The first season of Atlanta saw Donald Glover, Hiro Murai, FX & company premiere a groundbreaking new series set within the black community of Atlanta, depicting a gritty sense of realism while also managing to be endlessly funny. The season was lauded by critics and was widely considered to be among television’s very best, garnering multiple Emmys and appearing atop many top ten lists. It was a long wait before we would get a second season due to Glover’s working on Solo, but boy was it worth it. Airing earlier this year, the show returned in even grander form, featuring unique and innovative episodes at every turn.
I’ve used the analogy before that Atlanta is like an evolution of what Seinfeld would be in 2018, and that holds even more true in the show’s second season. It is in the show’s very intricately written and varied stories from episode to episode that lends itself to this comparison. For instance, you could mention to a fan of the show the barbershop episode, or “Champagne Papi,” or “Woods,” and just stating the episode title will instantly bring any viewer right back into that world with all its memorable moments. Whether it be Kat Williams in the first episode with his gigantic pet alligator waltzing out of the house and scaring away the cops, Earn (Glover) & Van’s (Zazie Beetz) adventure at the German festival, or Van’s search for the night life at Drake’s house, this show offers up stories with more to chew on in 30 minutes than most can hope to present in half a season.
The show so smartly pits its characters in the most realistic and sensible situations. The proceedings are true to life, not building up plots for the sake of drama but rather giving these characters and their lives room to breathe and grow. A good example is in how the show has handled Earn’s relationship with Van, the mother of his child. While they both very clearly share a connection, they both have their own sets of interests and goals in life, and they share an understanding that being separate yet cordial is what is best for their daughter. Van gets her fair share of time to shine and develop as a character, despite not being a lead. In her own bottle episode, “Champagne Papi,” Van goes out with her friends to a party at Drake’s mansion and she fights to be seen and heard. It is true to life, we are all seeking out acceptance and boosts in confidence. She isn’t getting that from Earn as he struggles to find his way and make ends meet, and she doesn’t find it at Drake’s house or through her Instagram followers either.
One episode in particular stood out from the rest this season, and that was “Teddy Perkins.” This episode was exceptional in its structure, building tension and atmosphere in ways that elicit fear akin to Hitchcock or Kubrick, while also still managing to be very funny at times. Airing essentially a year after Jordan Peele’s Get Out, this can be seen as an homage to that movie in many ways, and it achieves its terror and its humor in very similar fashion. I could easily write a full length piece on the importance of this bottle episode centered around Lakeith Stanfield’s Darius, but I want to hold back as many details as possible in hopes of keeping this review spoiler free. “Teddy Perkins” aired without commercials and ran about 45 minutes, earning every bit of that special treatment. This is not only the best single episode of television of 2018, but it is the best of the series and one of the most memorable television moments of the entire decade. Even if you have never seen an episode of Atlanta, this is an episode you cannot miss.
In short, with its second season Atlanta has solidified its place atop the cream of television’s crop, with every episode offering up a newly unique premise and unforgettable moments. The four main characters all get their time to shine, exhibit growth, and are expounded upon with great depth and care. Glover and Murai continue to prove they are among the most talented in the industry when it comes to writing and directing, respectively. With Season 3 confirmed for 2019, and this season ending with a defined outlook for its cast of characters, we should once again be in for something fresh and innovative from our favorite Atlanta-based family.
The first season of Atlanta is currently available for streaming on Hulu
and the second season is available to stream with an FX+ subscription