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Episode 2 arguably isn’t about pushing the story forward or featuring its stars. It is more so about establishing the people the stars live around and their environment. For whether it is normal people who get arrested for just drinking on their porch, trans folk, or kids acting out what they hear on rap songs, that is Glover’s Atlanta.
Police Brutality | Transphobia
Main Plot (with Commentary)
Topic 1: That Paper Boi Fame (Alfred & Darius)
Be it name recognition or just plain luck, it seems Alfred is processed and on bail in no time. Meanwhile, Earn is left by himself waiting. Yet, with Alfred running into so many who recognize him and with him getting his first taste of fame, he doesn’t seem happy. Especially cause Darius keeps telling him about every news outlet or magazine picking up on his story of allegedly shooting someone. But things get a bit real when Alfred sees some kids playing around with toy guns imitating what Alfred raps about to the point he feels he should step in. Something he slightly regrets cause it seems their mom/ aunt was ready to curse him out, but once she realizes he is potentially famous she calms down and gives Alfred her number.
First off, Darius is a national treasure. He shows up to pick up his boy from holding, wears this weird head wrap for most of the day, and stupidly reveals to a guy in a batman mask where Paper Boi lives. Yet, despite all this, nothing about Keith Stanfield’s performance of Darius seems inauthentic. Nothing is overdone or seems like a parody. Darius is just Darius and you may not understand him yet you can’t help but accept him since he seemingly means no harm.
As for Alfred, being that we don’t know how deep or shallow his lyrics are, it is kind of hard to judge him. He is this big guy who is a bit of a thug, but he isn’t a gang banger. If anything, he is a “product of his environment” or whatever the term is nowadays. Yet when he approached those kids, that is when you realized that whatever rap persona he puts out there, that perhaps is more to survive and protect himself than represent who he actually is. Yeah, he may have shot or shot at someone, but that was more so to protect his persona than because he does stuff like that on general principal.
Topic 2: The Things You See Waiting To Be Processed (Earn)
While Alfred has freedom Earn is just listening to weirdos and people watch. Though in general, the episode is filled with weird characters I doubt we will see again. However, Earn gets the bulk of them. For whether it is this old man talking about how he got arrested for drinking with someone he hasn’t seen in 11 years; this mentally ill guy named Lee who drinks from the toilet and spits on a cop, leading to him getting brutalized; or this dude who learns his ex is trans, he deals with a lot of interesting characters before he finally gets processed and Vanessa can pick him up.
Sadly, we don’t get her full, unfiltered, reaction to having to pick up the father of her child, and roommate, from jail.
In a way, this episode made me feel like while Glover’s name is perhaps what drew you in, what he wants to do is showcase the rest of the talent that is out there. For while most may not think twice about the person who played any of the weirdos we saw this episode, it did give that actor the chance to shine, put something on their filmography, and could be what got them discovered.
I mean, take note of Justice Smith from The Get Down. Who knows how much those 4 small roles helped him get cast as a lead in a series. And sometimes that is all it takes. One person thinking you got the look, voice, or mannerisms which would be perfect for a character. That is the opportunity I think Glover presented not just this episode’s guest stars but also a lot of the cast. For, outside of him and the man who plays his father, no one else is a quickly recognizable face. Yet, rather than do like many who finally get the chance for their own show, he shares the spotlight, almost gives away the attention, for he knows there is more work and scenes for him. Let someone else shine.
We have around 10 episodes, albeit half hour ones, to get to know Earn, Alfred, Darius, Vanessa, and everyone else. Yet the show spent one just establishing the folks who come and go and are just part of the neighborhood. I thought that was something different, and arguably important, for we need to know what made our leads the way they are and that can only be done by us getting to see the people and things they saw around them. Which can’t always be done if they are the center of attention.
Another thing worth highlighting is the life being sculpted for Alfred. He notes he doesn’t like eating in public for he feels like an animal in a zoo, he seems to care about kids and in the first episode wanted to hold Earn’s baby, and with that, we got to see a softer side to him. Making you wonder, especially considering how calm and collected he acts around Darius if maybe the rap persona is just that. A mask, if you will, that protects Alfred from being taken advantage of or people even thinking they can step to him.