star athlete at Liberty High.
Walker, who assaults several women throughout the series (including his own girlfriend, which opens a new conversation about partner consent), hardly receives any punishment after he’s arrested for sexually assaulting Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe). Yes, still a minor, he’s given just three months’ probation.
Justin Foley (Brandon Flynn), who reports the assault along with Jessica, receives a longer punishment as an accessory to rape: six months’ probation. Unlike Walker, who comes from wealth and privilege, Foley is a poor heroin addict, with no parents to release him to.
'13 Reasons Why' Star Says Bryce's Season 2 Ending 'Pissed' Him Off (Exclusive)
“Our show is fictional and there are dramatized events, but one thing that it tries to do is sort of mirror reality in a sense and kind of put up a mirror and spotlight the issues that our country is specifically dealing with, but really all over the world,” he explains. “Bryce is privileged, comes from a powerful family, he's a straight, while male and so it’s easier for him to get off, and we see that happening all the time and it sucks. I know fans are gonna be super pissed off, but you should be pissed off because that's the reality right now.”
Prentice says there were “different forms of justice” for Bryce throughout the show, though, which is true -- it’s hard not to cheer when Bryce’s mom slaps him.
He also says Jessica filing the police report was a big one after adamantly staying silent in an effort to not let the horrifying experience "define" her.
“She comes to terms with what happened, she's finally able to look Bryce in the eyes and point him out and say, ‘You did this to me,'" he explains. “In terms of actual legal justice, Bryce just kind of gets a slap on the wrist and, you know, ‘don’t do it again, you little rascal,’ which is so screwed... but yeah, it's realistic."
Prentice also addresses the show’s decision to end on an almost school shooting.
“We try and stay as current as possible, we have a bunch of different storylines this season all kind of touching on these important issues, mass shootings, guns are obviously a big one,” he says before offering viewers of the live interview a thoughtful disclaimer. “Our characters are kids in high school and they are dramatized events and it is a fictional show and if you’re in the position of Clay, go to an adult, call 911, there are better ways to handle that situation,” he says.
“But, you know, our characters are flawed and I think that’s kind of a beautiful thing, too… there's murky water and there’s murky territory and Clay doesn’t always make the right decisions and I think that's more human than anything," he says. "Our characters don't always go about it the right way. It’s not a documentary, it's not a PSA, though we try to help with these issues as much as we can, but yeah, mass shootings, obviously it's a huge issue right now and I’m glad that in this case, Clay's character was able to placate the scenario, but that wouldn’t always necessarily happen."
'13 Reasons Why' Producer on Why Katherine Langford Likely Won't Return for More Episodes
While Netflix has yet to announce a season three, Prentice thinks there’s more story to tell, including the aftermath of the thwarted shooting which ends with Clay holding the rifle outside of the school as sirens near the location.
“I still think there is more to explore with the fallout,” he says. “Just because Clay stopped this incident from happening doesn't mean that Tyler’s OK in body and mind. So yeah, I think there's more road to explore and we as a cast are for sure excited to explore it further if they let us.”
Prentice would also like to explore Chloe’s pregnancy cliffhanger, and what it means for Bryce. He thinks it’s possible she chose not to testify at the last minute because of the pregnancy.
“I think that along with looking Bryce in the eye and being there made it way harder than she thought it was going to be to single him out," Prentice says. "Brice is very manipulative. And as we saw in the flashback when they were kids, he wasn't always this monster of a person, so there are bits of goodness in Bryce... so I think she's kind of confused in that moment."
He also thinks abortion could be an angle that’s explored as a result.
“I think it very much could be and it would be interesting to see how they handle it because from my point of view, Bryce comes from a powerful family and they have a way of making things disappear, so I don't know. It'd be very interesting to see.”
The Parents Television Council issued a statement earlier this week asking Netflix to pull 13 Reasons Why off its streaming service "because of its potential to harm teens and children." Prentice also responded to that, but still thinks the show overall does more good than harm.
“I see where they are coming from, but at the same time, one of the jobs of our show is to reflect reality, so this stuff is already going on in these high schools, these kids are already experiencing it in their day-to-day lives, so having a show where we address these issues, even if you don’t necessarily agree with the way that we address them… the fact that we are addressing them and having these conversations, I think it kind of bridges the gap if parents wanted to watch it with their children," he says. "At the end of the day, controversy or not, people are talking… talk about these issues, 'cause that’s the first step in changing.”
13 Reasons Why season two is streaming now on Netflix.