The first episode of We Are Who We Are is a transportive experience. HBO's new series opens with introverted teenager Fraser exploring his new home at a U.S. military base in Italy. The show may seem like it's set in the present day, but that's actually not the case. So, when does We Are Who We Are take place? The new series is set at a very specific point in recent history.
In the new show's series premiere, Fraser moves from New York City to the seaside town of Chioggia, Italy, with his mothers Sarah and Maggie. The reason for the international relocation is Sarah's new post as the commander of the military base there. Sarah is a colonel in the military, and Maggie is an Army nurse, but Fraser is clearly not happy about his new digs. Throughout the episode, he desperately texts his friend Mark in New York and aimlessly stumbles around the base at a distance from everyone else. It looks like his attitude may change, though, since at the end of the episode he finally introduced himself to his neighbor, Caitlin, whom he had been silently following and watching for a few days.
Since the bulk of the first episode is spent just soaking in the new surroundings, it's hard to get an exact sense of time, but the show's page on HBO's website confirms it is set in 2016. So, it's close to present-day, but not exactly. There are some subtle nods to this time period in the premiere, including the high school having a row of photos of U.S. presidents that ends with Barack Obama — no Donald Trump mug in sight.
The soundtrack also serves as a subtle callout to the 2016 setting. Prominent songs featured in the premiere are Kanye West's "Devil in a New Dress" from 2010 and Chance the Rapper's "Same Drugs," which came out in 2016. It also seems like Fraser would be the type of kid to have AirPods in 2020, but instead he uses the older model of Apple's wired earphones.
So far, the 2016 setting hasn't really affected the story at all, but it does have the potential to become a big part of the plot. At the end of 2016, Trump was elected president, which lead to a ton of upheaval and protests in America. While We Are Who We Are is set in Italy, the characters are living on a U.S. Army base, so its setting is inherently tied to U.S. politics. It's not clear yet whether Trump's election will be part of the show.
We Are Who We Are airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.