[Warning: The next accommodates spoilers for Monday’s episode of We Are Who We Are, “Proper Right here, Proper Now VI.” Learn at your personal threat!]
I am going to admit that after I began watching We Are Who We Are I could not determine the importance of the collection being set in 2016, on the top of Donald Trump’s presidential marketing campaign in opposition to Hillary Clinton. As a fan of Luca Guadagnino, the Italian director behind movies like 2017’s dreamy coming-of-age romance Call Me by Your Name and 2018’s witchy Suspiria remake, I wasn’t essentially trying ahead to the potential of Trump-related commentary from his first foray into tv. Loads of exhibits have already taken on the Trump era to various levels of success, and reliving his sudden win, but once more, wasn’t precisely one thing I used to be enthusiastic about. However as of Monday evening’s episode, titled “Proper Right here, Proper Now VI,” setting the present within the latest previous is beginning to make sense.
All through the season thus far, Trump has served as one thing of a specter on the planet of We Are Who We Are, a ghost lurking within the background, looming over a gaggle of characters who did not pay him a lot thoughts. The present’s 14-year-old protagonists, Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Caitlin (Jordan Kristine Seamón), are extra involved with the state of their very own interior lives than they’re with the president, and regardless of the present’s inherently political setting — a U.S. army base in Italy — Trump has solely appeared in short flashes. In a single episode, a tense dialog between Sarah (Chloë Sevingy) and Richard (Kid Cudi) is underscored by the sound of Trump and Clinton’s first debate enjoying on TVs behind them. In one other, Richard and Caitlin’s father-daughter screening of a baseball recreation is interrupted by a Trump advert during which he guarantees, if he is elected, to enact a Muslim ban. Later in the identical episode, Richard buys two Make America Nice Once more hats for himself and Caitlin, although hers notably will not match over her hair.
However within the present’s sixth episode, Trump’s presence takes on new which means. “Proper Right here, Proper Now VI” does not fall into the identical traps as plenty of media that bends over backwards to touch upon his time in workplace, and that is largely as a result of it is not likely about him — till its Trump-focused ending blindsides you.
The episode is stuffed with moments of honest, uninhibited pleasure — Fraser and Caitlin’s recreation of the music video for the present’s unofficial theme track, Blood Orange’s “Time Will Inform,” is well one in all my favourite TV scenes of the 12 months — and moments of harrowing teenage confusion as Fraser goes on a day journey along with his a lot older crush, Jonathan (Tom Mercier). There’s additionally indescribable unhappiness on this hour, as Richard realizes he is dropping Caitlin as she grows up. Not like earlier episodes, Trump is completely absent from the vast majority of “Proper Right here, Proper Now VI.” He does not seem till the ultimate minutes, when Sarah is sitting at the hours of darkness, blankly watching the information within the hours after Trump turned president-elect.
The published is a bleak blast from the previous, stuffed with pictures of jubilant Trump supporters, a Kellyanne Conway interview, and one man who declares he got here to Trump Tower to “witness historical past.” Sarah adjustments the channel, however she will’t escape it: On NBC, Lester Holt’s voiceover calls the victory “unbelievable and unimaginable.” As Holt begins to debate Clinton conceding the election, the scene is disrupted when Sarah will get a telephone name from an unlisted quantity. We do not know who she’s chatting with, and he or she does not say a lot, however the misery on her face is clear. When she rushes out of the home, she offers no indication the place she’s going. It feels appropriately foreboding, although as an alternative of following her, the digital camera lingers on the TV because the credit start to roll.
Guadagnino, who directed and co-wrote every episode, was clearly cautious about selecting which components of the election evening broadcast made it into the collection. Because the digital camera watches Clinton’s concession speech, the present zeroes in on her urging younger folks to “by no means cease believing that combating for what’s proper is value it.” When making an attempt to crack open what went unsuitable, commentators talk about Clinton’s failure to realize the passion of Black and millennial voters the way in which Barack Obama had. Because the episode dissolves into the HBO emblem, the very last thing we hear is a reporter saying, “For Trump, the laborious half is simply starting.” That is all intentional.
It is easy to look again years later at occasions of the previous and air out knowledgeable opinions on these occasions. (This was really a vital ingredient of one other HBO present, The Newsroom!) However that is not the tactic Guadagnino appears to be taking with “Proper Right here, Proper Now VI.” The episode is not admonishing the viewers or telling viewers, from an outsider’s perspective, what may have been performed higher. As an alternative, the ending capabilities as one thing of a cautionary story for the longer term, and it looks like no accident that it is airing 15 days earlier than the 2020 election. That is Guadagnino’s reminder of how the shock of Trump’s electoral victory has had an infinite impression on the world younger folks have grown up in, whereas additionally reaffirming his perception within the energy of the subsequent era. “We’re coping with a form of populism that springs from the plutocrats,” the filmmaker told Variety again in July. “It’s shaping the world whereas on the identical time a phalanx of youth is shaking the world as properly and never taking that bitter drugs.”
We Are Who We Are is in regards to the many, typically simultaneous, highs and lows of rising up. The present’s teenage characters really feel trapped and displaced in an America that is so removed from the America on the map, and they’re making an attempt to determine their identities and kind their very own opinions whereas caught in a restrictive atmosphere. Guadagnino treats these years of self-discovery with empathy and compassion, portraying it as a vital interval in an individual’s life that may go on to have an effect on not simply their very own future, however the futures of numerous others, too.
After all, an episode of an artsy HBO drama is not going to vary the end result of a whole election. However by shining a highlight on the issues of younger folks, the present sends a strong message throughout an election cycle that has appeared extra centered on catering to older and extra reasonable voters. On this interval of uncertainty, I am reflecting on We Are Who We Are‘s use of a clip urging younger folks to be politically energetic, and the way the present is without delay chatting with that youthful demographic and warning the older era to not rule them out.
We Are Who We Are airs Mondays at 10/9c on HBO.