Do You Know That Feeling? – | Review Score – 3.5/5
What’s Wrong with You? – | Review Score – 4/5
What’s Next? – | Review Score – 3.5/5
You’re Destroying Everything – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The 99%! – | Review Score – 4/5
It’s the Only Way – | Review Score – 4/5
One of the biggest problems I have with a lot of teen dramas is just how unbelievable and contrived the stories are. From a cast of perfectly formed characters with no flaws to a surface-level idea of teen angst without the ensuing development, a lot of recent efforts in this field have really failed to capture the heart of teenage anger and rebellion.
With that in mind, German Netflix Original We Are The Wave is an interesting series that’s probably the closest I’ve seen to capturing this in quite some time. With some slick aesthetic and stylistic ticks throughout, We Are The Wave is a surprisingly poignant and thought provoking show, one that offers a voice to those misfits unable to slot into the usual high-school cliques.
The story itself revolves around Lea, a popular girl at school who finds herself disinterested in her current humdrum of social media perfection and tennis, desperately craving freedom and creative expression. When new boy Tristan shows up at school, she finds what she’s looking for through his ideology and rebellious streak. Together, they team up with a group of misfits from school and create an activist group called The Wave.
What begins as a simple outlet for their views and ideas quickly expands to grip the minds and hearts of other teenagers, leading to a dramatic second half of the season where everything crescendos into a dramatic finale and the group find their ideals expanding to something far more ambitious and dangerous than the simple protests and acts of vandalism early on.
On the surface, We Are The Wave looks very much like another standard teen drama and early on, it certainly gives off this impression too. The first episode, with its Billie Eilish song montage, new-kid-on-the-block trope and social media montages really revels in these tropes. However, as the series progresses this almost feels like a satirical play on these ideas, as pop music fades away in place of rock and the group begin rebelling and asking thought provoking questions around our capitalist society.
There’s a great juxtaposition around social class and inequality too, with big, bright placards and advertisements illuminated with neon colours while our group revel in the darkness. This continues throughout the series too and the interesting twist midway through as the group increases brings with it another set of ideas to the foreground. If you can look beyond the face-value vandalism and get through the first episode, We Are The Wave does a great job tapping into the bubbling anger and dissatisfaction of teenagers refusing to conform to normality.
What’s particularly impressive here though is just how normal these teenagers all look. With so many Hollywood dramas depicting glossy, perfect faces and a litany of flawless heroines for us to try and rally behind, We Are The Wave defies this idea and presents a group of normal, individual characters with their own flaws and dreams.
Zazie’s growth is arguably the most drastic through the show while Hagen’s oppressed rage toward the paper factory eventually sees him channel that into newfound confidence and loyalty for his friends. Even Rahim, who seems destined to rise up and fight back against racism, finds his values challenged in new love interest Paula partway through the show, testing his loyalty to the cause. All of this combines to make We Are The Wave a messy, volatile cocktail of ideas, characters and themes that work perfectly together.
Stylistically, the series does a great job keeping things interesting and vibrant throughout too. The camera work is perfectly executed, with a good blend of handheld camera movements and sweeping crane shots, while the music perfectly complements what’s happening on-screen. The social media feeds and faded split-shots give the show an artistic edge too, while the themes and messages are poignant and relevant throughout the six episodes.
Although the show has a tendency to step a little too far into the realm of melodrama and a few of the romantic angles feel a little cliched, for the most part We Are The Wave does a great job capturing the mood of angry, rebellious teenagers in desperate need of change. With a well-paced story and some interesting societal questions brought to the foreground, Netflix’s new German drama is well worth a watch and whether you fall into the target demographic or not, is worth sticking with to the dramatic conclusion.