Atlanta: Season 2 – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)

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The second season of Atlanta doubles down on the eccentrics of the first and with that comes more inventive stories and the question of what was done purely because Glover and co. had the money to do it?


Network
FX
Creator Donald Glover
Noted Cast
Al Brian Tyree Henry
Earn Donald Glover
Sierra Angela Wildflower
Tracy Khris Davis
Darius Lakeith Stanfield
Van Zazie Beetz

Summary

In Season 2, there is still a struggle to turn Al, aka Paper Boi, from a one-hit wonder into a major rap star. Something that Earn struggles to do for if it isn’t Al’s attitude, it is him trying to think and work long term with someone who is used to quick money. And because of that, alongside Al’s friend Sierra planting a seed into his head, so comes the question if Earn should be his manager anymore.

But of course, Earn and Al’s relationship isn’t the only focus. Tracy, a friend of Al’s, ends up crashing at his place and disturbing Earn a bit because Tracy is very urban and a bit of a mooch. On top of that, there is Darius who gets to slightly break away from just being Al’s friend. He is still the weirdest, possibly coolest, brother you know, but we get a taste of who he is when Al or Earn aren’t in his presence.

Then, of course, there is the sole lady of Atlanta Van. Still unemployed, still unsure about her relationship with Earn, and just trying to figure things out. She is getting older, late 20s at this point, and wants stability. Enough of a routine to rest on but enough freedom to not feel stifled. A hard balance to make when your man sometimes treats you like an accessory and money wise, you’re unfortunately a bit reliant on him in some ways. At least till you get your own check.

So, overall, the struggle continues and while some actually hit the come up, others are patiently waiting for their moment.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. In terms of Darius, what is it he does for Al for him to be living with him and pretty much his right-hand man? On top of that, will we ever get Darius’ origin story in terms of maybe a FUBU episode or seeing him hang with family?

Highlights

Al & Darius’ Friendship

Darius and Al hanging out, smoking weed.

Early on in the season, we get a lot of focus on Al and Darius’ relationship. Something which has some weird undertones at times, considering how Darius is a bit of an enigma, but we’re not going to go there. What is perfectly clear and unquestionable though is that while Darius mostly does odd jobs and doesn’t seem to directly do anything for Al, he does sort of act as a peacemaker.

I mean, take note of how Al is with Earn vs. Darius. With Earn, Al is agitated from the start and, generally speaking, when he is with anyone but Darius, he is wound up and ready for some BS. Even when it came to hanging with his girl Sierra, you have to recognize there is a part of him ready for some confrontation. With Darius though, be it because he isn’t trying to compete, is very chill, or just knows how to bring Al to his wavelength and make him open to possibilities and ideas, they don’t butt heads.

It’s like, I don’t want to say he is Al’s life coach but definitely is someone who teaches him to be more zen and go with the flow. To the point that, even when they were beefing over some girl Al was seeing, Darius wasn’t kicked out or nothing. For he knows Darius is essential personnel.

Al and Earn’s Complicated Relationship

Al saying that he doesn't want to fire Earn for her gets him and he is family.
Al: “You’re the only one that knows what I’m about.”

Something Al had to realize when it came to Earn. For, as established in the FUBU episode, Earn has been relying on Al for protection and some form of safety, in various aspects, since they were kids. And while Al was brought up to look out for his cousin, because he is family, there comes a point where you have to question who is going to look out for me? Al got robbed, embarrassed, nearly killed this season. That puts some stuff in perspective. It really makes you question, who or what in my life is making things be like this? Hence why Tracy not only didn’t get an invite, never mind legally he couldn’t come, but also why he wasn’t left access to the house.

There came a point where Al realized, while being a businessman means you can do for your friends and family, you still got a business to keep profitable. So Darius has his position by keeping Al calm, and seemingly getting along with anybody and everybody. Which is an asset. Earn might be learning on the job, but he is smart and trying to work the hustle. He needs to learn how to read people and situations better, but Al is currently in the position where he can afford to have Earn’s trial and errors be on his dime.

