“ATLANTA” is Gold!
One must excuse me for my lateness on the subject at hand. With work and kids, my body appears to have become immune to caffeine and Red Bull in that I can no longer regain any energy. Next step: cocaine? HA. I kid (I’m too broke for it anyway. DRUGS ARE BAD KIDS!!). Moving on, I know in my previous post about the upcoming, Insecure starring Issa Rae, I mentioned my anticipation for the series, Atlanta on FX, created by, written by, and starring the ever-so talented Donald Glover. When I use the word “talented”, I do not use it lightly.
It was upon the fifth season of the quirky NBC comedy, Community, that I learned that Glover was leaving the series to focus on his music. How could you leave Abed like that, Troy? The Dream-atorium! What about the Dream-atorium, Troy?!
But I digress.
With that, there was also news about Glover in talks of having his own show about the music scene in Atlanta. Even with that little information, I was sold. More sold than limit-edition Jordans, I tell ya! This was back in 2013! With Glover literally falling off the face of the earth with his social media accounts, I was left to watch him on Magic Mike XXL, The Martian, and The Lazarus Effect (I still want my money back for that one!), all in order to fill the void.
Pretty soon, the roles for the series were casted and from what I heard through the World Weird Web, shooting was to start in July 2015 in Atlanta. The series is basically some comedy-drama about Earnest “Earn” Marks, a young Princeton dropout who decides to manage his cousin, Alfred’s aka PaperBoi’s rap career off the ground and steer their way through the Atlanta rap scene in an attempt to improve their lives and the lives of their family. Do I have to say SOLD again?! By October of that year, FX ordered the pilot along with a 10-episode series. However, with all that information, there was not a set date for the premiere. It felt like an intense lap dance in that I was being horribly and cruelly teased. But if I give you this extra $100… I kid (BUYING SEX IS BAD KIDS!!!).
Fast-forward to this summer and the series was to premiere on Sept 6, 2016. All these promos were getting me hyped! I actually paid my cable bill on time for this! Were my expectations high? Higher than a Willie Nelson’s tour bus with Snoop Dogg visiting. But I couldn’t help it. Everything Donald Glover touches always turns into gold (except The Lazarus Effect. There was nothing he could have done to save that. NOTHING, I SAY!). Even in music, as his music moniker, Childish Gambino, Glover excels! Therefore, when you place a man who is gifted in both music and writing in charge of a tv series where he writes about the music scene in a city where he was raised, what do you expect to get?
Tuesday, September 6, 2016, 10pm arrived. Where was I? On my dang couch in front of my television with the kids asleep because mama did not want to be disturbed (and because it was after their bedtime). The series begins with Alfred aka PaperBoi (Brian Tyree Henry), Earn (Glover), and Darius (Keith Stanfield), sitting in a car outside in parking lot. Suddenly, a random guy breaks off the side mirror of Alfred’s car. Alfred angrily exits the car, demanding compensation for the mirror with Earn hurrying behind him trying to keep the situation calm.
Random guy: “WorldStar!”
Earn: “No. Don’t do that to us.”
Hilarious. Even more funny due to the fact that Glover made a song, “WorldStar”, on his EP, Because the Internet , stating about similar situations.
Well, an argument ensues with the man stating how PaperBoi’s mixtape was garbage. Mucking? What the hell is that? Apparently, he explained it on the hook. A gun is drawn. It is almost as if time stands still. Then…the GUNSHOT!
Rewind back to earlier the day, Earn is lying in the bed, listening to OJ Da Juiceman as he lies next to his on-again-off-again girlfriend and mother of his daughter, Van (Zazie Beetz). There is some love there obviously since he is living with her and is sharing a bed; however, she states that she has a date later that night, so…it’s complicated.
