Somebody is stirring up sh*t at Winchester University, and all of our faves are getting sucked into the storm. From the opening sequence of Dear White People Volume 2, it’s quite clear that the black students at the Armstrong-Parker House are about to confront much more than they did in the first season of the acclaimed Netflix series. Season 2 opens with an age-old debate, one that has started plenty of wars on Black Twitter and probably ended a friendship or two: salt versus sugar grits. The second season bangs on from there.
Two weeks after the tumultuous protest against integrating Armstrong-Parker, and three weeks after Reggie (Marque Richardson) found himself staring down the barrel of a campus police officer’s gun, Sam (Logan Browning) and the crew are struggling to pick up the pieces. It doesn’t help that they are now sharing their dorm with residents of the recently burned down Davis Hall. It’s a change that has transformed their once safe space amid a predominantly white university into one fraught with microaggressions and disharmony. Apparently, the Caucasians find the scent of fried foods and Armstrong-Parker’s choices in television programming offensive.
Mirroring the first season, Dear White People creator Justin Simien angles each episode of the 10-part second season from the perspective of one of the show’s main character. However, this time, we go well beyond the surface, even stepping away from Winchester’s campus completely. It’s not just Sam, Reggie or Coco (Antoinette Robertson) who get a spotlight this season. Lionel (DeRon Horton), Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson) and even Kelsey (Nia Jervier) get some well-deserved and much-needed fleshing out — giving new perspectives to the multiplicities and differences in the black diaspora.
Volume 2 of Dear White People is bolder. With the Trump election behind us, we’re standing firmly in the midst of his presidency, batting a resurgence of white supremacy and racist rhetoric. Simien confronts it all head on. Though she’s used to her radio show “Dear White People” bringing forth criticism, it is now Sam herself who is under attack. A Twitter troll, @AltIvyW, is making her life miserable, assaulting her and the black study body with cruel tweets, abusive language and even threats to their safety. The mystery surrounding the identity of the troll is a thread that runs throughout the entire season. The relentlessness of being called everything from a monkey to a “half-breed bitch” is wearing down the most outspoken black woman at Winchester, and she’s certainly not coming out of it unscathed.
For Sam, the attacks become an obsession, distracting her from her school work and causing her to put distance between herself, her friends and her family – something for which she’ll pay an extremely high price. This isn’t to say that the new installment of Dear White People is completely shrouded in darkness. The writing is wittier this season, and there are spot-on pop culture references. Commentary on the status of women’s healthcare, the exhaustive nature of hoteps, the vast spectrum of sexuality, bomb sex in general and toxic masculinity are perfectly poised for discussion.
Though the series is filled with iconic quips and spot-on cameos from everyone from Lena Waithe to Wendy Raquel Robinson and even some Dear White People film OGs things are much more sullen at Winchester these days. It is a commentary on the times, as we’ve been continually combating attacks on people of color, women and anyone else who isn’t a cis white straight male. Simien doesn’t simply preach to his audience about the brutal and alarming effects of systemic racism, he dials it back a century or two. The second season literally shows Winchester University from its foundation during slavery. This season is a history lesson in how age-old policies and ideals continue to traumatize people of color in predominantly white spaces.
Two episodes in particular, Chapter 4, which focuses on Coco and Kelsey and the secrets women keep and Chapter 8, where Sam and her ex-bae Gabe (John Patrick Amedori) have a showdown of epic proportions confronting everything from race to police brutality, are the season’s best. That’s not even closing in on the season finale which brings forth a shocking but familiar figure.
Though it’s brilliantly done, Volume 2 of Dear White People is almost painful to watch at times. As it confronts the issues that generations of black people have grappled with and are still combating in 2018, it forces the audience to do a close examination of themselves and where they stand during this particular time in history. And yet, that’s what makes the show so brilliant. Despite their many faults and failures, it is young people like those at Winchester University’s Armstrong-Parker who continue to push us all forward — even when the rest of us feel as if we’ve run out of steam. Even Troy (Brandon P. Bell), who seemed content with being just a pretty face and legacy student with an ever-revolving door of women, is mobilized into action.
Exceedingly more arresting than the first season, Volume 2 of Dear White People proves the series not only has deep roots, its outstanding cast, writers and crew are more than capable of telling our stories for many seasons to come. Oh, and just in case you missed seeing Kelsey’s mangy dog, Sorbet, the lil’ homie might just be showing his face again.
All 10 episodes of Dear White People Vol. 2 will be available to stream May 4, 2018, on Netflix.
Aramide A Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment writer. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, read her blog at www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami.