It's pretty easy to figure out who the baddest of the bad is in "13 Reasons Why." Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice) is literally the most vile, hateful teenage boy we've seen on any TV show to date, and he manages to be entirely evil with a big charming smile on his face.
However, we'd argue that while Bryce is surely going straight to hell, he's not the real villain of the story.
Bryce's bullying is obvious. He sends Hannah's (Katherine Langford) scandalous photo to the whole school, he rapes an unconscious Jessica at a party -- while forcing his best friend to sit and do nothing about it -- and he violently rapes Hannah a week later in his hot tub, which we all know leads to her eventual suicide. He's pretty much Satan, and there shouldn't be a doubt in our minds why we hate this guy.
But what about the other kids who egged him on? What about the adults who helped Bryce skirt the system and get away with all of this stuff? What about the silent bystanders, like Clay (Dylan Minnette), who saw awful things happening and did nothing to stop them?
Blame can be placed at everyone's feet, but a few people in particular need to receive major consequences for their actions.
While we kind of want to throw Bryce into a meat mincer and watch him die, there's one other person who probably deserves some mincing of his own: Mr. Porter (Derek Luke).
As a guidance counselor for the high school, it was his job to make sure that the students he oversaw were having a happy, healthy and productive time during their school hours -- instead, he decided to victim-blame a girl who'd been sexually assaulted, and equivocate about whether or not Bryce really did anything wrong. And let's also not forget that in the wake of two student deaths, he managed to overlook that at least one more child was considering harming themselves.
We started out sympathetic for this guy's plight, but after hearing Tape 13, we can't find much pity for him.
Mr. & Mrs. Baker
This one might seem harsh, seeing as Hannah's parents suffered the greatest punishment imaginable -- the loss of their child -- but hear us out.
You have to consider that Hannah was wildly unhappy for a whole year in this new town, with only the briefest moments of reprieve. Every time she thought she'd made a new friend, that hope was brutally ripped away from her, and we just can't understand how Hannah's parents didn't suspect their daughter was dangerously depressed. We'd never go so far as to blame these poor people for Hannah's suicide, but their multiple moves coupled with their money troubles made them stressed and distracted. So distracted that they couldn't see the warning signs of Hannah's unhappiness.
Everyone will likely have a different opinion on which kids caused the most damage, but our vote goes to Courtney.
The most consistent characterization of a bully is that they attempt to sidestep their own insecurities by shifting the shame and hate toward a weaker target. Not only did Courtney fail as a friend to Hannah, she actively participated in the rumor mill that slowly but surely ate away at Hannah's will to live. It's one thing to ignore bullying or believe school gossip, but another matter entirely to make up salacious lies and spread them around in order to cover up your own dirty secret. Courtney's insecurities about her sexuality turned her into a malicious monster, and we wish she'd faced more consequences for the way she treated Hannah.
Justin's (Brandon Flynn) abusive home life illuminates so much of why he became a bully, which is an important part of laying any blame at his feet. Still, he is what we'd call a passive bully -- he doesn't instigate hurtful behavior very often, but he sure is complacent enough to sit around and let it happen.
Lying to your friends about how far a girl let you go with her is awful, but standing by and letting your friends send a photo looking up her skirt around school is crossing a serious line. Similarly, sitting idly by while your best friend rapes your unconscious girlfriend at a party is a level of complicity that is pretty unparalleled in this series.
It should go without saying, but the only thing more evil than actively hurting someone is watching others do it, and staying silent.
"13 Reasons Why" is available for streaming on Netflix.