Back from the ATL: On ‘Atlanta,’ Season 2, Episode 1

Jesse Taylor breaks down season 2 episode 1, of 'Atlanta.'
By    March 8, 2018

Jesse Taylor is all about that paper, boy.

Passion of the Weiss will take a full week to thoroughly analyze the impact of a show like Atlanta. Here’s our deconstruction of Season 2, Episode 1: “Alligator Man.”

What makes rap music and a show like The Wire so great is its ability to bring you along for the ride into a world you know exists but are too afraid to live in. Atlanta is blessing us with that same ability with each new episode. It’s no surprise that the premiere of Season 2, “Robbin’ Season,” opens with a scene that feels straight out of The Wire.

Two young black men are speaking with accents in a dialect only fully understandable to them while playing video games in the crib. They leave and pull up to the drive-thru of Mrs. Winners Chicken & Biscuits to order a #17 on the menu, which scores you an 8th of weed. No other fast food value meal would come to $60.85. At no point have we heard the two young men discuss anything out of the ordinary, but when they pull up to the pick-up window, the camera cuts to their faces, now covered by masks.

The passenger pops out of the window with a gun pointed at the drive-thru server, shoots through the window and jumps into the restaurant searching for the drug stash. The drug-dealing restaurant manager is strapped with an automatic rifle and a shoot-out ensues. The thief makes it back to the car and they peel off, seeming to escape. But the manager opens fire on the car. It stops and a young girl steps out, crying with a face covered in blood. The guys leave her and drive off.

In the sixteen months since the end of Atlanta’s first season and the beginning of Season 2, Donald Glover established himself as a serious Hollywood and music industry talent. Atlanta took home a Golden Globe for Best Television Series Musical or Comedy, and Glover won Best Actor in the same category. He released his first critically acclaimed album, Awaken, My Love!, which sounded more like Parliament than Chance The Rapper, in a good way. And now, he’s about to fill the shoes of the smoothest, malt liquor drinking womanizer in Star Wars history, Lando Calrissian. In the words of Billy Dee Williams, Donald Glover “works every time.”

If you thought Glover’s success would cause him to cater Atlanta to more mainstream audiences so FX could grow its rating, you’d be wrong. Like The Wire and rap music, “Alligator Man” puts the issue of inner-city gun violence at the forefront.

Despite making up just 12% of the United States population, black people make up over 50% of our country’s homicide victims. Yet, the majority of citizens in the United States don’t care enough to take action unless the shooter is a “white male lone wolf with a troubled upbringing” and the victims are white kids. Gun violence that takes place in the suburbs results in town halls on CNN and celebrities badgering the NRA and politicians for more gun control.

Black kids in Chicago, South Central, Forest Park and Hunters Point get N.W.A, Killer Mike, Omar, and Darius.

Speaking of Darius, his description of Robbin’ Season leads us to believe Season 2 will continue the theme of violence in the ‘hood. “Christmas approaches, and everybody gotta eat.” To which Earn counters, “Or be eaten.”

This mentality of robbin’ people to get by at Christmas is a real life thing. Just ask Black C, who told the story of his partner Mr. Cee from RBL Posse getting killed over money because he was trying to pay bills during Christmas. Crazy how two worlds collide sometimes.

On to the episode. First, the most important question:

What Did Darius Do?

  • Made some sliders and warned his samplers to “be careful” because they are “very, very cold.”
  • Blasted “Hot Head” by the Death Grips through his cheap car speakers while driving with Earn.
  • Believes in a person called “Florida Man” who, based on the headlines he reads, is solely responsible for a large percentage of abnormal incidents that occur in Florida. Per Darius, Florida Man is government cahoots to prevent black people from going to Florida and registering to vote.
  • Sat on the roof of his car while pumping gas.
  • Wore polka dot pants straight out of a 1990s Kwamé video.
  • Can sense intense vibes.
  • He did a lot of things in this episode; however, one thing he doesn’t do is believe in time as a concept. Accordingly, he tells people “We always met” instead of “Nice to meet you.”

What Did Everyone Else Do?

Paper Boi:

  • Not much—he’s stuck on house arrest with an ankle monitor.
  • Is mad at Darius for unknown reasons, and won’t even be on speaker phone if Darius is nearby.

Earn:

  • Has been discovered by the storage unit management and needs to stop sleeping in the space immediately. He can’t even auction his shit before leaving, because “this ain’t Storage Wars.”
  • Call’s Paper Boi’s girl by the wrong name, beginning a theme of Earn not adding value to Paper Boi’s increasingly valuable life.
  • Gets a ride from Darius to visit his P.O. (‘cause he done smoked hella weed bro)
  • Doesn’t even have $375 to pay for his anti-drug classes.
  • Which means he already ran out of the stack of bills he made from Paper Boi at the end of last season.
  • Views a covered dead body at a murder scene across the street while eating Hot Cheetos at a gas station.
  • Trying to remain relevant in Paper Boi’s life, he runs an errand checking on Willy aka “Alligator Man” – Earn’s uncle and presumably Paper Boi’s dad – who is accused of kidnapping his girlfriend.
  • Previously lived in a house with an alligator and didn’t even know it was there.

Willy:

  • Allows alligators in his house, but no shoes.
  • Asks Earn if Paper Boi is too good to check on him (“He DMX now?”).
  • Calls out Earn for being scared of not being on Paper Boi’s good side.
  • Keeps the alligator’s room in worse shape than an Azealia Banks Snapchat, with chicken carcasses everywhere.
  • Did something to Earn’s mom that Earn didn’t like.
  • Is good at giving advice but not following it. For example, when he tells Earn he’ll end up like him if he doesn’t get rid of the chip on his shoulder.
  • Even though he has time to get dressed and put on shoes, Willy chooses to sprint down the street from the police in his robe and socks.

Alligator:

  • Tries to act intimidating, but can’t help falling asleep anytime “Hey! Love” by The Delfonics comes on.

In the end, despite being surrounded by guns and violence in their families and in their communities, life goes on for our three main characters. Paper Boi and Darius make an unspoken peace by sharing a joint, while Earn walks out of Paper Boi’s house just as he was to begin the show—looking for a place to sleep.

Tonight’s Episode

Based on previews, Paper Boi will record annoying radio drops and meet with a corny record label exec named Peter Savage, who makes bad references to himself and 21 Savage.