Tuesday, May 8, 2018

REVIEW: Netflix's 'Dear White People' - Season 2

Netflix dropped the entire 10-episode second season of Dear White People on Friday, May 4. This post will feature brief reviews of each specific episode of the season.

The new season stars Logan Browning, Brandon P. Bell, DeRon Horton, Antoinette Robertson, John Patrick Amedori, Marque Richardson and Ashley Blaine Featherson.

201. "Chapter I"
Written by Justin Simien and directed by Justin Simien

Dear White People was such a smart and pointed show in its first season. And now, it seems poised to be even more devastating and difficult to watch because the real world has changed so much in the year in between the seasons. Only a couple of days have passed in the narrative of the show. The main characters are still dealing with the fallout of the failed protest. That's informing their lives. But the show was written with a much more political slant this season because of how crazy real life has gotten. It has forced these issues to the forefront in some really uncomfortable and brutal ways. The show has always been perfectly blunt and devastating about what race relations are actually like in this country. And now, it's just increasing that pressure because it's clear that the world hasn't progressed as much as we previously thought. Yes, the story of the premiere is still fundamentally Sam engaging with a troll on Twitter and losing herself in that fight until she realizes that she shouldn't engage in that way. It's not conductive to her overall health. But this premiere does such a phenomenal job in putting the audience in Sam's head. Sure, we can still judge her by seeing her go days without moving from her bed engaging in this fight and getting upset with her father. And yet, the story perfectly dramatizes how these feelings of white oppression are much more in the open now. It can be just as devastating for Sam to see the cruel things being said about her online. It's a comment about her parents that ultimately breaks her. But it's even more of a gut punch when she sees her familiar space invaded by alt-right students. The platform she uses to get her message out is also being used by these people hoping to share their perspective on the world as well. It makes it seem like everything is simply a debate even though Sam is clearly in the right. It's so destructive. Sam is very depressed throughout this premiere. She struggles to find the energy to engage with school and her community. But in the end, she does realize that it's still important to speak one's mind even when it's tough. She may not have accomplished anything yet. But this is still something of significant importance to her because of just how worse it has gotten falling the protest. Plus, the new show-within-the-show featuring Lena Waithe is fantastic even though it's also understandable that the main characters are unsure of how to respond now that the new white students are watching with them. B+

202. "Chapter II"
Written by Chuck Hayward and directed by Kevin Bray

The protests that clashed at the end of the first season were a direct result from a gun being pulled on Reggie during a party by the campus police. That was such a traumatizing experience for him that others took as the action to demand justice about making the college campus safer. It quickly outgrew Reggie who was in shock for so much of the story afterwards. And here, the show does such a phenomenal job in showcasing his own depressive spiral. His is so vastly different than Sam's from the premiere. And yet, both are equally valuable and important. He has more similarities with Troy because their lives have completely changed because of one event. Reggie's just happens to be crippling while Troy's was freeing. Troy doesn't have anything new in his life to get excited about. Meanwhile, Reggie is holding onto this anger and need for the security officer to pay for what he did. He demands immediate justice. He wants to know that the guy lost his job. He sees it as such a simple issue even though the Dean reveals it's far more complicated than that because of the union involved. But it's so traumatic to see how Reggie is struggling to move forward in this life. This episode is all about the competing ideas that could potential pull him back to a normal and safe reality. He could join a religious group. He could drawn his sorrows in sex, drugs and alcohol. He could talk to a therapist or the Dean who actually has empathy for his situation. But none of those seem to actually work for him. It's important that he finds some outlet to let out this trauma and anger. He needs to be able to talk about what he is genuinely feeling. The audience already knows what that solution is going to be. It's Gabe's new documentary talking about racism. Reggie is so reluctant to do that interview for the longest time. It's vital to see what ultimately gets him to change his mind. It's ultimately about him always perceiving himself as a threat because that's the way the world looks at him because of the color of his skin. He doesn't want to live in that life anymore. And so, this documentary is his way of essentially coming out and saying that he has zero fucks to give about how anyone else in the world perceives him or his actions. That's empowering but it could have fascinating complications in the story moving forward as well. B+