There are spoilers in this review.
As I mentioned in my review of episodes 1-5, I was really sad when Lionel and Silvio didn’t go there, and I saw exactly why in episode six. GDI, Silvio, I was rooting for you! Episode six was Lionel and former frenemy Brooke trying to hunt down AltIvy. Lionel is studying secret societies, and he’s also set up a little office in his dorm room so they can restart their own paper. Silvio is not interested in either AltIvy or secret societies, so he tells them to keep looking for things, but Brooke agrees AltIvy is the way to go. They find out where Sorbet, Kelsey’s dog has been all this time, and also that Silvio is AltIvy. I will admit I didn’t see it coming and I was startled. There is someone on Tumblr who pointed out the many problematic things Silvio said last season and this season that gives some lead up to this. It also stated out with Silvio just liking the attention and venting his darkest thoughts, and then he was like oh hey I get more likes than I did being a legit journalist. He also does believe in some of the stuff he’s been spouting, so RIP Silvio, your potential relationship with Lionel, and our love for you. He’s there when Reggie hits Trevor and that’s how Lionel figures it out, seeing the reflection of him signed in. Lionel gets an X on his door though, as does Sam, and that all feeds into their theories about a secret society.
So then it’s time for Troy! What an excellent deconstruction we get of him. Last season he was wound up tightly, trying to be perfect for his father and letting any individuality in him be beaten down. After finally snapping and breaking a window, he was released and just sort of gives up. He doesn’t care about being a leader anymore. He just wants to chill out, smoke, drink, have lots of sex, and avoid responsibility of any kind. To be fair, at his heart he’s always kind of been this way. You could see it in the way he dealt with Coco last season and with his other relationships with women. He doesn’t have ambition, everyone around him has the ambition. He dates Sam to get her assistance in winning something, but he’s always doing it for other people. Now that he doesn’t really care about other people, he can do … well, nothing, honestly. He wants to get into comedy and he finds his voice in his episode. It’s kind of like the opposite of an insecure character finding their strength and being a rock star. Troy wants to be chill and do his own thing and not bear the expectations of everyone else on his shoulders. And now he’s doing that. He’s somehow simplistically complex. He’s shallowly complex. Complex in his shallowness. I really dig it, honestly. I had no idea where they were going with him and after watching I felt like this is what I wanted for him.
It’s Gabe time. So as mentioned before, he’s been doing a documentary “Am I Racist?” and he’s been interviewing all of Sam’s friends. His denial he’s doing it in any way because of her rings falsely, as she points out, precisely because of that. I think he’s genuine, in some ways, and also not so much in other ways. But they never really got to have it out, not the way they do here, and I was enraptured with the entire thing. It was a bottle episode, these two people who loved each other, who still do, fighting over their flawed existences and how they went so wrong. They go pretty viciously for each other, but believably so, none of it seemed out of character. She agrees to let him interview her and at first they’re both prickly and defensive and argumentative. It goes through a lot of cycles, this fight. I do appreciate that he touched on the fact she never apologized for Reggie. She never apologized to either of them, to Gabe as they were in a somewhat committed relationship, and to Reggie since she knew about his feelings for her. Sam really has gotten broken down this season in so many ways, and I really appreciate how they deal with her feelings of being torn and guilty. She’s complex. Their relationship was complex. They did end up kissing and indicating they might be headed down that path, and maybe they can do so more honestly now, but I’m not sure. I can’t say that I really ship it? But I did find myself fascinated this entire episode so good acting at the very least. But the episode ends with something devastating: Sam’s dad is dead.
