Because you can find recaps elsewhere, and because we long for the watercooler talks of yore, three editors, Sam Eichner, Najib Benouar and Geoff Rynex, 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 S02E01 Alligator Man.
Hello gentlemen. Should we discuss Atlanta?
Or should we just discuss Katt Williams. Because KATT WILLIAMS!!!
SE: This is the best Katt Williams performance since at least Scary Movie 5.
GR: Him running down the street in his robe and slippers was the finest comedic palate cleanser I can remember in a long time. It was like 20 minutes of, "wow, Katt Williams really might have a second act,” with a five-second reassurance that yeah, it’s still Katt Williams, alright.
SE: I never for one minute questioned the fact that Katt Williams would have an alligator in his house. Which is sort of a prime example of the continuity/consistency of Glover's absurdist vision of Atlanta.
GR: Were you guys thinking a lot about the fact that it was Katt Williams or did you fall into the scene pretty quickly?
NB: I couldn't have been happier it was Katt Williams, but I also couldn't have been more convinced he was Uncle Willie. Willie is even short for Williams.
SE: I'll answer that question with another question: do you think the fact that it was Katt Williams, and that people would know it was Katt Williams, played into the central tension of Uncle Willie, as someone with all the smarts who nonetheless let shit happen to him?
GR: That element of Uncle Willie didn't hit me until Earn brought it up with him, but good point.
Najib—Sam and I were talking a little bit before you jumped on about the recent New Yorker profile of Donald Glover. For Sam it added to the overall mythology of Glover, as this sort of eccentric, prickly and messianic genius. Did it color your perspective at all?
NB: In what way?
GR: In the sense that the profile was a pretty intense look inside an intense dude's head and inside this work. Did any of that carry over for you?
NB: I was actually thinking, the perfect Atlanta-y coda to that interview would've been a super in-depth profile of Stephen Glover, with his face on the cover of the New Yorker, but like with all the same reverie and bait-y headline as the Donald one.
GR: You're already operating on another level.
SE: And it's hard not to see the show through that lens; but I think it threatens to take some of the abstruse aspects of Atlanta, which make the show great, and turn them into self-parody.
GR: So the interview diminished it for you a little bit?
SE: In a way. I think the first season was so great in part because nobody knew what to expect, and now that we do, and that there's this mythology surrounding Glover out there—as this difficult or quirky Lynch-like artist—it's harder to see the show as thing itself. But that doesn't necessarily make it worse, just different. It still certainly has the capacity to surprise me.
GR: I think I agree. The interview for me was like beginning to see see the brushstrokes of the show, which made it more impressive but maybe a little less enjoyable.
SE: I think the best and most Atlanta-y moment in this first episode was when Darius literalizes the Florida Man.
GR: “Watch out for Florida Man.” That was a highlight for me. Best Adapted Twitter Meme goes to… Atlanta.
SE: To me it made perfect sense, both in Darius's head and on the show in general, that they would read what's basically a joke about Florida as this literal alt-right Johnny Appleseed.
NB: Alt-Right Johnny Appleseed is A+ work.
SE: There's something sneakily truthful about it, though, in the sense that these characters perceive as a concrete threat what most people view as an abstraction, or a joke.
GR: I think it speaks to Lakeith Stanfield's catfish-like mysterious portrayal of Darius that I couldn't decide whether Darius was, himself, joking on the idea of Florida Man being an actual boogie monster. Finding a higher truth in the myth.
SE: I don't think he was joking, although I guess it wouldn't matter if he were. Do you think there's a tacit connection between "Florida Man" and Katt Williams’s Uncle Willie, who the neighborhood knows just as "Alligator Man.”
NB: The line where he proclaims himself as alligator man is so good, dammit. I'm just back to reveling in his performance, now.
SE: The moment when the alligator walks out that song is probably my favorite moment of the episode.
GR: When Seasons Change, Curtis Mayfield.
SE: Thank you.
GR: You got it. Gun to your head, what do you think was the rationale behind using that song for that moment? Was it as simple as "let's just fuck with people,” with the vibe, which falls somewhere between evoking a blaxploitation scene and a porn scene, definitely in the '70s?
NB: Yeah, in that New Yorker profile, doesn't Donald say, ‘when I walk out the door, sometimes I feel like that Alligator’?
GR: So the alligator is the myth.
SE: I would not be surprised if Donald Glover played the alligator in this episode, in an Andy Serkis-esque alligator suit.
