Alex's Journey On '13 Reasons Why' Shows There's No One Way To Cope With Trauma, According To Miles Heizer
Spoilers ahead for 13 Reasons Why Season 2.
Alex Standall is lucky. After suffering a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head at the end of the first season of 13 Reasons Why, speculation ran wild about his fate. Did Alex take after his friend Hannah and try to commit suicide? Did he die from the injury? The shocking end to the first season didn't provide any answers, and it's been a long year of waiting to find out Alex's fate on 13 Reasons Why.
While the show took its time in revealing what had happened to Alex in the Season 2 premiere, fans finally got their answer when he appeared onscreen actually looking pretty normal, albeit rocking some longer hair. It turns out that Alex spent some time in a coma, but he recovered almost fully despite some physical side effects. He now walks with a cane and doesn't have the strength he used to, and there's no telling how the trauma affected him mentally and emotionally. But he's alive, which is important, and now he has to cope.
"Season 2 for Alex, for him at least at the beginning, is about his recovery and trying to come to terms with why he would make a decision like that and the way that people now treat him," Miles Heizer, who plays Alex, tells Bustle. "Inevitably people begin to treat him differently and he has to deal with all kinds of different emotions surrounding that circumstance."
Of course, however, "it all comes back to Hannah and the tapes and his role in that," Heizer adds. "And how he chooses to take responsibility or not. But for him, a lot of [this season] is about his recovery."
While it may seem shocking to some that Alex could be walking and talking and acting pretty much like his usual self after suffering from a gunshot wound to the head, recovery after an injury like this is actually pretty realistic. Heizer did a deep dive into research about the recovery process and side effects for brain injuries prior to filming Season 2 so he could portray Alex's fate responsibly and authentically.
"Production actually set up quite a few meetings that I had with physical therapists about the physicality of it and meetings with people that actually dealt with people with traumatic brain injuries specifically caused from gunshot wounds," Heizer says. "I also was able to meet with therapists who speak to people that have attempted suicide. She had worked with people that survived that and so it was really interesting to hear her personal experiences, obviously remaining anonymous when she was talking about it. But she gave me a lot of information about the way that people cope."
Bringing Alex's Season 2 story to life presented some big challenges for the young actor, especially since he knows that attempted suicide is such a sensitive topic. But it turns out that the biggest obstacle to overcome was less about the emotional weight of Alex's arc and more about the physicality of it all.
"For me the hardest was definitely physically trying to not use half of my body and still trying to act," Heizer says. "That was really hard for me at times. Luckily I had a leg brace on that went into my shoe so I couldn’t bend my foot and I couldn't really walk on one side. It wasn't that bad because I was legitimately limping around on a cane. But it was pretty difficult."
The biggest takeaway that Heizer learned from all his research and preparation is that everyone's journey back from this kind of injury manifests in unique ways and there is no "right" way of portraying it. Hopefully, 13 Reasons Why will help show survivors of all kinds that there's no one set rulebook for coping with trauma.
If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.