Expanding on the cultural phenomenon of the 2014 film by the same name, Netflix’s “Dear White People” continues to examine hot topics, societal and cultural issues through the lens of students at a fictional Ivy League college. The brainchild of multi-hyphenate Justin Simien, “Dear White People” continues to challenge audiences’ biases and perceptions of race and gender while giving people of color an outlet for their diverse stories and voices to be heard, both in front of and behind the camera. Given today’s current social and political climate, this new season has perfect timing.
Season Three picks up where Season Two left off with Sam (Logan Browning) and Lionel (DeRon Horton) continuing to uncover the mystery of the “Order of X” and the rest of the crew navigating the tricky waters of relationships, friendships, self-discovery and all that comes with the contemporary college experience. The season opens peaceful and quiet, a very different landscape from past seasons, with the lack of an overarching collective struggle and a seeming complacency and calm amongst the students. In the ten episodes, the “Scooby Doo” type mystery seems a little hokey and almost farcical in the beginning.
There are several subplots, and the series feels stretched relatively thin. Thankfully, by the end of the season, it wraps up nicely with all the side stories converging and bringing all the characters together. Unlike Season One where everyone is collectively dealing with the same thing (the Black Face Party and it’s repercussions), Seasons Two and Three delve more into the individual characters’ issues and doesn’t connect them all until the end.
Season Three brings new friendships and relationships (both old and new) to explore with them all seeming to intertwine as the season progresses. New allies and allegiances are formed while some are tested. The writing this season is excellent with very compelling individual character storylines. Sam continues to learn how to cope with her father’s death and finding her voice again, especially after relinquishing “Dear White People” to Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson). Gabe (John Patrick Amedori) is struggling to reconcile his background with his current life situation. Lionel is continuing his journey of self-discovery while exploring his sexuality with his new crew of friends and creative outlets. Joelle is dealing with her “Claire Huxtable Syndrome” and finding her own identity outside of Sam’s shadow and new romantic relationships.
This season, Troy (Brandon P. Bell) is on a quest to figure out who he really is and finally break out of his “stereotypical” box. While Coco (Antoinette Robertson) is finding her place in the world while trying to reconcile her dual identities – the woman she wants to be and people’s perception of her. Reggie (Marque Richardson) is still learning to cope with his PTSD from his life-changing interaction with the cops in Season One. There seems to be hope at the end of the tunnel for Reggie, or maybe it’s just false hope. This season also shines a spotlight on some of the more peripheral characters like Rashid (Jeremy Tardy), Kelsey (Nia Jervier), Al (Jemar Michael), Kurt (Wyatt Nash), Muffy (Caitlin Carver), D’Unte (Griffin Matthews), Brooke (Courtney Sauls) and Dean Fairbanks (Obba Babatundé). Overall, a great ensemble cast that works well together.
The show still indulges in the current cultural references and issues that made it resonate with viewers from all different backgrounds from the very beginning. The Winchester crew is having conversations that have been happening in workplaces and households around the country in the past year or so. This season focuses the lens on the #MeToo Movement, gender identity issues, slut-shaming, morally compromised cultural leaders/icons, “white guilt,” affirmative action, social media and trolling, “real” allies, privilege, tokenism and cultural identity in a political yet funny and introspective way. Without being bias, it leaves the final call up to the viewers after literally arguing its way across the spectrum. As the characters grapple with these subject matters, viewers get more insight into the individual characters and psychology. The writers even throw in a few cheeky quips about the entertainment industry, even remarking on Netflix’s track record when it comes to its shows hitting Season 3.
Stylistically, Season Three is as vivid and beautifully shot as it gets. The characters’ wardrobes are so thoughtfully detailed and put together that they give them an added layer while being visually appealing and continuing to offer “Different World” vibes. The soundtrack is fantastic and accentuates the scenes. The cinematography is at its best with effective use of lighting, over the shoulder shots, framing (ex. lots of pictures within a picture, within a picture in the studio) and the characters letting the audience in by breaking the fourth wall with the camera stares at the end of the episodes. Season Three continues to skillfully shift between comedy and drama while using satire to educate viewers. Some great cameos also punctuated this season by Laverne Cox, Blair Underwood, Lena Waithe, Justin Simien, Tessa Thompson and Tyler James Williams (both from the original movie). Season Three continues to creatively and beautifully hold up a mirror to society at large for some much needed introspection and reflection.