Sep 8, 2018

[TV] Atlanta: Season 2 Review

Altanta proved to be a different type of comedy that was unapologetically African American, but perhaps more importantly honestly American with clever writing and solid performances. It's unlike the usual sort of sketch comedy that we're used to seeing from Donald Glover and this has turned out to be an award-winning alternative.

Altanta's second season came with an odd subtitle - "Robbin's Season". But instead of a massage crimewave sweeping across the city, instead we got some amazing television that depicted theft of a completely different variety. The first season of the show did little to prepare me for how this second one ended up playing out.

I really enjoyed this season but I'll admit that I'm not entirely sure how I'll go about giving this a proper review. There's just so much to unpack and somehow the show manages to achieve so much with a deceptively episodic format that still has a larger sense of character development.

Synopsis: Atlanta: Robbin' Season is the second season of the Donald Glover comedy drama series. The show as a whole has already earned numerous awards including two Golden Globes and two Primetime Emmy Awards including the first Emmy for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series ever awarded to an African-American.

The season begins with a robbery, followed by Earn (Donald Glover) essentially getting "evicted" from the storage unit he had been using as a temporary home. His initial efforts to find somewhere else to stay don't pan out and in the end he ends up being officially homeless. He's still doing his best to help manage Alfred "Paper Boi" Miles' (Brian Tyree Henry) music career despite all the eccentricities between Alfred and Darius (Lakeith Stanfield).

This season tackles a number of different concepts including the casual racism that Earn and Van (Zazie Beetz) repeatedly experience on a night of celebration in "Money Bag Shawty", how unusually difficult getting a haircut could be in "Barbershop" and the episode that we'll be talking about for years - "Teddy Perkins". That episode was just bonkers.

What I Liked: In these modern television times, shows either stick to old school episodic stories or they embrace fully serialized tales, especially on streaming platforms where binge-watching is facilitated. Neither approach is automatically better or worse than the other - it all depends on how its utilized in the show. In this case of Atlanta, it boggles me how each episode feels like a complete story in itself, but it still contributes to the long-term narrative development but not in a hurried manner. Time just moves forward.

The episodes I listed above are some of my favorite in the season - but this is not to say the rest of the show wasn't equally awesome. But man, "Teddy Perkins" just took things to a whole different level. Darius is often depicted to be quite quirky but this episode was equally weird to balance things out. And it totally blew my mind to find out that Glover actually played the titular character. CRAZY.

What Could Have Been Better: Atlanta is not the easiest show to follow and the isolated nature of each episode does mean that can be easy to just walk into a story or it can be quite confusing, especially when you get into deep character-focused episodes like "Teddy Perkins". It'll vary from person to person.

But beyond that there's not much I didn't like about this season. This was an amazing collection of individual stories split up as separate episodes. Genius.

TL;DR: Atlanta is an amazing show but I strongly suspect it's one of those either you love it or hate it shows given its format and narrative structure. But this second season really highlights Glover's larger vision of tackling diverse issues in a creative and still humorous format. Thus it gets a solid 5 incidental thefts across the season out of a possible 5.

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