Earn is working at some kiosk where he tries selling credit cards at the airport(I believe). There, his coworker shows him a video of this up-and-coming rapper called, PaperBoi. Earn quickly realizes that it is his cousin and once his coworker lets him know that his cousin is on the verge of possibly signing a six-figure deal, Earn realizes that with Van almost on the edge of kicking him out and him having literally no money, that he must get to his cousin while he is still fresh.
There is not much to be determined about his present relationship with his parents at the moment. His father, Raleigh (Isiah Witlock Jr.) stating how he can’t afford for him to come in kind of explains some. Maybe Earn is always looking for some monetary help and his parents aren’t willing to fit the bill? Maybe? Earn basically comes to his dad asking where Alfred stays.
Alfred stays in the Glenwood apartments with his right-hand man, Darius (comic relief without trying). Earn pays him a visit where he is met at the door by Alfred and his gun, and Darius, a knife, and a plate of some big a** cookies. Alfred immediately figures out the motive of Earn’s visit. Earn tries to play it off, but there is no need to beat around the bush; therefore, Earn states at he wants to be Alfred’s manager. Apparently, Alfred needs a Malcolm and Earn is too much of a Martin.
Alfred: “And you know what they did to him. They shot him.”
Earn: “Didn’t they shoot Malcolm too?”
Darius: “No one really knows because no one has seen the body since the funeral.”
Earn: “That’s how funerals work.”
Alfred is skeptical of Earn, not so willing to just allow Earn to manage him when the only time he has heard from him is when he wants to make money off him. That’s reasonable. Just because they are family, doesn’t mean they are to be trusted. That doesn’t deter Earn. He sets to prove how good of a manager he can be for PaperBoi. He meets with an old friend, Dave, who works at a radio station.
Dave: “Did you just come from that dumpster over there?”
So random and so damn funny! Basically Dave is some DJ, trying to take advantage of Earn for wanting him to play PaperBoi’s song on the radio by being the middleman and trying to get $500. He also has this weird comfort with saying “n***a” around Earn that he doesn’t have with other black people he comes in contact with.
Alfred looks for some assurance about Earn’s managing him from his uncle and Earn’s dad. Raleigh basically states that Earn is trying like everyone else, that when he is determined to do something, he does it; however, it must be on his terms. Sounds like me. At the same time, we see Earn being allowed into the radio station by a janitor who would kick Dave’s a** if he ever were to say the word “n***a” around him (I second that). Earn bypasses Dave as he is on Air and places the money and the tape underneath KP’s door.
The scene cuts to Earn on the bus with his daughter. A stranger, somewhat of a Nation of Islam type, asks him what vexes him. Earn basically asks the question along the lines of, is a person destined to lose? Are we always meant to lose to make the winners feel better? I, myself have pondered that same question. Was I destined to ever reach the peak or just simply continue to grasp at it as it remains not in arm’s reach? The stranger replies along the lines of, “Victory is granted to those who do not see failure.” While Earn is continues with his thoughts, the stranger is making a sandwich and asks Earn to take a bite. Knowing all that I know about the people on MARTA, I wouldn’t take or eat anything they would offer. When Earn refuses…
Stranger: N***a if you don’t bite this sandwich!
Well damn. The bus stops, the stranger exits, walking into a wooded area with a dog… the same dog in the first scene that Darius notices as somewhat of a Déjà vu. At that moment, Alfred calls about his song playing on the radio and ask Earn to meet. Now the scene is back to where it was in the beginning of the show. Earn, Alfred, and Darius are sitting in the car listening to Alfred’s song on the radio. Dave finds Earn, and proves that he is in fact only comfortable with saying the word “n***a” around Earn and no other black people. Apparently, Darius loves Flo Rida. So does his mother. Alfred tries to talk to a female, she dismisses him, and that is when the kick to the side mirror commences.
Van learns on the news that Earn is arrested, replying with a simple, “Idiots”.
