“This whole city runs on stunting, you feel me?”
When Donald Glover’s Atlanta debuted on FX in 2016, it was one of the most visually and narratively unique series of the year. It doubled down on an aesthetic that other FX comedies before (and since) have also embraced, starting with Louie and going on to Better Things and Baskets. In each, plot is less important than style and feeling. The episodes are vignettes tinged with a surrealism that helps illustrate emotional or social truths. And yet, none of these shows ever feel like they’re lecturing or angling for a certain response. With Atlanta in particular, it’s also just damn funny.
As an Atlantan, there are again plenty of great insider references to the people and places of this city, but the show also works because of Earn’s (Glover) specific story. Season 2, called Robbin Season, finds him still trying to hustle as a manager for his cousin Paper Boi (Bryan Tyree Henry), often accompanied by their friend Darius (LaKeith Stanfield). There are occasional windfalls, but for the most part things don’t go very well. As Earn floats from place to place looking for somewhere to crash, he dips a toe into a gift card scam, gets stunted on by just about everyone, and tries to keep his uncle from unleashing his alligator on the police. And yet, everything manages to feel natural and grounded, thanks in large part to the fantastic cast.
Donald Glover, and his brother Stephen Glover, are even looser with Atlanta’s structure than in the first season, but the vibe is essentially the same. Things are maybe a little quieter this time around (aside from this season’s opening scene), but the unhurried stories are just as sharp and insightful and funny as Season 1 as they deal with issues are big as racial bias or as focused as being a creative trying to make it and not lose yourself. There are also some choice cameos which I won’t spoil, but they never distract from the show’s immersive world. It’s clear that Glover knew what worked in Season 1, which already came out of the gate as a bold and confident series, and the new episodes are a continuation of that, bucking a trend of sophomore slumps for auteur-driven television shows (like Mr. Robot or UnREAL).
The undercurrent of Robbin’ Season, though, is the advent of the actual “robbin’ season,” explained in the first episode back as being the lead-up to Christmas when “everybody’s gotta eat.” Each of the first three episodes reveals a robbery of some kind that all manage to be both funny and sad. It’s a balance Atlanta does especially well, and the series is again elevated by the style of director Hiro Murai, who truly creates his own world for these characters to inhabit. Like everything in Atlanta, the setting is both familiar and foreign, and a joy to experience.
Rating: ★★★★★ – Excellent
Atlanta: Robbin’ Season premieres March 1st on FX.