Jesse Taylor’s got the keys to the bakery.
“Teddy Perkins” was the craziest, most horrific, “What the fuck was that?!” episode of Atlanta yet. It was also the most brilliant.
FX has clearly given full control of the show to Donald Glover and let him do whatever he wants. The best television is often a result of networks handing over the keys to a capable show runner. But it can also be risky. Sometimes you get Deadwood. Sometimes you get John From Cincinnati, as HBO found out with the opposing qualities of those two David Milch shows. Glover is in the Deadwood camp with Atlanta.
There has never been an episode of television like “Teddy Perkins.” It was Black Mirror, but rather than prophetic advancements in technology dehumanizing us, it was the tangible sadness of racism dehumanizing people of color.
The episode is named for one of the creepiest characters in TV history, Teddy Perkins, played magnificently by Glover in heavy makeup (although the end credits listed Perkins as being played by “himself”). Perkins seems to be a creation of the Atlanta writer’s room asking, “How crazy would it be to make Donald look like a combination of Michael Jackson and Eddie Murphy’s Mr. White character from Saturday Night Live, with the hair of James Brown?”
Teddy and his brother Benny Hope were forced by an abusive father to become great piano players. They represent young black men and women who were pushed to the edge by overbearing fathers to work harder than everyone else, because that was the only way they could succeed. Children like the Jacksons, Marvin Gaye, Tiger Woods, and Venus and Serena Williams.
Like Michael Jackson, Sammy Sosa, and Lil’ Kim, Teddy and Benny have altered appearances, whether it be from disease or skin-lightening techniques, that make them look more white. Pain is the central theme of the episode, focusing on the dichotomy in beliefs between Teddy and Darius.
“To make an omelet you have to break a few eggs. To build bridges people have to fall. Great things come from great pain.” —Teddy Perkins
“Not all great things come from great pain. Sometimes it’s love.” — Darius
Stevie Wonder’s music bookends the episode, and near the end Darius argues Stevie overcame the pain of his blindness with love. “He saw through his music.” Teddy tells him that this concept sounds beautiful but is wrong. Before he can explain, he is murdered by his brother.
In addition to Glover as Perkins, the show provides a showcase for Lakeith Stanfield as Darius, and he delivers yet again in what has become the best character on TV. He’s featured in every scene, which provides a great opportunity to cover the majority of this episode’s deconstruction through the “What Did Darius Do?” segment.
With Darius out, here’s a quick, “What did Darius do?”:
- Asks a gas station attendant if they have any dehydrated mango ginger jicama
- Brilliantly uses a red sharpie to turn a “Southern Made” confederate flag hat into a “U Mad” hat with a confederate flag on it
- Shows poor decision-making skills when he walks into Teddy’s home after the door opens when he knocks on it. Nothing good ever comes from that
- Listens to Stevie Wonder on long drives because his songs are long
- Has never been in a house with a parlor before
- Shows smart decision-making skills by not eating from a soft-boiled ostrich egg (aka Owl’s Casket)
- Nearly pukes at the sight of another person eating Owl’s Casket
- Uses a biohacking message board to find free shit
- Doesn’t play the piano but likes the way it looks
- Has a two-regret life limit pact, and will tell someone to take him out if he goes over two
- Is too polite to tell Teddy “no” and again shows poor decision-making skills by walking into a dark room with a faceless mannequin of Teddy’s father
- Succumbs to destiny when the elevator skipped passed his selection of the first floor and went straight down to the basement
- When in danger, grabs a fire poker for protection
- Like Teddy, Darius also went through daddy shit, but didn’t use it as an “excuse to repeat the same shit over and over”
- This isn’t the first time Glover has used horror in his writing. Check out Childish Gambino’s “No Exit”
- One of Teddy Perkins’ most creepy acts was how he shakes hands, with both hands facing down like a begging dog
- Glover’s love for random gags continues with Teddy seemingly calling a butler to deliver water to Darius, only to find out it’s a recording machine used like a post-it note reminder
- Descriptions Paper Boi and Earn use to describe Teddy:
- Like somebody left Sammy Sosa in the dryer.
- Like a white man’s penis.
- Like what’s under a scab though.
- Teddy offers Darius a variety of water (“Fiji or Evian, mixed with Poland Springs. Maybe a Vos”), but suspiciously ends up giving him tap
- When things get really creepy in the museum of great fathers, Glover inserts some levity by having Teddy mention Emilio Estevez’s dad from Breakfast Club
“No you can’t!” Glover’s high-pitched response to Darius saying he can understand was scarier than anything Stephen King ever wrote.
The promo for “Champagne Papi” looks like a girl’s night out for Van, written by Ibra Ake and directed by Amy Seimetz. The disclaimer, as always in 2018, is “if you didn’t post about it, did it really happen?”