I’m beginning this post like Nas at the beginning of his “We Major” verse: I’m looking at this draft and don’t know what to write. By now I’ve already erased 2 pretty crappy introductory sentences and now this makes a third.
But don’t let this distract you from the fact that the Warriors were up 3-1 in the NBA Finals.
Non-sequitur out the way, there’s nothing to be said about this show that hasn’t already been said. Before Tuesday night, either you were hyped about watching it or hyped about hate watching it. Either way, you were committed to watching it. Chatter around this show, much like creator Donald Glover himself, was split down the middle. Donald Glover/Childish Gambino is known as the weird nigga who tries too hard. Although I’m a huge fan of his work myself, I too expected Atlanta to be too out there even for my liking. I tried Clapping for the Wrong Reasons and read the Because the Internet script and they didn’t quite hit the mark for me. In addition to this, I had reservations about Donald making a show about the hip-hop scene in Atlanta. I thought he was finally caving to the “trying too hard” stereotype he can’t seem to shake. Regardless, I was hyped for this show and prepared to give it a fair shot.
Much to my delight, Atlanta was none of these things. In fact, Atlanta is the best damn pilot I’ve seen in a long time. Off the bat, this show wins because it knows the best story to tell. This entire episode could have been about Donald’s character, Earn, struggles. Earn takes a backseat to Paper Boi (Bryan Tyree Henry), Darius (Keith Stanfield) and Vanessa (Zazie Beetz). He lets his players play in this story because that’s the best version of it.
Atlanta isn’t so much about one man looking out at the world, it’s about the world that’s surrounding the man. Within this first hour, Earn goes to different locations, talks to different people, and has a lot of different experiences. Thanks to the all black writers room, this show has a high level of authenticity. The interactions between Earn and these characters don’t seem scripted and rehearsed, they seem like conversations you overhear while walking into the gas station to put $15 on pump 2.
The tone of this show is amazing too. There’s a nice blend of drama and comedy in this comedy. The best comedy comes from taking real life situations and making them funny. This episode tackled a white guy being comfortable enough to say “nigga” because he didn’t think Earn was black enough to take offense. It tackled the level of influence music may or may not have on our kids. It tackles the mismanagement of mental health issues by the criminal justice system. It tackles sexuality. You could choose to sit back and marvel at how these themes were covered or you can just sit back and enjoy the show, the choice is yours. Atlanta doesn’t come off as preachy or self-righteous, that’s why these moments hit their mark.
Overall, the show is well written and looks beautiful. Donald has built a great rapport with frequent collaborator Hiro Murai and his vision is brought to life.
I’m not sure where Atlanta will lead me. Maybe I should ask David Lynch that question. But I do know that it’s a path I’m willing to take. These first two episodes have been incredibly refreshing and are instantly in my must-see TV category.
[Before I sign off, shoutout to FX. They’re easily one of the most daring networks on cable. You’re the Worst, Fargo, and now this. Excellent. Shoutout to lemon pepper wings too.]