Episode Two begins with Earn and Alfred in booking. Alfred makes bail, but Earn, not in the system yet, stays. The entire episode deals with a range of things from police brutality to transphobia. In booking, Earn witnesses a man who is obviously mentally ill being beaten by a cop for spitting toilet water in his face. I simply love the fact that before the brutality, Earn ponders to why this man is constantly in here and why he isn’t given any help. A major issue. Why are we constantly arresting those with a clear mental illness only to let them back on the street to be arrested again, rather than give them the help that they need? It is all frustrating. It is all maddening. Another thing I like about that scene was the shot of the how uncomfortable Earn was as he listens to the screams of the mentally ill man as cops wrestle him to the ground. It was shot beautifully, in my opinion, for I was just as uncomfortable.
The funniest scene hands down in the premiere had to be the scene about the man and his unknowing that his ex was a transgender. Earn sitting in the middle of their conversation as they reminisce has to be one of the most awkward moments and yet so comical.
Earn: “I can move if you want.”
Man: “I know.”
The dialogue that comes after that is pure comedic gold. When the man explains that it is his ex to the other men in booking, the jokes and the laughs begin.
Man: Your ex? That’s a man. N***a, you gay.
For how could he have not known that his ex was a man? His ex was on the side of the men in booking! It was clearly a man in a wig. All while the man is trying to explain why he isn’t gay, he wants Earn to stop being weird. All he is doing is sitting there. I am in tears. I laughed so hard.
While Earn is still in booking, Alfred struggles with his newfound celebrity about town. With his song playing constantly everywhere, he is also on the news for shooting someone (the victim has yet to be found. Weird). As he leaves the police station, and officer bugs him for pictures. While he is at the gas station, he is getting weird vibes and stares from strangers. As he and Darius sit in a restaurant waiting for his wings, Alfred gets a taste of what stardom can get you. That Lemon Pepper Wet! The waiter exchanges a few words with him, asking Alfred not to let him down for he would not know what he would do if he did. Say what? Too funny. Ultimately, Alfred realizes that there is a line that he must understand between street life and real life.
The episode ends with Van posting Earn’s bond.
From everything I have read and my own personal opinion, Atlanta’s premiere was met with raving reviews. And so it should be. The writing was fantastic. I was laughing from the beginning to end. It makes one anxious for the episodes to come. There are questions that I hope are answered within the first season. What happened with Earn and Princeton? What did Alfred have to save Earn from the first time? What is up with Darius? Like really? Is he always high or is that how he is naturally? What happened with Van and Earn’s relationship? What happened to the guy Alfred shot? Will “mucking” ever catch on?
In true Glover form, he likes to lure his fans and audience in with giving little to nothing away. (What is Pharos? No. Seriously. Is it coming soon? What’s happening?)
I have to say, the pilot exceeded my expectations, greatly. The series does not display these stereotypical roles that we usually see on network shows. Earn was a sympathetic character that was ambitious, but at the same time, seems lost more ways than one. Alfred aka Paperboi was a street dude now realizing how quickly the streets can change when your situation does. Darius, was either incredibly high or a deep thinker. Though his words seemed bizarre, I could not help but think there was a deeper meaning to them. Something gradually profound? Maybe.
Oddly—and corny—when watching the series, I felt like this was indeed Atlanta. This was something I saw on my day-to-day growing up in Decatur. In my opinion, Atlanta really embodied the city. From the music, to the vernacular, to the environment– that was Atlanta. It wasn’t trying to be something it was not. It was not like the 2006 movie, ATL, which should have been called Cascade since the entire premise of the movie was about roller skating, right? Also, no one who is really from Atlanta calls it ATL. Only out-of-towners say that. That and “Hotlanta”.
Of course there were the nay-sayers. “How can a Princeton dropout trying to manage his rapper cousin be relatable?” How can four white twenty-something females live in New York with no black people? I don’t know. It just works. Girls is still on the air.
I would say that Glover outdid himself, but he never ceases to amaze his fans. I refuse to place this as his peak when I know that there is more genius for him to give. Atlanta will be indeed a TV favorite.