Warning: spoilers below.
13 Reasons Why isn't just entertainment; it's a show that will leave you with questions and inspire conversations that need to be had. While nearly every episode takes some type of heartbreaking twist, one of the cornerstone moments happens in episode nine (aka "Tape 5 Side A"). Justin leaves Jessica passed out on her bed, and when leaving, runs into Bryce in the hallway. Upon learning that Jessica is incapacitated, Bryce pulls a disgusting "what's yours is mine" card and, despite initial objections, Justin lets him into Jessica's room.
To the average viewer (myself included), this scene is shocking. Why the hell would Justin let his predatory friend through to see her, knowing full well that Bryce intends on violating her? We spoke to Alexis Jones, founder of Protect Her, an organization dedicated to educating young men about consent. She counseled actor Justin Prentice during the filming of the show, and she singled the moment out in the hallway as one of the most genuine parts of the whole series - here's why.
"It is so much more real than anyone understands, this idea of bro code. It is ultimate sense of camaraderie and dedication to each other, and then on the other side of it is holding each other accountable, and just how difficult that is to navigate through for young men. 13 Reasons Why really exposed an area of truth that young men really struggle with, which is, 'Wait, but we have each other's back. But at what point do we not have each other's back?' And so I felt like that was something that was incredibly on point. Very few shows and projects that I've worked on I don't think capture how difficult it is to wrestle with that."
Jones went further, explaining specifically why it makes sense that Justin would not only let Bryce get away with the worst but actually enable his actions.
"It's incredibly realistic when you understand the backstory: you have this kid [Justin] who has relied on Bryce for so many different moments, whether it was just giving him a pair of shoes. It seems trivial, but you basically have this kid who feels like this guy is a brother to him. One of the things that a lot of viewers, especially female viewers, don't understand is that especially within guy culture, it's a lot harder to have relationships that are as intimate as they are. When you find that relationship where it feels like a brother and you're able to share the good, the bad, and the ugly . . . Bryce has seen all of that and accepted him for all of that. It's such a powerful relationship for him.
All of a sudden [Justin] is presented with a moment in which he should have 'done something more.' We don't recognize that in these moments, in these 15 seconds in which we're asked to be brave - that narrow window where he gets pushed down in the hallway and all of a sudden Bryce walks in - that 15-second window, it feels like that's gone. The reality is that guys tend to not be conditioned to be as verbal as girls . . . I don't think that's just a cop-out, truthfully, we aren't equipping them with the right tools. By tools, I mean we're literally not even equipping them with the right words to say in those moments. And the truth is, it feels like such a short window of when you could and should have done something.
And then, obviously, you see the unraveling of Justin's character, as the weight of that inactivity. You see the ramifications of that, and he has to live with that. And so the idea that you can nonchalantly, as dudes, confront this unspoken social contract that they have entered into (whether they know it or not), is really, really, difficult."
You can see Jones in Netflix's follow-up to 13 Reasons Why, Beyond the Reasons.