‘Atlanta’ season 2 is as dope as you’d hoped it would be
To discuss the impact of FX’s comedy Atlanta (I had the pleasure of screening the first three episodes of season 2), I have to take you back to the show’s debut in September of 2016.
Everyone cared about Atlanta and its characters immediately. Tension arose within the first few seconds of the premiere episode, when rapper Al “Paper Boi” Miles (Brian Tyree Henry) gets into a “situation” after someone knocks off the side-view mirror of his car. From there, we were all invested in the characters throughout the 10-episode first season.
So Very Black
That season was a creative revelation that was rightly showered with awards and nominations. No one had ever seen anything quite like Atlanta, especially with an all-Black cast.
Many people have commented on the sheer Blackness of Atlanta and how it seems to not be too concerned with the white gaze. While there is no denying that this varied and nuanced depiction of Black life is far from one-dimensional, Glover is quick to acknowledge that it does not exist in a Black safe space devoid of white gatekeepers.
“If ‘Atlanta’ was made just for Black people, it would be a very different show. But I can’t even begin to tell you how, because Blackness is always seen through a lens of whiteness—the lens of what white people can profit from at that moment,” noted Glover in an expansive New Yorker feature.
White gatekeepers aside, it was a huge, dry pill to swallow when we learned that the Atlanta needed to take a break for nearly a year and a half due to star and creator Donald Glover’s obligations as the young Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Star Wars spin-off Solo.
When we left off last season, Paper Boi received an offer (How legitimate? We don’t know.) to go on tour, setting up the new season for him to potentially hit the road with his Ivy League drop-out manager and cousin Earnest “Earn” Marks (Donald Glover). Earn spends much of the season 1 finale tracking down a bomber jacket that he lost during a night of partying. at the very end of the episode, we learn that the jacket holds the key to a storage facility space that actually doubles as his home.
The show is back tonight (at 10 p.m. EST). And it hasn’t lost a beat in its hiatus.
Our Favorites Return
One of the myriad beauties of Atlanta is that it doesn’t need to make sense right out the gate. The opener of season 2 (dubbed “Robbin’ Season”) kicks off with an extended sequence containing characters we haven’t met participating in an event that seems disconnected from the core cast and main narrative, but ultimately makes sense in greater context.
It’s not long before we rejoin Al, Earn, and LaKeith Stanfield’s Darius, who are all scraping to get by and seem to be going nowhere fast despite Paper Boi’s regional fame. The first episode of the second season is packed with the absurdist humor and non-sequiturs that make Atlanta distinct, and includes a guest arc from a beloved character that I won’t ruin here.
Al still is somewhat annoyed by all the things that accompany his fame, silently conveying a range of emotions with half-open eyes. Earn seems destined to continue his role as life’s perpetual whipping boy. Darius, my personal favorite, is still a space cadet, with sartorial choices that are…different and a seemingly vast wealth of knowledge that doesn’t make sense until it does.
In an interview with The New Yorker, Stanfield explained his approach to the character he plays. “I decided to play Darius as a high version of myself. And now he’s become all the fantastical elements of Atlanta condensed into one person—this gateway to Freakville,” explained Stanfield.
Also returning is Earn’s baby-moms, Zazie Beetz’ put-upon Vanessa, and we’re introduced to Tracy, a friend of Al’s fresh out the joint whose hilarious arc in episode 2 has him destined for a spot as a show regular.
That Atlanta seems to move at a pace much slower relative to other 30-minute sitcoms with commercials is a testament to its brilliance. The loads of subtext packed into each episode make it feel like it’s an hour long; you can re-watch any given episode and pick up on a bunch of things you didn’t catch the first time around.
Authentic and of the Moment
Part of the reason that every supporting character and extra seems perfectly cast for the moment is because Atlanta is shot on location at its eponymous city and, like the classic show The Wire, employs local non-actors who provide authenticity.
The first season finished two weeks before Donald Trump was elected. In that season, we got funny, thought-provoking takes on topics ripped from contemporary culture like people who claim to be trans-racial and how a Black Justin Bieber (read: celebrity brat with no accountability) would be received.
While much has changed in the world, too much has stayed the same. I’m looking forward to what commentary Atlanta has to provide in the Age of Agent Orange Toupee.
-After blasting Black women, Taye Diggs has his cookout invite revoked by another Black man sick of his BS-
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at his own site, wafflecolored.com.