Quote of the week: “You are your hair. It’s what people love about you.”
MVP: Jenny Poythress
After “Right here, right now #4” abandoned much of the show’s pretext and took us on a journey into what felt like a parallel universe, this week’s episode of “We Are Who We Are” returns to the show’s normal structure, starting to hone in on some of the mysteries the series has been teasing for weeks.
This week’s focus is a comparison of the Wilson and Poythress families, but it’s not exactly a neat analysis: The two families, though different, are intertwined with each other, and each character’s actions are often provoked by individuals within the other family. “Right here, right now #5” circulates around three pairs, each providing their own lens through which the family dynamics and the characters themselves can be more thoroughly explored.
Our first pairing is Fraser Wilson (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Caitlin Poythress (Jordan Kristine Seamón), whose platonic intimacy is continuing to grow in bizarre but often touching ways. The two actors’ connection is even more charming in this episode thanks to Seamón’s embracement of Caitlin’s erratic side. Together, the actors execute one of the episode’s most consequential scenes: a thrilling single-take sequence of Fraser shaving Caitlin’s head so she can pass as “Harper” for her date with the girl she met in the first episode.
Caitlin sacrificing her hair is a titanic decision, which Fraser points out, reminding her that her hair is her most iconic characteristic. She forsakes it anyway, and in doing so, she removes any possibility that her family and friends might be able to ignore how her personality has changed since the Wilsons moved to the base.
The second pairing, Sarah Wilson (Chloë Sevigny) and Richard Poythress (Scott Mescudi), finally brings to the front and center the tension between the two characters that has been quietly building for weeks. As we know from Richard’s scowls and crass remarks in earlier episodes, he is less than thrilled to be under the command of a woman, much less a gay one.
Richard’s angst has caused problems for the base’s reputation: By not calming his men in a confrontation with some locals after the Chioggia Festival in episode three, he allowed a shouting match to escalate into an all-out brawl that damaged a neighboring business. Sarah asks him to apologize to the shop owner, but before he does, the two have an acerbic conversation in which Sarah, through her tone and body language, makes it clear that Richard’s lack of respect for her will not be tolerated any longer.
The final, most richly drawn pairing is the surprising relationship between Sarah’s wife, Maggie (Alice Braga), and Richard’s wife, Jenny (Faith Alabi). Their friendship is established at the festival, during which they confess the uglier elements of their domestic lives. The connection between them was palpable from then on, but it is nonetheless surprising when their companionship is revealed to be a full-blown tryst playing out in the vacant apartments on the base.
Their romantic relationship is warmer and more human than most others on the show, a contrast that is most vivid when Jenny returns home to Richard near the episode’s end. Their conversation makes it apparent that Richard, who agreed to raise Jenny’s son despite not being his biological father, cares for him out of a sense of obligation, not love. This devastates Jenny. His coldness toward her is heartbreaking to watch, especially when put in comparison with the love that Maggie and Sarah clearly still share despite having a marriage that’s far from perfect.
“Right here, right now #5” reveals more to us than any episode has so far, but in doing so, it also shows us just how little we know about the characters. Their complex, often confusing motivations and relationships are informed by rich backstories, but we only know a fraction of what happened prior to the series’ beginning. The show’s withholding is often frustrating, as it occasionally raises more questions than it answers, but the explorations of the characters are so empathetic and thought-provoking that it almost doesn’t matter if the plot details fade into the background.