Over the course of just four two-hour episodes, ABC's When We Rise tells the real life stories and struggles of some of our country's greatest human rights activists who pioneered the LGBT movement, but haven't received the kind of attention they deserve. That's quite an undertaking for only eight hours of television, especially since the series covers multiple decades and many different activists. With the finale already approaching on Friday, March 3 at 9 p.m., viewers may want to know if there will be more episodes of When We Rise in the future, or if the fourth installment will wrap up its story.
There are a few different factors to consider here. First, the miniseries will almost catch up to the present day in the March 3 episode. A press release for "Part IV" states, "In the end, all of their fates hang on the decision of nine justices in the nation’s highest court," which is a clear reference to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex marriage legal across the United States. Considering that When We Rise begins in 1971 and brings viewers all the way into 2015, it's not very likely that it would produce another entire season to focus on the past two years. If that were the case, the second season would need an entirely different kind of narrative that tells a similar story on a much smaller scale.
Then, there's the simple fact that When We Rise is a miniseries. ABC has advertised it as such, and as an eight-hour "event," from the very beginning, and generally, miniseries don't span multiple seasons. They tend to be more like movies, where a complete story is told and there's some sense of finality to the ending.
While there have been cases of successful "limited series" returning for additional seasons, unfortunately, it doesn't seem like the ratings for When We Rise will provide much incentive for ABC to bring it back. According to Deadline, When We Rise was the lowest performing show of the four major networks on the night of its premiere, with 3 million viewers. Things didn't improve with the second episode either, as the series had just over 2 million viewers on Wednesday night. Renewal odds aside, I hope that more viewer start tuning in or are just waiting to watch the series online or on their DVRs, because these largely untold stories should be shared with as many people as possible.
But I don't think those who are already watching will be surprised or disappointed that When We Rise likely won't return after its fourth chapter. The series was always envisioned as unfolding in four parts and while there is certainly much more to learn about the history of the LGBT rights movement, When We Rise should bring its take on that history to a satisfying end by catching up to the present.