Sam’s episode about her dad made me ugly cry. For real. I ugly cried a lot. I was surprised but also delighted that Coco went with them. I like all the reminders that freshman year she and Sam were inseparable. It was great seeing the three leading ladies together and emotionally bonding and being there for each other. Yes yes yes! Unfortunately it was over something tragic. Sam’s furious because she didn’t even know her father was that ill, because her mother didn’t warn her that he was back in the hospital. There’s a lot of rage people feel with grief and she’s always been someone driven by fury. But her fury can’t really last against her true sadness. There’s been some interesting undertones with her father before this because he was white and it’s come up a few times that Sam’s struggle is tied in to the fact she’s half and half. So did this complexity for her translate into complex feelings for her dad too? His last letter to her is absolutely devastating and she reads it at the funeral. I was not okay. Feelings! I do like any time we get to see a family dynamic in this show, and I hope we eventually get a glimpse at where everyone came from. Not just mentions, like Joelle’s happily married folks or Coco’s more difficult house, but if the show continues it should dedicate itself to unraveling these characters more. It’s enriched the viewing experience. Even if it made me cry. Damn you. RIP Sam’s awesome dad.
The last episode didn’t center on anyone in particular, or I should say it was an ensemble episode. It had no POV, it was everyone’s POV. This was very specifically chosen. A lot of stories are coming together. The entire season they were trying to get this outspoken black activist to come to campus, and instead the black woman who was a right winger Rikki Carter is brought to campus. She is played by Tessa Thompson which is very, very meta as Tessa played Sam in the movie version of this show. Sam has plans to sabotage the appearance, and while one version of it works, the other one shakes her to her core. But first! Reggie and Joelle finally get together. I have to say that I’m not entirely sure I believe what he says below, and I’m not sure it was the right thing to say to Joelle. It was clear he was in love with Sam since the moment he met her. You can’t pretend that you were really not with the person you wanted simply because of rejection. Sam rejected you a lot. You always liked and respected Joelle and now you realize how deep it goes. That’s great! But Joelle also doesn’t take that shit, so they’re on the same page now in terms of a relationship. Good for them! Coco is sleeping with that douche from Pastiche but she seems happy about it, and they seem to be on the same page as well. Lionel is closing in on what he thinks is a secret society, and one that both he and Sam are being recruited for if they can only figure out the mystery!
First let’s talk about what happens with Rikki, because wow. Tessa Thompson kills it as a very self-aware and ruthless public figure who believes firmly that all they’re doing is playing parts. She says that her counterpart, the man who Sam believed in strongly, is the exact same. They even purposely put their conflicting opinion books out at the same time for extra coverage and attention. She thinks Sam’s an act or rather that she should be, that she should capitalize on her aggressive show and think smartly about how to use it for her future and how to use it to make money and become famous. She really breaks her down and makes Sam question why she does Dear White People, something she’s been thinking about a lot this season, and if it’s about attention more than activism. Rikki does manage to verbally dress Sam down, but she’s in for a surprise when she goes on stage, expecting to see a right wing group, and finds instead that the theater is full of mixed company. The guy from Pastiche was convinced by Coco to help get most of the theater tickets so they could fill it with POC. Silvio is surprised about this, he’s the intro guy, how far he’s fallen, but it seems very successful as Rikki stammers and is thrown off balance at this quiet, focused audience she didn’t expect.
Sam and Lionel think they have figured out where this secret society might be recruiting them. They get there and feel like it’s all a disappointment, and wonder what their choices have meant this season. Lionel’s disenfranchised with Silvio, with his attempts at making a new paper, with his new boyfriend who doesn’t want monogamy, and if all his efforts were pointless. They both seem ready to give up when Giancarlo Esposito shows up. YES. THE NARRATOR OF THE SHOW. It turns out that all of his narrating might actually have been his character’s analysis of the people on campus and who might be worth recruiting into whatever organization he has. Organization X. So maybe Sam and Lionel weren’t crazy and their efforts this season were heading somewhere and I have no idea what this means for season 3. If they have one. As of right now, it has not been renewed for season 3. If the show ends here, I think I’ll be okay? It was a good lead up to that moment, but having Sam and Lionel join a secret society is a pretty solid cool ‘what next’ arc that doesn’t need answers. But if it does continue, YES, because I want to dig in deeper to these people and also learn more about side characters that haven’t gotten full episodes. Like Kelsey! Or Rashid! Bring it all on.