GR: The alligator is the neighborhood’s myth and the myth of the episode. Glover comes off as a mythical character in the profile. He's the alligator the world's been talking about. Or he just likes soundtracking his own life to Curtis Mayfield.
SE: I think it's fair to say we've completely figured this out. I want to back up for a minute though—what did you guys make of the intro?
NB: Yes, the cold open. WHY IS THAT GUY SO TERRIBLE AT FIFA???
SE: What system was that even on? The graphics looked horrible.
NB: …But he insists on finishing the game...Dude, you're trash.
GR: I liked them showing the crowd within the game. They were unimpressed.
NB: Yeah, it's small moments like that when you're just like, yes.
SE: Did you guys expect the drive-thru scene to turn into a full-on shootout?
GR: No. That felt to me like a very angry, rebellious scene on Glover's part. It immediately made me think about his quote in the profile about all black people having PTSD.
NB: I knew something was going to happen like that off the jump. I'm waiting for the kid to get jumped as he walks to his friend’s house. Then waiting for the door to get kicked in. Then, the second I let my guard down, ski masks in the drive-thru. I was like, damn, got me.
SE: There was a mix of the hyper-violent and the mundane there that felt particularly Lynch-ian, for lack of a better word [walks off a cliff].
GR: The transition from mundanity to stickup for me had strong notes of The Wire…
GR: …but what really got me was the drive-thru guy coming back with the assault rifle.
SE: Right?! And what about the girl getting out of the car at the end. Was she shot? Was she even in the car before? It was almost like she was re-enacting being shot. It was a weird moment.
GR: I didn't think she was shot. At first I thought they'd heisted the car from her for the getaway and needed to throw her out, then I remembered it was their car. It was kind of a cubist ending.
NB: Sometimes you watch the scene and see the conversation they had while writing it. At the end of it, they're just riffing like "and you know, there has to be some chick screaming like she got shot" so they just were like, “oh yeah, def.”
SE: Did you guys feel bad for earn at the end of the episode? Also, like, how underrated is it that he's legit homeless?
GR: I thought it was interesting that he'd be so real with Uncle Willie but still feel the need to keep up his bravado with Darius and Al when it came to having a place to stay. And yeah, his homelessness is treated pretty casually. It felt like money was a very abstract concept in this episode in a purposeful way.
SE: What do you mean by that. It seemed pretty concrete to me.
GR: Earn is homeless, but he barely protests the storage guy hauling off his stuff. He needs a ride to the parole office and it seems like a given before he even says it that he doesn't have the money to pay what his fees. Then he gives away $100 to someone he obviously cares about. But…he’s homeless. He needs that $100 a lot more than that situation calls for him to give it to her. The whole episode starts with two kids playing video games who eventually get into a particularly violent shootout trying to get drugs/money. The pursuit of money is the only difference between two kids playing video games and two kids being killed.
Money and its absence plays a huge role in the show in general, but the concept felt extra fluid in this episode.
SE: That's an interesting point, and it is called "Robbin' Season."
GR: Everybody's gotta eat.
NB: That would've been the chyron for the Wire Episode, right?
NB: I mean, not to get too existential on you, but isn't the concept of money itself a bit abstract/absurd. It's a piece of paper with a number on it that we give meaning only because someone told us to ("the government" - Darius). Sometimes I think that's what they're getting at. But I also think Earn had the money for the parole. He just wasn't going to pay it. And helping his Uncle makes sense. And the storage dude taking his shit is more a symptom of him saying ‘fuck it.’ His homelessness is more of a self-imposed exile than anything. I actually think it can be read on both levels
GR: I can't argue with any of that.
So what the hell was going on with Darius and Al?
NB: No clue, but it was obviously something petty.
GR: Why do I get the feeling that Glover's favorite part of this episode was whatever elaborate story he constructed for himself about what was behind that beef, and the fact that he chose not to let us in on it?
SE: I kind of loved that there was this unspoken beef that was resolved by the end with a simple joint. There was something real about that, and even sweet.
NB: It was downright heartwarming.
GR: And yet there's Earn, up one gold-plated pistol and down one place to stay. Do we think this will be part of a seamless transition to Van's for episode two or is he just even more homeless now?
NB: Van! looking forward to catching up with her.
SE: If anyone on this thread isn't looking forward to catching up with Zazie Beetz you can politely see yourself out.