‘Atlanta’ Recap: Season 2, Episode 8, ‘Woods’

We get to see a different side of Al aka Paper Boi.

You know how Al’s (Brian Tyree Henry) funky attitude is one of the most charming aspects of Atlanta? Well, this episode is all about putting a kibosh on it. Which might be a bit scary for fans.

Paper Boi Atlanta thegrio.com
Atlanta FX

You know how Al’s (Brian Tyree Henry) funky attitude is one of the most charming aspects of Atlanta? Well, this episode is all about putting a kibosh on it. Which might be a bit scary for fans.

We kick off with Al passed out on his couch in his dirty-ass house. A woman enters the house in the background – we don’t get a good look at her but she announces herself as his mother, complaining as mothers do about the dirty environment. The day elapses as he sleeps. He only answers the phone for Earn (Donald Glover), who asks him about signing papers that Al’s dismissive about. We see during the title card that he has a bunch of missed calls.


Al eventually arises to find Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) trying his hand at cooking pasta, which he apparently learned how to do in a dream involving actress Jenna Elfman. When Al gets picked up by a woman named Sierra (Angela Wildflower), Darius breaks his balls about how he thought Al was “allergic to girlfriends” – we’ve never seen this woman before, but apparently he’s spent some time with her.

During Sierra and Al’s drive, a Paper Boi song comes on the radio as the show cuts to commercial – a reminder of what’s certainly an ongoing joke that we’ve never heard a Paper Boi song in its entirety.

As they shop in a swanky (read: not hood) clothing spot, Sierra reminds Al that he needs to step his sartorial game up now that he’s a rapper with rising fame. She also insists that Earn is slacking as a manager by not getting him free gear. We soon find out that Sierra is an Instagram “model.”  She takes selfies with fans outside of the clothes shop.

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She takes him to get a pedicure and (correctly) informs him that not enough dudes take care of their personal appearance and hygiene because they think it’s effeminate behavior, and that no one wants their famous rapper wearing dingy sweatshirts. Thing is, Al is not about that “prissy” life – he wants to keep it “real,” which doesn’t involve doing the things Drake likely does on a regular basis to make women fawn over him.

Sierra has a motive: she suggests they get in a relationship to merge their brands, which will allow them both to elevate. That goes out the window just as quickly as it’s suggested when she attempts to take a selfie of them in the pedi chair and he gets angry, curses her out and storms out of the salon with his shoes still off. This is Al running away from the reality of what is expected of him with his rising fame.


Shit goes even more pear-shaped as he walks home on train tracks (there’s no Uber/Lyft in Atlanta?) and encounters three young men who announce themselves as fans but, because this is “Robbin’ Season,” rough him up and stick him for his watch and jewels at gunpoint. Al fights back and ends up running away into the woods as one of them chases after him, licking off shots.

The show then descends into something resembling the famous “Pine Barrens” episode of The Sopranos, but with more magical realism. Al wanders, bloodied, lost and beaten up, until he encounters a wacked-out vagrant man (Reggie Green) who follows him around, talks his ear off and labels him “Deer Guts.”

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But this guy says weird things like, “You is just like yo’ mama,” pulls a fresh bottle of booze out of nowhere and castigates Al for his poor treatment of others. He draws a box cutter, holds it to Al’s neck and insists he needs to figure out how to “get outta here.” He says, “[you] stand still, you dead, boy.” Al finally gets away from the man and out of the woods, a crying, defeated and exhausted mess.

I don’t think the man actually existed. Al was alone, lost in the expanse of the woods to figure out the type of man he needs to be. If he doesn’t get right and treat people (and maybe himself) better, he’s going to die alone.

The episode closes with Al entering a convenience store outside of the woods, where a white boy delivers the now-common query, “Hey, aren’t you Paper Boi?” For the first time, we see Al suggest taking selfies with a fan, whom he sends away happy. The ordeal in the woods seemed to work, as he has a new perspective on his behavior.

A kinder, gentler Paper Boi from now on…? I suppose we’ll see.

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.