Watch the entire first episode of Atlanta below if you missed it.
Donald Glover has set the bar high for any other new show that debuts this fall season because I can’t see how anything can top this. After the first two episodes I’m hooked.
Glover plays Earnest ‘Earn’ Marks, a college drop-out with ambitions for more. His estranged cousin, Alfred ‘Paper Boi’ is coming up in the Atlanta rap scene on track to become famous. The two cousins (along with Alfred’s right hand man and weed infused visionary, Darius) have opposing views on art versus commerce, but are both trying to make things happen for themselves and in-turn each other.
The show is billed as a comedy by FX, but it’s far more than that. Make no mistake that you will laugh, a lot even, but there’s this blunt realism that underlies the humor. Coupled with the humor and drama is a surrealist nature that’s the emotional core of the show. The main characters each encounter something surreal. Whether it’s actually happening or not it still means something to all of them.
The first moment is before the opening credits when Darius sees the déjà vu dog. Then there’s the Nutella sandwich man (the déjà vu dog appears next to the Nutella sandwich man once he gets off the bus). And don’t forget the J.R. Crickets server that hooked Paper Boi and Darius up with the lemon pepper sauce. He tells Alfred that he’s one of the last real rappers and then says to him in complete seriousness, “Don’t let me down, man. If you let me down… I don’t know what I’d do.” His eyes focus in on him and he nods knowingly with a smile that looks like it contains the secrets of the universe. The exchange is unworldly with Alfred’s expression reiterating that.
I was grasped by the time-jump opening, laughed at the dry wit and rich characters, but those surreal moments have kept me thinking for over a day now. The way Atlanta balances the tone is nothing short of amazing. Glover collaborator, Hiro Murai (‘Sober’, Clapping for the Wrong Reasons) directed both episodes making the leap to narrative storytelling flawlessly.
Glover as an artist has gone through a transitional phase the last few years. After leaving Community to focus more on his music career as Childish Gambino he started development on Atlanta. His smile and warm personality often replaced by an emotionless face like the cover to his Because the Internet album in this time. I hope he’s smiling now because Atlanta is something special.