Greetings, ATLiens. First, allow me to apologize for missing the “Champagne Papi” recap. Life happens sometimes but it won’t happen again, I promise.
This week’s episode is titled “Woods”. Both the preview and synopsis for this episode was cryptic as ever. The preview showed Al running through the woods and and the synopsis for the episode read “It is believed wealth has something to do with Paper Boi’s attitude”. Sure, ok. After an episode like “Teddy Perkins” I was expecting another weird episode, which this ended up being. I was also expecting to dislike it, which turned out to be false. I enjoyed this episode not because of the info dump it provided for a character, but how it was presented to the viewer.
As I’ve stated before, there’s the struggle between Al and Paper Boi. Al wants to be Alfred Miles and sees Paper Boi as nothing more than a stage name but his newfound fame won’t allow that. He want to keep his feet planted firmly in reality while avoiding the superficiality of the rap world. This episode finally makes these two worlds collide.
This episode opens with Al sleeping on the couch and being awaked by his mother attempting to clean his house*. There are discarded potato chip bags all over, so it’s apparent Al doesn’t really leave that area much these days. If his disposition and facial expressions aren’t enough, we know Al is in a funk because both Earn and Darius ask him “you good?”.
[Sidenote: Shout out to Darius, the greatest TV character of all time, for taking the phrase “put your foot in it” literally]
Al sets out with Ciara (or Sierra) who seems to be an Instagram fashionista. She schools Al on how to improve his brand and enjoy the perks of stardom. She tells him to get a better manager (Uh oh, Earn) so he can finally start making moves. Finally, she offers Paper Boi a proposition: They combine their brands to become a power couple. This pisses off Al because I’m inclined to believe he only hung out with her because she knew how to navigate both worlds. After getting into an argument about the candid IG photo she snaps, Al storms off.
After a detour for a Krystal’s burger, he walks towards a wooded area. He bumps into three men who stop him and ask the most asked question of this season “Are you Paper Boi?”. After the usual pleasantries of “I’m a fan” and “I’ve been listening to you since the beginning”, the look on their faces all come to the same conclusion collectively: It’s Robbin Season. Al fights off the would be attacker and although he loses his watch he gets to keep his life. He runs into the woods to avoid be tracked down.
This is where it gets weird.
There’s a deer, entrails exposed, and a seemingly homeless man. The man says several things I found to be interesting:
- The robbers went that way, then that way, then up there (as he points to the sky)
- Al is just like his mother
- And that he’s just like the dead deer
Our fellow contributor McDeedus has an interesting take. She doesn’t believe Al ever left the couch. She thinks this is all a dream. And this episode does seems like a dream sequence, honestly. We know that Twin Peaks gets referenced a lot and the mother of Laura Palmer did once have a prophetic dream while sleeping on the couch.
I think this is Al’s vision quest. He easily may have bumped his head during his scuffle and ran into the woods. Or all of this could have happened; the foiled robbery, the dead deer, even the prophetic, nomadic man. The outcome is still the same, regardless. Al knows that stagnation will get him nowhere. It will have him running through circles through his own metaphorical forest and it will eventually kill him.
When he exits the woods, he laughs. It’s obvious this is a post-nerves laugh and he’s just happy to be alive. Once he gets back to the convenience store, he’s greeted by a fan. Only this time, he opts to take the picture. Will he finally embrace the fan he’s so desperately running from? Will he finally stop trying to be so “real”? I don’t know but I can tell you the moral of this episode: Never eat at Krystal’s.
To sum this all up, I enjoyed this episode and I’m glad Brian Tyree Henry got to exhibit his masterclass. He had to express vulnerability, fear, frustration, while still carrying the “tough-guy” exterior of Paper Boi. If “Teddy Perkins” gets attention for creativity, this episode should get attention for Henry’s performance.
As usual, keep live tweeting with us on Thursday.
[*Note: After a second watching of this episode, I was reminded of the first episode of Atlanta. Al’s mother is dead. That part, at least, was a dream. ]