As I was writing this review, it occurred to me that I should just do a Dear White People (DWP) series review where I break down each episode because there is a lot I want to write about this series. So be on the lookout for DWP series soon.
Warning: Spoilers ahead
I will begin by stating that DWP Vol. 4 was a disappointment, there is no other way to put it because what I got was not what I expected. I watched volume 3 earlier this year and its ending had got me excited for Volume 4 so when the Netflix coming soon tab notified me of vol 4’s impending release, I was one excited fella. I did not even see the trailer so imagine my surprise when I finally got into the show and realized I was getting a 10 episode musical. Full disclosure, I am not a huge fan of musicals, so I already had a chip on my shoulder as I proceeded with the volume. For starters, with the exception of Joelle, none of the cast can really sing. I was a high school musical fanatic so I expect to see over the top smiles and the type of joy that Marie Kondo sparks when I watch musicals, and most of these guys looked like they would rather be doing something else than sing, acting out my preferred story lines perhaps. In some scenes, you can literally see that their lips are barely moving and Lionel is the perfect example of this in the finale. Going into this season, I had hoped that they were going to dig deeper into Al’s Latinx and African American mixed heritage, as they had hinted in the vol 3 finale. They wasted a chance to tell the story of a Black Hispanic, a group of people we rarely see represented in the media.
I had never really paid much attention or tried to understand the Order of X story line but seeing how it played a role into what was shown at the varsity show made it make sense. As a former participant in an honors program, I should have paid much attention to it as it ties to W.E.B. Du Bois’ talented tenth initiative, another story line that would have made for an interesting season. Black excellence is a vicious beast that sucks the life out of a lot of black folk, and Joelle was the perfect vessel for this. And yet, we were subjected to a half baked story line about a scientific study that I would not want anyone to be a part of , if only they had done what they were supposed to do in the writers room instead of subjecting us to more horrible singing. Even the guy we love to hate Troy had a story line that could have carried Vol 4. He is a perfect example of someone to whom much is given and is expected but once you scratch the surface, you get to see that all he wants is to be a normal kid, something he unfortunately can never be considering his mommy issues. But in a way, his story is one of the more fleshed out ones and we come to understand and even empathize with him.
Joelle did a get a fair sendoff as well, we get to see the perfect black girl machine at work here and this is something most black women can relate to, there is never much room to be yourself and then there is the expectation that you can do it all, to be clear, no human can do it all. Her relationship with Reggie only compounds things further and perhaps their story line was one of my favourites this season, the look on their faces as they rejoin the party was a perfect ode to the ending scene in The Graduate. The dread on their faces perhaps perfectly captured what most of us felt in the finale when we were not sure of what had happened to Reggie and for a character with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, it makes sense that he was always going to be on the edge.
Samantha and Lionel were the show’s main protagonists and focus but this should have changed after volume 2. They never should have been the main focus for their entire show as this left little room for growth of the other characters and led to the disappearance of some in volume 4 whom we would have liked to see. Time and time again, Black people have stated that we are not a monolith and yet you can argue that DWP Vol 4 would make you conclude that we are. I understand that they had to stick to a budget and time limits but to whom a platform was given, much was expected, we deserved more. In as much as it sucks that the end is here, I look forward to the spin offs and alternate endings that will come out of this, there better be some or I will riot. I do know for sure that I will riot if the future looks anything like the reunion we were subjected to or if the fashion sense will be in line with what Al wore to the reunion.