Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) may have started telling her story in the first season of 13 Reasons Why, but she's not the only person at Liberty High who has suffered at the hands of others. By the end of Season 1, it was revealed that problematic jock Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice) had raped not only Hannah but also one of her best friends Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe). And despite Clay Jensen (Dylan Minette) getting him to confess to Hannah's rape on tape, it was left open-ended as to whether or not Bryce would face any kind of justice in 13 Reasons Why Season 2, or if he would simply continue to live his privileged life, protected by the toxic institutions that allowed him to rise to a position of power in the first place.
It was one of the most frustrating cliffhangers on the Netflix drama when Season 1 bowed last year, but 13 Reasons Why fans won't be left hanging for long. Bustle sat down with Ross Butler and Miles Heizer, who play Zach Dempsey and Alex Standall respectively, and the stars promised that the loose end will be tied satisfyingly by the end of Season 2 (streaming Friday, May 18th on Netflix).
"That's one of the big questions for the whole season: is justice going to be served?" Butler tells Bustle along with a small group of journalists at the Netflix FYSee space in Hollywood. "It's hard to talk about but the court case isn't really about that. The court case is more focused on who's accountable for the death as far as the school. But from that, you will learn more about what happened."
Heiser adds, "It's fully addressed for sure."
"You will find out by the end [if Bryce gets brought to justice], but which way, you'll have to wait," Butler continues.
When the first season of 13 Reasons Why debuted, the #MeToo and Time's Up movements had yet to spark a much-needed national conversation about sexual assault and harassment, so the fact that the Netflix series aimed at teens and young adults is delving deeper into serial sexual assault and harassment at Liberty High this season is extra timely. Judging by the trailer, a polaroid with the chilling words, "Hannah wasn't the only one" written on the back is only the start of a disturbing investigation that hopefully begins to bring justice to those who desperately need it.
"Obviously sexual assault and misuse of power and all these things have been going on forever," Heizer says. "It just so happens that it's now being spoken about far more than any other time in history. It did happen right in the middle of us filming, when we were filming a show about that exact thing. We all felt a responsibility to do it right and really dive into it because it is so relevant. Hopefully we do it well and do all these people justice."
Butler added that being on a show covering such heavy topics was a task he felt honored to take on (he had to give up his gig on Riverdale to be on 13 Reasons Why full-time). "One of the perks of being on this show is that we do have a responsibility and we have this honor of informing the next generation," he says. "A big thing that we talk about with [showrunner] Brian Yorkey is how we raise our voice these days. I wasn't raised very cognizant of these issues ... because I wasn't in that culture. But it's something that we're much more aware of now."
Butler wants to make sure that he helps other teens and young adults learn that "there are consequences for everything we say and do." He adds, "To be a part of a show that can influence the next generation to be more cognizant of that is very important."
While Season 1 just focused on Hannah's tapes, Season 2 dives much deeper into the lives of not only Hannah but also all of the kids at Liberty High who knew her. Butler reveals that this season will "fill in so many gaps in the story" to the point where Hannah's truth may not be the only one presented by the end of the season.
"We get to see everything from both sides," Butler says. "I want people to see the whole story and then form their own opinions and talk about it. There are two sides to every story. Choose to make an opinion not based on what other people think. Be an individual."
For his part, Heizer wants viewers to learn from the experience of watching 13 Reasons Why to the point where people can recognize problematic behavior in themselves and make a change.
"I hope it causes people to think about their actions because at the end of the day, what seems like such small things to us really do affect people and can affect them for a really long time," he says. "We all have experiences like that. I certainly do in my personal life. I've brought up things like weird resentments or grudges I've held towards people for a long time and when you bring it up, they have no idea what you're talking about and it's literally nothing to them. It's fascinating just knowing how if you think for just one second before you speak, you can actually change someone's life."
And if Season 2 causes as much conversation as Season 1, both Butler and Heizer will be happy. In fact, Butler doesn't believe the negative criticisms of the series' depiction of suicide hurt the show (many mental health organizations and professionals believe the show glamorized suicide and could lead to more people contemplating the act).
"To me, it felt like we hit the mark, to be honest, the fact that people were talking about it so much," Butler says. "That was our goal, to get people talking about it, to open up communication, even if it is negative, that caused people to talk about it. Even if you didn't watch the show, and you read an article about it, that can still spark a conversation. Getting as many eyes open and mouths talking about the project, that was the goal from the beginning. I felt like we did something right."
Though Heizer was shocked at the overwhelming response to the first season, he admits that it was "exciting" to see the effect the series had on viewers.
"People were really talking about serious issues, especially involving mental health which a lot of people shy away from, especially when it comes to teenagers," he says. "A lot of times, people treat them as other children and their opinions aren't as important, but this is the next generation of people that are about to be voting for people who are going to be in office and will actually make changes. So it's important to address them as real people and be like, 'We see you and we know this is what you're dealing with.' It's cool that they watched and reacted to it."
Will the second season be just as inflammatory? We're only a few days away from finding out.
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.