Because you can find recaps elsewhere, and because we long for the watercooler talks of yore, three editors, Sam Eichner, Najib Benouar and Hadley Tomicki, will be using this space to have a weekly conversation about FX’s Atlanta, Donald Glover’s capital-I Important, intriguingly abstruse, not-really-comedy comedy. Obviously, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. This week's topic is S02E03 Money Bag Shawty.
Sam Eichner: I've got to start with one question, because I actually just watched the episode this morning and haven't googled this yet: was that actually Michael Vick there at the end?
Hadley Tomicki: I was hoping someone here could tell me the same thing. To Google!
[A scramble to Google ensues.]
Najib Benouar: YES.
HT: It was Michael Vick.
SE: Wow. I'm in no position to say this with any authority but Michael Vick hustling people by racing them outside a strip club feels like the most Atlanta thing ever.
HT: I'm already wondering if Bankhead Barbie, recently released after serving time for giving people butt injections, and Tracy could be the Joanie Loves Chachi spin-off here in a couple of years.
SE: I feel like Earn trying to take Van out to a nice date and subsequently failing despite his best intentions is a recurring theme of the show.
HT: Yeah, we've seen it before. I feel like he got a little closer, even though his money is literally no good in that town.
SE: The town does seem sort of mythically opposed to Earn making money, saving it, or even spending it in any fruitful way. Which brings up one critique I have of this episode, and I don't know if it's really even a critique, but the show's internal logic has made it pretty predictable in some ways.
HT: What did you see coming?
SE: The racism at the movie theater and the hookah bar, which should come as a surprise, feel to-be-expected. Like, it wasn't predictable per se, but it didn't strike me as something I didn't see coming, either, you know what I mean?
HT: I don't totally disagree.
SE: And maybe that's the point.
HT: I was thinking the same thing.
SE: There's something tragicomically rote about it.
HT: Maybe racism is a given from the character's perspective.
SE: Right, I think we talked about this last week, in one way or another--Earn's resignation to these societal forces.
HT: The movie theater scene was pretty great, I thought, not the money being rejected so much as the gun.
SE: Yes, that was surprising! It was so casually over the top.
HT: The show continues to make us question what is real and what is an exaggeration of reality, for all the talk of how surreal it is...and indeed the show exists in this weird, morally bankrupt society that sort of resembles Idiocracy-lite.
SE: That's an apt comparison I think.
HT: But the guy flashing his firearm at the movies is pretty realistic, and the white cocaine cheddar chips Paper Boi was talking about...it's not very far-fetched when you think of how many people snack foods kill. The first commercials I saw on this episode were for 1800 tequila, which was mentioned on the show, and the Popeye's lady.
SE: Do you think Donald Glover is orchestrating the commercials?
HT: Yes. And the weather.
NB: Per last week, that 1800 commercial had an actual chance the rapper song in it, ha.
HT: The movie theater scene was kind of a great vignette showing how insane white people must look from every outside angle. Whereas the mother who hated Paper Boi's song kind of had a point. As much as I think we were supposed to hate her, the lyrics were fucking atrocious.
NB: Are you still saying it could be a better song? Hadley, stop pushing for greatness.
HT: Didn't Paper Boi's first song initially get popular because of the shooting? Now it's gotten a boost from the offended white lady controversy. It's only been popular due to non-musical shit.
NB: I'm kind of disappointed that the mom didn't get robbed. I was harboring a small hope that every cold open this "Robbin Season" would involve a robbery of some kind. Perhaps they robbed her of her innocence?
HT: I agree with Najib. I was hoping for another True Detective-style stick-up, instead of a juice box.
SE: I can't think of another show that does a cold open like Atlanta, or like they've been doing this season. It kind of serves to expand the scope of the show, in an interesting/fitting way.
NB: I love the extremely short, extremely tromp l'oeil title sequences. ATLANTA rides by painted on a charter bus outside the bar. ColleGrove plays...
SE: Me too. Just reinforces to me the fact that this is the vibe-iest show on TV.
NB: Also, if you guys remember that "money as an abstract concept" tangent I went on in the first of the conversations this season, I'd like to thank Paper Boi for summing it up in his very Hood-Hemingway-esque way, in the strip club, in response to Earn's dejected tales of the Unspendable Benjamin: "Money is an idea, man."
SE: Ironic, though, given Paper Boi is named Paper Boi.
NB: Money is an idea. Racism is real. I think that kind of sums up that conversation you guys were having up top. Sorry my Gchat crashed during that. Oh, it crashed again. *I just remembered I wanted to pepper that joke in a few times.
SE: That seems like a pretty pat summation of the show's ethos, yes. Najib, were you happy to have Zazie Beetz back?
NB: VAN!!!--ME SHOUTING AT MY TV WHEN THEY PAN INTO HER APT
SE: Their dynamic is really...I'm not sure what to make of it.
NB: STRIP CLUB ANNIE HALL.
SE: That Annie Hall reference from the omniscient strip club announcer was probably the most unbelievable thing about this episode.
HT: She's clearly out of his league but I think she believes in his broke ass.
NB: Let's not forget. They are raising a child together.
HT: Oh right.
HT: Where'd that kid go?
SE: I'm honestly glad they don't get weighed down with the kid--it just presents a whole litany of problems from a showrunning perspective, I would imagine. When Carrie had a kid on Homeland I was like, "Fuck, why. How is she gonna keep stopping bad guys when she's gotta worry about this frickin' kid?" Like, that's not why I watch that show and that's not really why I watch Atlanta.
HT: Before I go, I just want to say that this episode had some of my favorite lines. Paper Boi toasts to "white tears" before drinking his tequila, then someone says it "tastes like free." Darius says he "feels everything," which seems increasingly true. The strip club DJ promises an ass so big it "looks like a birth defect." But hands down my favorite scene was when that other rapper starts spitting about Henny and herb. The split-second we see Paper Boi's reaction was classic. That shit should be a meme.
NB: Speaking of... so, Clark County is Chance the Rapper, right? I kind of hedged at it last week with my Cheerios the Rapper jab. But then I remembered Chance actually did a commercial with his head floating around singing a jingle for Kit-Kat. And CC wears overalls and Champion gear. And his mom worked in government so he got those Tubmans.
SE: That's a strong take. do you think Childish Gambino's throwing shade on chance, then?
NB: Nah, I think they're friends, and maybe it's a little inside joke of theirs. I mean, the character could be a composite of all the "relatable rappers" out there. Childish Gambino, too.
SE: Right, That seems more likely.
NB: A popular Drake refrain in many of his earlier songs were to the effect of "I don't drink much or really get high, but i'm high right now" which is like that scene, too, so add him into the mix. And Lil Yachty. Lest we forget Lil Boat.
SE: Unrelated, I think my favorite part of the episode might have been....Darius's pants?
NB: Definitely. Low-key style icon of the show, for sure.