The third season of 13 Reasons Why focuses on the death of Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice) and the final months of his life before he was murdered by a handful of his former classmates. While Alex (Miles Heizer) was the person who eventually pushed Bryce into the water, resulting in him drowning, Zach (Ross Butler) was the person responsible for giving Bryce the injuries that made it impossible for him to swim. Meanwhile, Jessica (Alisha Boe) watched Alex do it — making her an accessory to the murder as well.
The group of students who Bryce terrorized in the Netflix drama's first two seasons, along with new girl Ani (Grace Saif), pinned his murder on Monty (Timothy Granaderos) in hopes of saving Jessica and Alex from going to prison. Since Monty died in prison after Tyler (Devin Druid) turned him for sexually assaulting him in Season 2, Bryce's murder basically went unpunished, at least for now.
Before Jessica's part in the murder was revealed in the Season 3 finale, it was a season of growing for the young girl who was traumatized so badly in Season 1. She reclaimed her body and sexuality for herself. She fell in love with Justin (Brandon Flynn) again, and she became an ambassador and a voice for every student at Liberty High who had experienced sexual assault.
TV Guide sat down with Boe to discuss Jessica's growth over the season, why she supports Jessica and Justin despite the controversy surrounding them, and why she wishes Jessica had been the one to actually kill Bryce.
What was your reaction when you found out Jessica's part in Bryce's murder?
Alisha Boe: I was shocked, but I was also disappointed because I wanted to be the one. I wanted to be the one to actually do it... I was, twistingly enough, happy I was a part of it because it sense makes in the story of it.
Do you think her involvement with it was actually therapeutic in a way, or do you think this might actually compound her trauma from what happened?
Boe: Compound her trauma. That's a human life... We'll see her explore that in Season 4, but I can't even fathom what it feels like to be a part of a murder. It's just more traumatizing.
Jessica begins this season on a mission to reclaim her own body. What were your conversations like with the writers about that journey and how empowering was it to play?
Boe: [In the second season] she transforms from a victim into a survivor. In the third season we explore more of that, and you really get to see her hone her power, and ready to really come into her own. You see her reclaim her sexuality, which is a very empowering. That's only a very, very small aspect of how she grows as a human being in the season. She just becomes this fearless leader who's not afraid to make mistakes, and learn from mistakes, and really is trying to implement a change for the better good of the school.
How does it parallel with her finding her voice by the end of the season? She stops screaming at the masses and she really figures out what she wants to say and how she wants to say it.
Boe: It's a trial and error kind of journey. You can go about [it] in different angles, and that's what you see from Bex [Taylor-Klaus]'s character, Casey, in the show. They have very opposing views on how to implement change in the school, but you really have to figure out how to get everybody listening. It's hard because everybody has a different point of view. So, you see [Jessica] making a lot of mistakes, and then at the end she really reaches people, which I've found very inspiring.
There was some backlash at the end of last season over her decision to hookup with Justin. What are you hoping fans will understand when they have more time to spend with that relationship this season and why it's happening?
Boe: We definitely build more on Justin and Jessica's relationship this season. I think audiences will fall in love with Justin and Jessica. I think they will understand it more, and they'll understand that it's her journey to recovery. You can't judge Jessica's journey to recover. It's going to happen in any which way. I think they'll understand more once they see the season, and it's cute.
What is it about their relationship that keeps bringing them together, despite the terrible things that have happened between them?
Boe: First of all, there's actual love there. I know that's very intense to say for high school, for them, in their very short lives. There's love behind there. I think it's because they understand each other, and they really, deeply care about each other so much. They are connected by this terrible trauma that happened to them, and they just want the other person to feel better... They're just magnets to each other. They cannot stay apart.
Season 3 tries to humanize Bryce, at least a bit. How did you feel about watching that as the person who is closest to Jessica?
Boe: I thought it was fascinating, honestly. It gives dimensions to Monty and Bryce, because it happens to both of them. In the first few seasons, we just saw them as villains. We didn't get to see their home life. Maybe just glimpses, but we didn't really get to explore it. As I was reading the script, I was fascinated by how toxic masculinity can really affect a person, or a little boy whose trying to grow into a young man. I thought it was absolutely fascinating. I think it's really going to upset audiences because it humanizes them, because they are human beings. But, it's not excusing anything that they did. It's not meant to be redeemable. It's just showing you the whole story. I think we're asking the question, "What drives a person to be this evil?" I think you get to see that.
Jessica was super isolated in Season 1 and less so in Season 2. At the end of Season 3, it's cemented that there's this group of people who are now ride-or-die friends. How do you think that is going to help her going forward?
Boe: You see it, the more people that surround Jessica, the stronger she gets, and the more fearless she gets. In life and in entertainment with characters, it's so important to have a strong support system. We are humans and we crave intimacy with other human beings. It gives us confidence and it gives us strength, and I think it will just allow her to continue to grow and mature into a very lovely young woman.
Do you think that with Season 4 being the final season, maybe Jessica will get the happiness that she says the group deserves in the finale?
Boe: I really hope so. I hope it ends on a light note, and that she gets to leave high school a strong, independent woman who's not defined by her trauma.
What is your version of a happy ending for Jessica?
Boe: Not to be completely healed, because it's an ongoing process with [sexual assault]. If you are Jessica, and you've gone through those experiences, it's going to be an ongoing journey. But, to be able to use her experiences for the greater good in the future, and to have her have a purpose in the world to help others... you see that in Season 3. That's what she wants. She wants to help people.
13 Reasons Why Seasons 1-3 are now streaming on Netflix.