And all things considered, forward-thinking, saving where possible, and stuff like that, Al isn’t going to do that. So Earn doing so for him and breaking it down, in a way which Al can come to understand, that’s valuable. For, similar to Darius, he can translate stuff beyond Al’s understanding, or mindset, so that it makes sense.

Teddy Perkins

The illustrious Theodore Perkins.
“I’m Theodore Perkins.”

Generally speaking, I don’t do horror, I don’t like being scared, and the fact we all got tricked into something on the level of Get Out, was messed up in a multitude of ways. Especially because this was taken to the next level and instead of Donald Glover saying he was Teddy Perkins, he put Teddy Perkins as Teddy Perkins so it adds an “America’s Most Wanted” layer to this. In terms of, this random person you expect to never meet may actually find some random chance to come into your life.

You Finally Get Some Sense of Growth

Atlanta is not at all traditional and while that leads to episodes like the aforementioned Teddy Perkins one, it also makes the show sometime feel aimless. Like there is no real arc or narrative, just a bunch of random and weird days in the lives of these characters. Yet, in season 2, both professionally and personally we saw growth.

As noted with Van, she took note of how her relationship with Earn is, and challenged him to do better. Which, because he is an idiot, he said no. On top of that, like with season one, she also found herself evaluating who she calls friends and asking what does she get out of their relationship besides company. So while, work-wise, she may not have made any moves, by taking note of how her relationships may have been holding her back, she might be able to move forward.

Switching to Earn, I feel that Al putting him on notice made and Darius relaying Al gets he is learning, made him wake up a bit. For while we know Earn dropped out or was kicked out of Princeton, there are many episodes where you are led to believe maybe Earn is book smart but has no common sense. If not, he is a quick learner but often times doesn’t know a damn thing.

Sierra after Alfred disrespects her in the nail salon.
Angela Wildflower as Sierra

Either way, throughout the season, especially as he got money, we got to see Earn grow in both good and bad ways. In terms of a good way, he tightened his hustle, went for larger deals, and seemingly learned more and more how to manage Al’s temperament. However, at the same time, as seen in “Money Bag Shawty” and “North of the Border” he still has an ego problem which needs to be checked every now and then.

And speaking of ego, lastly, we have Al. His career makes quite a bit of progress this season but it is increasingly shown that the reason he still has this one hit wonder vibe is because of his attitude. Be it with fans of people he could make money with, if he isn’t dialing it in he is rude as hell. Yet, he maintains this envy when folks like Clark County make money and is in the constant thought process of how much he could make if he was just on the block hustling.

Yet, thanks to Sierra and what was seen in episode 8 “Woods,” like Earn, he got a reality check. One which forced him to recognize not just what he deserved and could have, but also what he had to do in order to do it. That, when it came to his lack of success, it wasn’t all about what Earn did or did not do, but his part in it as well. Making you hope that, with the season ending on a European tour, his first time out of Georgia, the experience may help him continue to develop as a person and artist.

Low Points

Van Is The Sole Consistent Women On This Show

Van admiring Earn's way of fathering Lottie.

It’s highly frustrating that Van is the only consistent woman in the entire show and as much as you can recognize she is given a unique perspective and voice, largely she is absent from the show. But, in general, it feels really strange how few women really interact with Earn, Al, and Darius. I mean, even when it comes to women like Sierra, who seemed like a genuine love interest for Al, she gets one episode and disappears.

Which, honestly, seems like BS. How can this show take place in Atlanta yet the guys rarely have repeat interactions with any women and 9/10, when dealing with women, they are touted in a negative light? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I adore Van, loved her conversation about being bi-racial and the complication of dating Earn. However, she can’t be the only one. I mean, even her friends don’t repeat in appearances.

On The Fence

The Eccentric Characters, Storylines, and Situations

Van giving the whole night and party the side eye.

