Atlanta Season 2 Review
When Atlanta debuted in the fall of 2016, it was justifiably hailed as one of the most brilliant comedy series to come about in years, and there is a very good reason for that. Donald Glover, the creative force behind it, has always been one of the most incredible comedic and genius force. Painting a world of the African-American just trying to get by on the edge of poverty row, he creating not just some of the more indelible characters and comedic scenarios (in perhaps the most ambitious episode, Glover created a cross between BET and PBS with commercials that satirically pointed out the black experience at a level that not even Saturday Night Live has accomplished), but in getting the most ambitious look at the urban experience since the early days of The Wire.
In one of the great understatements of all time, a lot has changed since then, not the least for Glover himself. He won a fistful of awards from every major critics group in the world, including two Emmys (he was the first African-American to win for directing), and getting cast as the young Lando in the new Han Solo movie. Understandably, it has taken more than a year for Season 2 of Atlanta to get written. It has been more than worth the way.
Despite the fact that Earn (Glover) has managed to launch a modestly successful rap career for Paper Boi/Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry), this has not translated into huge amounts of money for anyone, least of all Earn. He’s still living from couch to couch, still trying to get away from a house arrest, and still trying to get by, which is why he’s so delighted to get $4000 in gift cards from a local mall. But things have not getting any easier for this Princeton dropout. He still finds himself in absurd situations, including getting trapped in a house with his uncle, Alligator Man (Katt Williams, and he’s called Alligator Man for a very good reason, or in this musical launch party, which says all the right things, but everybody watches him when he’s not looking. Things haven’t gone much easier for Alfred. He’s now so famous that his regular pot dealer decides to rob him (very ineptly) and its becoming harder and harder for him to try and get some actual money to go with his fame, and he is really irritated when his number 1 single gets parroted back to him. Which is always happening.
Season 2 is subtitled Robbin’ Season, and there’s a legitimate reason. In just the first two episodes, we’ve seen four separate burglaries, all of which are amusing but also galling in a strange way. As Darius tells Earn in the season premiere: “the closer it gets to Christmas, the more poor people start robbing other people to pay for gifts, which gets them in jail..” and I can’t do justice (or print) most of the rest of that sentence. More to the point, there are far darker undertones to everything. At one point, Darius tells Earn the urban legend of ‘Florida Man’, an apocryphal story of the man from Florida capable of the most horrible crimes and atrocities, whose sole purpose is ‘to stop black people from moving to Florida, and registering to vote.” The fact that every black man in Atlanta knows who he is would seem to just make you wonder. And in the first episode, Earn got a gold-plated gun from his uncle “which you’re going to need if you’re in the rap game.” Which makes you wonder: did Earn ever read Chekhov?
Atlanta is a dark, urban series disguised as a comedy, much in the same way Get Out was a study of race relations disguised (albeit brilliantly) as a horror film. Even if your not its intended audience (and I can assure you that I’m not) you will find yourself laughing (and wincing) at some of the touchstones in life that resonate. And all of this makes you wonder, this all seems to have taken place in the Obama era. What happens when Robbin Season ends? More importantly, who’s going to fire that gun?
My score: 4.5 stars,