‘Atlanta’ review, episode 8: Is this a metaphor for the whole show?

OPINION: "Atlanta's" latest episode may be about...Donald Glover?

Donald Glover as Earn Marks in "Atlanta." (Photo by Matthias Clamer/FX)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

OK, I’m confused. With just a precious few episodes left in the final season of “Atlanta,” this week, instead of addressing the main characters and ushering us toward the finale, they chose to give us yet another episode that has nothing to do with Earn, Paper Boi, Van or Darius. 

This episode is “The Goof Who Sat By the Door” — the title is a play on a famous book from 1969, “The Spook Who Sat By the Door,” which was made into a movie and a TV show. This is a mock documentary about a Disney animator who becomes the head of the studio and uses his power to create opportunities for Black people and expand the way Black people are portrayed in Disney movies and make a subversive movie that purports to be the Blackest film ever made. What does this have to do with anything? I think I have an idea, but I also think that even though the show is almost over, we still haven’t yet gotten the whole story.

I loved “The Goof Who Sat By the Door,” but its placement so close to the end of the series makes me think that it must have a deeper meaning for Donald Glover. I love the notion of an ambitious creator who got power and used it to try to change the world and alter the way we all see Black people. Is this a metaphor for “Atlanta”? Is Tom Washington a symbol for Glover? Both of them entered the Hollywood system, gained some power, got to the top of an organization and used that power to tell stories about Blackness. Washington is all about subverting corporate goals and using the company to tell Black stories. Isn’t that what Glover has done with “Atlanta”? Just as Washington tried to make the Blackest movie ever, Glover has tried to make the Blackest TV show ever. 

I also love the notion of viewing Goofy as a collection of Black stereotypes. He is, indeed, reminiscent of Stepin Fetchit with his dopey voice and his lazy movements. The clip of him biting into a watermelon clinches the likeness. I will never again see Goofy in quite the same way.

OK, but something’s missing. The prior episode tied up a major plot point — what would become of Earn and Van’s relationship? And the next episode is called “Andrew Wyeth, Alfred’s World,” which suggests to me that we’ll get the final bits of Paper Boi’s story. But the Goofy episode does none of that. If this is Glover’s way of talking about himself and giving us a vision of what making this show has been about for him, then I get it. But if it’s not then why do this episode now? Maybe we’ll get answers in the final episode “It Was All a Dream,” which is coming in just two weeks. Will it be about Biggie or will it somehow turn our understanding of the show upside down by telling us that…it was all a dream? 


Touré, theGrio.com

Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of seven books including the Prince biography Nothing Compares 2 U. Look out for his upcoming podcast Being Black In the 80s.

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