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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

We Are Who We Are dances through a finale that works best in a vacuum

Jack Dylan Grazer and Jordan Kristine Seamón
Jack Dylan Grazer and Jordan Kristine Seamón
Screenshot: We Are Who We Are
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We Are Who We Are follows a brilliantly acted but ultimately dysfunctional penultimate episode with its finale, the closer to a brilliantly acted but ultimately dysfunctional series that brims with potential and struggles to deliver on a lot of it. We Are Who We Are hints at depth without fully reaching it. The aesthetics and the performances are there, but the writing doesn’t quite tie it all together. That said, the finale is quite lovely, focusing intently on Caitlin and Fraser’s friendship, which has always been one of the strongest parts of the show. It’s Caitlin’s last day on base, and she and Fraser spend it by escaping to a concert in Bologna.

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It’s Christmastime on base, the drab and dreary winter gray a stark contrast to the sunny sea salt air that permeated the premiere. This finale is cold. The characters’ chill is palpably felt. The carefree, anything-is-possible feeling of summer is long gone, and these teens suddenly appear more trapped than they ever have. They still find comfort in each other. Brittney and Caitlin snuggle up in bed, and Brittney even makes a move. It seems like an organic place for their arc together to land, but it’s difficult to ignore the underdevelopment of Brittney, whose role for most of the season has just been her promiscuity. The teens of We Are Who We Are adamantly defy boxes, but sometimes the writing paradoxically boxes them in. Brittney and Caitlin’s kiss doesn’t end up carrying all that much weight.

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Once we finally do get off the base, the episode picks up. Caitlin and Fraser bound away to somewhere else, and it once again makes anything seem possible. All along, they know what’s coming and so do we. They’re going to lose each other, but they still have this, this one last night of connection and being themselves together. It’s emotionally resonant, and it plays to the strengths of the series, which is often playful and hopeful even when its characters carry deep sadness with them.

While it isn’t totally successful in tying together a lot of the threads that have come up this season, the finale does work well as a stand-alone story about escape, intimacy, and identity. Zooming back in on the central friendship makes for cogent and compelling storytelling. And being away from the base opens up the world a little more. It’s easy to get swept up in Caitlin and Fraser’s adventure and let the rest of the show just sort of blur into background noise. Some of the strongest visuals of the series are when Caitlin and Fraser entwine and almost become one, and one of the best comes in the first act of the finale when Caitlin and Fraser touch heads on the train they’ve just hopped and sing “Time Will Tell” by Blood Orange. They might as well be the only ones in the world—a sentiment that’s nice on one hand but also a little sad on the other. Without each other, the world is lonely. And as their heads shift to look out at the desolate landscape passing them by, that feeling is fully felt.

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The finale blends this warmth with this chill deftly. Intimacy—even between friends—is complicated. Caitlin gets to be Harper with Fraser, but even he doesn’t handle it too well, questions whether she’s still herself. Fraser also confesses that he hasn’t been totally honest with Caitlin about Mark. When she asks if they were dating, Fraser reveals that Mark doesn’t exist. It’s not a particularly surprising development, but it’s a potent one, especially because Caitlin ends up spinning it out into a complete existential breakdown. The two of them shouting that they don’t exist is funny, but it also touches on these characters’ overall struggle to reconcile the ways they want to be perceived and the ways people perceive them. They find each other because they’re outsiders, not fully seen by the other people around them. Right after shouting “we don’t exist!,” Caitlin actually feels nonexistent, ignored by Fraser who makes a new friend they hitchhike with. Suddenly, the feeling of not existing isn’t a comfort at all.

But Caitlin finds a new connection, flirting with a bartender at the club where the Dev Hynes concert takes place. Fraser and Caitlin’s friendship is immersive and complex, and they do sometimes become codependent, a dark edge to their intimacy. But their excursions at the concert suggest that they don’t need each other in order to be themselves. The finale is one of the most hopeful and sincere episodes of the series, but its playfulness doesn’t feel as put upon as the wedding chaos party episode does. Fraser and Caitlin’s looseness in their bodies, scored by Dev Hynes’ dynamic music, has a naturalness and ease to it. These scenes are still intensely driven by the style of the camerawork and the music, but the storytelling feels less orchestrated than this series can sometimes feel. The characters ground it all.

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The end of the concert captures the exact feeling of the end of a concert: invigorating but a little depressing. When the lights come up and the music goes away, it’s like a spell has been broken. We Are Who We Are is often very capable when it comes to capturing these kinds of specific moods and feelings. A lot of effort goes into establishing tone. But that effort isn’t matched with coherent narrative as a whole. Rather than directly engage with a lot of the threads it unspooled over the course of the season, the finale just escapes from them. It makes for a pleasant viewing experience when the finale exists in a vacuum. Zoomed out, it’s less effective. We Are Who We Are seems hesitant to grapple with its messiest bits.

Fraser and Caitlin reunite just at the right time, run together to just the right place. Together, they experience the most beautiful place in the world. But We Are Who We Are often is too concerned with the beautiful things to make sense of the mess that lies underneath. Its final kiss ends up being both beautiful and messy, but there isn’t time to sit with what that really means. Something feels perpetually missing from We Are Who We Are, and while longing and searching are big themes for the series, it makes for a frustrating overall viewing experience, the depth of these characters often obscured by hasty storytelling.

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Stray observations

  • I’ve seen Dev Hynes live, and it is absolutely a magical experience that I think the show captures well.
  • I did feel literally cold while watching some of these scenes, which speaks to the finale’s skill as establishing the setting considering I’m watching from sunny and warm Florida!
  • Fraser and Sarah’s relationship remains the most perplexing part of the show, even though there are attempts to contextualize it with Fraser lamenting that he never knew his dad and resents Sarah for taking people away from him before he can get close to them.
  • Fraser’s alcoholism that is particularly on display in the front half of the series never seems to be a real consideration of the show.
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