Jul 11, 2018

[TV] Dear White People: Season 2 Review

While I didn't expect to get into things, the first season of Dear White People managed to draw me in with its clever satire of race issues and related subjects in an unusual comedy. The writing was strikingly well thought-out and how it all came together to tell its message made for some great television.

But given how the first season had ended, where else could Dear White People go with a second season? The answer to that question was not quite what I had expected either, but I guess that has become sort of par for the course for this series.

This is not to say that this was a perfect follow-up to the first season. It had its share of awkward bits and a slow start to things. But it got to somewhere interesting in the end and that's not a bad thing. This show has a particular journey for us in mind and should you follow it along it'll achieve something rather unique for you.

Synopsis: Dear White People is an American television series created by Justin Simien. The show is a Netflix-exclusive and was based on the movie of the same name also by Justin Simien.

After the big town hall protest at the end of the first season, things are in an odd place. Sam (Logan Browning) is no longer with Gabe (John Patrick Amedori) and finds herself the subject of some major online harassment. Reggie (Marque Richardson) is still a little traumatized by his run-in with campus police and is a little jittery when it comes to the possibility of being harassed again by people in authority. Lionel (DeRon Horton) is coming to terms with his homosexuality with odd support from the likes of his former editor Silvio (DJ Blickenstaff).

But another major element here is the almost broken state that we find Troy (Brandon P. Bell). He's largely directionless after the big climax of the last season and just seems to be coasting. But he won't be able to stay out of events for long as his father, the Dean, continues to push him along the path he has laid out for him. Winchester College remains a powderkeg for issues about race relations and the like and something is definitely burning.

What I Liked: The same wit and unique perspective of things is quite present in this second season and each character grows in their own way but still remain distinctly them. Coincidentally the biggest changes had to be for dorm neighbors Troy and Lionel as Troy becomes less the perfect guy everyone wants to be  and Lionel was coming into his own becoming more confident and self-assured. Plus man, DeRon Horton is ripped!

I also appreciated the complexity of Reggie's arc initially, as facing down an armed guard was a seriously traumatic event for him. As much as this is largely a comedic piece, they found a way to work in coping with that sort of trauma into Reggie's story. And the season provides a lot of such interesting character moments as everyone gets their time in the sun.

What Could Have Been Better: Despite there being an actual narrator, the season starts somewhat awkwardly and for a time I was actually a little lost as to what had happened. And it wasn't because of the time between when I had watched the two seasons as I had watched them one after the other. But things felt off-kilter and the narrator was not as strong a presence in the beginning nor did we get the usual character narratives, at least not as front and center they were in the first season.

Then things sort of meander a bit here and there before we get to the big conspiracy-centric ending and the odd reveal. That middle bit includes the back and forth between Sam and Gabe, what was annoying as a concept but did yield the golden scene of the interview. But I didn't quite care for the conflict, especially given how things ended.

TL;DR: Dear White People continues strong with this second season and continues to weave a complex narrative that really makes you think about how you view other people. It's not a perfect follow-up but it's one that has a message in mind and manages to present something memorable. Thus the season gets a good 4 twists in the character narratives out of a possible 5.

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