After Earn pissed everyone off last week, I’m so glad this week’s episode is taking a break from him. Atlanta’s latest offering focuses on a triggering experience for every black man alive: the trip to the barbershop. A simple grooming task like this should only take fifteen minutes max but it can end up being an all-day event. Watching this entire episode was like the Sunken Place scene of “Get Out” to me. You want to leave the barbershop, you want to be pissed, but there you are, petrified. You’re completely surrendered to the will of your barber.
The day starts off with Al simply wanting to get a haircut for his upcoming photoshoot. Hijinks ensue. Al’s barber, Bibby, takes awhile to get started because he’s holding a phone conversation. Once he actually starts cutting Al hair, he only gets to one side before they have to make a trip. Bibby and Al (still wearing the barber cape) set out on an adventure. First, they stop by the house of Bibby’s woman. He cuts her son’s hair right before the utilities go out and he makes a break for it with stolen cash. Next, they head to a construction site steal lumber (and a Zaxby’s meal). Then, they pick up Bibby’s truant son and finally have a car accident.
When they do make it back to the shop, Bibby still expects Al to pay him and he does. Now, the question that every person in America probably pondered after this long day is why in the heck did Al not punch this guy’s lights out? Every black man in America knows why. Al even knows why. When Al goes back to the shop, he walks right pass Bibby and sits in another barbers chair. He attempts to assert power over his former barber with this move but you can see the discomfort on his face as soon as the new barber asking him which blade he wants for his cut. There’s a relationship there with Bibby, no matter how flagrant he is. He doesn’t want to start that relationship over. He, like many other men, is a slave to the will of his barber. That’s why he doesn’t punch his lights out.
And even though this episode is solely about the barbershop, it’s just one chapter in Al’s larger memoir about how becoming a famous rapper means he must lose control of his own life. He doesn’t “own” his music anymore, he doesn’t own his image, and he doesn’t even own his time. Brian Tyree Henry deserves all the awards for his facial expressions and body language.
Before I go, I’d like to remind you to always live-tweet Atlanta with us using the hashtags #AtlantaFX and #RobbinSeason.
To close, “You know what a nigga cat look like”.