SPOILER WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why. Proceed at your own risk.
When 13 Reasons Why exploded with Season 1, it wasn’t just because fans loved it. Which they did. It was also because of the controversy it stirred.
In Season 1, the show tackled toxic high school culture, rape and teen suicide – with some scenes pretty graphic and hard-hitting, particularly for a teen show. Some of the series’ critics felt that the way in which the topics were handled wasn’t all that responsible. But if anything, in Season 2 the shock value is upped. This time, the creative forces behind the show have been especially careful to issue clear and frequent warnings about its content, coupled with advice on where to seek help should the show’s subject matter affect you. Some Twitter users have issued trigger warnings for sexual assault victims and urged people not to watch.
‘Don’t watch it if it offends you’ seems to be the motto of Netflix, the service which airs the show. CEO Reed Hastings said: “It is controversial. But nobody has to watch it. We’re an on-demand service, and we feel great about the possibility of season 3 and look forward to supporting the team’s work in that.”
It will come as no surprise, perhaps, that Season 3 has since been greenlit. And that’s despite a particularly graphic and harrowing scene in the season finale which sees school baseball star and bully Montgomery de la Cruz brutally assault outsider Tyler Down. You can read a description of what happens in that scene here.
FANDOM caught up with Timothy Granaderos, who plays Montgomery in 13 Reasons Why, and asked him why it was important to include the scene in the season finale.
“It was part of the inciting incident for Devon’s character Tyler to carry out his plan at the end. So, for the story it makes sense. But also, it’s a subject matter that we don’t really talk about. Male-on-male sexual assault happens more than we realise and it’s an issue that I think needs to be addressed and talked about,” says Granaderos.
Season 2 ends with Tyler planning and almost carrying out a horrifying school shooting. He’s talked down by Dylan Minette’s Clay Jensen outside the doors to the school.
Granaderos believes that the show is deliberately provocative.
“Obviously there’s some controversy around our show but all the issues that we deal with are tough subject matters to speak on, so if we can get a conversation started about those things then that’s what we intend to do. In a real and honest way too,” he says.
He says that being a part of the show has “opened my eyes to the idea that as actors, we’re more than just entertainers.”
One of the criticisms directed at the series is that the attack seems to come from nowhere, which makes it doubly shocking. Granaderos offers his thoughts on why his character carried out the horrific attack.
“In preparation, I did research and I tried to figure out why he did it. I found that the root of his actions was pain,” he says. “He had all this pain and displaced anger from the baseball team’s season being cancelled and, you know, his ‘brother’ Bryce basically breaking up with him, and he didn’t know where to go or who to turn to. So he dealt with it in the only way he knew how — and that was physically abusing someone who he felt was weaker and [who] he blamed for part of his pain.”
Grenaderos admits that he wasn’t surprised at the reaction to the savage attack they depicted on screen. And, in fact, he had a very telling physical reaction to the scene after reading it in the script.
“I didn’t know about [the scene] until later on in the season,” he says. “Our showrunner approached me a couple of episodes out and asked me if it was something I’d be comfortable doing. And at that point in time, that scene was just a pitch, it wasn’t even confirmed that it was going to be in the script. He just wanted to make sure I was comfortable doing it. So, I knew it was coming and it was shocking when I read it. I remember just turning the pages and my palms were sweating.”
At some point, he says, everyone was “all on the same page” and the scene was shot, and included.
“Going into it we felt very prepared,” he says. “We had a safety meeting where Devin [Druid, who plays Tyler] and I spoke with the producers and our director as well as the stunt coordinator how everything was going to play out. They showed us storyboards of the space and the shot so all the technicalities were clear in our mind before we went into the scene. They also allowed us to ask any questions we had.”
If their plan with Season 3 is to up the ante once again, it’s going to be a tough call to include anything more shocking than Montgomery’s horrendous sexual assault on Tyler. But if 13 Reasons Why is indeed a show that sets out to provoke, you can bet they’ll try.
13 Reasons Why Season 2 is available to stream now on Netflix.