Atlanta: Robbin’ Season created by Donald Glover (FX Productions and MGM Entertainment)
Starring Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield, and Zazie Beetz.
This Is America
The moment the bullet flies, the video transcends the normal drivel of moving images set to music. The sunny, joyful timbres of vocal runs and acoustic guitars shift into trap/industrial beats, good moods becoming a somber affair.
Donald Glover’s “This is America” is a window into the stylistic preferences of Donald Glover and Hiro Murai, writing and directing many tones of Atlanta. The lived-experience is equal parts comedy and tragedy, just like “This Is America” is equal parts exaltation and dirge-like.
Life isn’t ever just one thing, and Atlanta reinforces this concept in its auteur approach to comedy.
Do We Need a Narrative?
Loosely tracking a narrative, Atlanta explores the relationship between Earn (Donald Glover) and Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry). Better known as Paper Boi, Alfred is climbing the ladder to hip hop superstardom. His cousin, Earn, tries his best to keep up as the green manager.
As mistakes pile up and with management a more pressing question with fame just around the corner, Alfred must balance his desire to keep family close with the need for professional representation.
Pulling at the Threads of Life
But, the beauty of Atlanta doesn’t rest with how characters get from point A to point B. Instead, Atlanta shines when it raises a premise and then explores every facet of it, no matter how distant it might feel to the narrative.
As Todd VanDerWerff brilliantly outlines in an essay for Vox, Atlanta builds its episodes from classic sitcom premises but lets its lived-in point of view explore life from a non-white perspective.
As a result, the series’ tonality jumps and shifts from episode to episode because life isn’t just one thing. Some days, it feels like an acoustic guitar summer jam; other days, life is dark, aggressive rap. It can be both things.
Atlanta rocks the subtitle Robbin’ Season this year, and local oddball/stoner Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) unearths the season’s premise when he defines robbin’ season as the time period before Christmas when marginalized communities resort to thievery and stealing to make ends meet during the holidays.
The dichotomy of robbin’ season emerges in the danger and inevitable violence of certain decisions compared to their noble intent. For many people, “whatever is necessary” is a life mantra because there’s no safety net, no opportunity to try again.
We all want life to be sunshine melodies and the acoustic guitar, but for many people, the reality is a gun.
Atlanta is a comedy. And it’s hilarious. But it also realizes it needs to explore the many facets of lives experience to convey truth. Luckily, it does it in spades.
Some of the best television out there, Atlanta.
Verdict: 5 out of 5