Dear White People is about a handful of unique young adults navigating life at a PWI. They are linked by a traumatic experience at a college party and initially seek the Black Student Union as not only a haven from the racism that surrounds them, but as a place where they strategize their retaliation.
In its third Volume, this Netflix series has proven itself once again to be bold, provocative, and stylish.
DWP Vol. 3 has a different vibe than its predecessors. The storytelling format has changed, each of the core cast has evolved unexpectedly and previously supporting characters are expanded in a major way. I can respect the growth that a lot of our favorites like Sam (Logan Browning) and Lionel (DeRon Horton) are experiencing, but I did miss the mystery and excitement of Vol. 2.
If you’re like me, you were probably waiting with bated breath to hear more about the Order of X, since Vol. 2 spent sooo much time setting up this mysterious secret society. Unfortunately, it seems to be all but forgotten this time around. At any rate even with all of the changes, DWP still promises to be entertaining, hilarious, and thought-provoking.
Sam is no longer the militant leader she used to be. While she of course still holds strong values and ideals, she has started skipping out on BSU to tackle greater priorities like her junior thesis. Her interest in the Order has waned although she still hangs out with Lionel. In particularly tough moments, such as when faculty advisors dismiss her scatterbrained film project, Sam sends texts to her deceased father seeking his guidance. One bright spot is her rekindled relationship with Gabe (John Patrick Amadori). The two of them seem to have finally found a healthy rhythm.
The same cannot be said for Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson) and Reggie (Marque Richardson), who fiiiinaaaallyy hooked up at the end of Vol. 2. Jo is committed to making it work but Reggie seems fine with riding the struggle bus. He’s still dealing with some lingering trauma from the fateful party during Vol. 1 when a campus police officer pulled a gun on him. Having a gun unfairly (and unlawfully for that matter) jammed into his face still leaves him shaken. He’s also consumed with a new business venture and finds a hero in tech genius and professor Moses, played by the ever suave Blair Underwood.
Then there is Lionel who was of course fired from the school paper last season and still hasn’t really recovered. That is until he begins writing a series of stories under the pen name “Chester”. Each story follows a gay man’s exploits at the fictional university and to Lionel’s great delight, Chester becomes an immediate favorite on campus although no one knows it’s him. While Volumes 1 and 2 showed the young writer first accepting and then exploring his sexuality, Vol. 3 is all about him experimenting and find his place within the queer community. He’s still awkward and naive, often getting himself into situations where he is in over his head. His determination to uncover all secrets related to the Order of X has also dwindled.
With the core cast consumed by so many new interests, the opportunity to introduce viewers to other students at Winchester presents itself early.
Colorful new characters abound from the very first episode. D’Unte (Griffin Matthews) is an outspoken student at Winchester who sparks up a friendship with Lionel and serves as his guide into the “gay deep end”. He is equal parts ridiculous and lovable. Abigail (Sheridan Pierce) is the lone female “writer” on campus paper Pastiche. She’s consistently overlooked by her male counterparts and as a White woman, her character adds yet another perspective to the series. If the goal is to make sure that everyone is represented over the course of the series, showrunner Justin Simien is so far succeeding.
One of the best aspects of the series has always been that the writers aren’t afraid to address heavy subjects. They have never run away from telling the honest truth from each character’s point of view. Nothing is too taboo, nothing is “off limits” in terms of content and that gives the writers a lot of room to move. Racial and gender inequality, the Me Too Movement, and Black Lives Matter are just a few of the territories these characters find themselves traversing. These students feel like real people because they live in the real world.
At some point between the season 2 finale and Vol. 3 Chapter I, Sam and Lionel lost the excitement they once held for uncovering all of the secrets regarding the Order and the Narrator (Giancarlo Esposito), who showed up in human form for the first time in the aforementioned finale.
I was left feeling a little disappointed that his character faded into the periphery with only a couple of appearances. It felt as though I missed something this time around. The writing and acting was A1 like always, however it would have been nice for the ramp up to have paid off. At this point in time, I’m not sure where a Vol. 4 would take the audience or these characters for that matter but I sure hope we get to find out.
Oh! There’s also fun surprise guests: Yvette Nicole Brown as Coco’s (Antoinette Robertson) down-to-earth mom, Laverne Cox as an illustrious filmmaker who Sam idolizes, and Simien himself as one of Sam’s faculty advisors (I may make a separate post all about his character’s importance later because there is a lot that can be said!) 🙂
All three seasons of Dear White People are streaming exclusively on Netflix!
What’s your favorite film/tv series set on a college campus that focuses on the students there? Mine is definitely A Different World. Leave me a comment naming your fave (or faves) below!