I’m not someone who flippantly throws around the word genius just because someone is doing something outside of what I’m used to. I’ll give them props for doing something different, finding a way to make that commercial and get a budget, but genius is a bit far. Something I strongly feel when it comes to Atlanta. For while I enjoyed the Crocodile Man, Teddy, the FUBU episode, and even Van’s when she was trying to find Drake, there comes a point where you have to question, what is the point?

Not even the point as in the joke, or how this develops the story, but was this just done because they could? Similar to an art house indie movie, was what we see before us simply someone executing a certain level of privilege because they could get financing? Plus, with the way social media and websites are, they know people will make it into something bigger than it is and provide all the advertising they need. Making something which was just for fun or dumb into this inspirational moment which gets dozens of articles focusing on this thing which was insignificant in the writing and filming process.

And, mind you, I know I’m guilty of changing the angle of a ant hill to present a mountain with this and other shows. However, when you get past the hype and reflect, you realize how some of the stuff you said was really just based on you not having built up a tolerance yet. Sort of like how, for me, violence and sexual content, even if it is gory and needs tons of trigger warnings, doesn’t really faze me anymore. However, show me a Black couple, dark-skinned at that, in love and happy, and I’ll lose my mind like a Beyoncé stan at her concert.

Tracy

Earn's face after Tracy whoops his ass.

On one hand, you have to appreciate Atlanta always expanding how Black men are seen and portrayed, and not just aiming for some ideal and respectable exhibition. Yet, there is something about Tracy that feels underdone. Not that having a character strictly for comic relief is terrible, for this is by all accounts a comedy. However, there is just something that never sat right with me about him. Maybe it is because I saw it as a bit too much testosterone in a show which doesn’t offer much of the female perspective. Could it be that there didn’t seem to be any real depth to the character? It is hard to say but, while I found him funny, I also questioned what was the point?

Overall: Positive (Watch This)

Season 2 of Atlanta maintained the unique and weird appeal of the first, but refined it a bit. It made you terrified through the Teddy Perkins episode as much as it led to must have conversations, like in “Helen.” It addressed the much-needed growth for our leads and kept Darius that cool, calm, and collected brother I’m sure many of us could use in our life. And while it still underplayed how women play a role in these men’s lives, and Atlanta, no show is perfect. However, it should still be called out for its lack of representation.

So why the positive label? Well, Atlanta remains without peers. Especially in terms of placing Black people in weird, art house film, type of experiences. And while there are many episodes where you just got to wonder about the whole episode or situation, “What the f***?” they eventually come back around and regain your understanding. And it is in pushing the envelope and reforming the box it remains an example of not just how Black people aren’t a monolith but neither does the programming featuring them have to be. Even if set in an urban area with urban characters.


Has Another Season Been Confirmed?: Not yet.


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Episode List

Episode 1
Atlanta returns after an extended hiatus and still has that impeccable balance of being weird as hell yet seemingly rooted in reality.
Episode 2
In Robbin Season, better beware of being hustled. Even if you think you the one hustling someone else or the system.
Episode 3
What do you do when you get your first big check after being homeless and broke? Well, if you’re Earn, you spend it on dumb things to stunt of course.
Episode 4
While Van and Earn have been on dates and seem to be trying to work things out, is it all one-sided?
Episode 5
“Barbershop” is one of those random Alfred episodes which don’t push the story forward but more so establish the weirdness and randomness of certain character’s everyday life.
Episode 6
It’s a Darius focused episode without commercial interruptions. What’s the worse that could happen right?
Episode 7
It’s all fake, nothing is real, and Van learns that by wasting her time trying to find Drake for a whole episode.
Episode 8
Alfred stars in an episode of, “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong” and might be ready to reevaluate his life, career, and attitude.
Episode 9
Earn was once at a high but the downward spiral has begun. One in which it seems he wants to hit the rock bottom of as quick as possible.
Episode 10
To help you understand how hard Al’s decision was to let Earn go, we take it back to middle school where Al stuck up for Earn and it had deadly consequences.
Episode 11
In the season finale, Earn makes the type of moves which will determine his fate with Al, his situation with Van, and will steer Lottie’s life for better or worse.

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