NOTE: This is an episode review. Of course there are going to be spoilers.
At this point, now that we’ve all seen the first episode of Robbin’ Season, it’s safe to assume Atlanta is on some Star Trek shit. Think about it: It’s continually trippy in tone (something Donald Glover told The New Yorker is attributable to weed), it has actual sci-fi-level events (such as the invisible car from last season), and it always makes the city feel like everywhere it takes us is a whole new world. But it’s also proven that the show has no problem killing off the random inconsequential Yeoman Johnson-type redshirts.
We don’t know if those kids survive the attention-grabbing season opener, but we do know that once again, it’s on. Atlanta is back and it didn’t get dumber over the break. All of the brilliance, sadness, strangeness, reality and surreality stayed put, and somehow it’s all really funny when you put it together, even when – especially when – it makes no sense.
What everybody’s going to be talking about for a long time is the performance of Katt Williams. The popular opinion seems to be that he was literally playing himself (at least partially), as Willie, Earn Marks’ uncle. Wherever it was from which the once-A-list comedian conjured up the feelings needed to make Willie real, he went and found them, and perfectly expressed the despair and weariness of a guy who wished he could change things in the past.
Who knows if Williams will get an Emmy as Glover predicted in The New Yorker piece, or if he’ll even get another scene in Atlanta; he definitely left us with something to remember him by. When you watch it again, notice at the end of his scenes that the music wasn’t intended to play as part of the background score; it’s actually coming from inside his house. Real talk; that was him playing The Delfonics’ “Hey! Love.” LOL.
Speaking of music, the show also makes great use of other real, recognizable songs, including Tay-K’s “The Race,” played appropriately during the opening robbery scene, and “Hot Head” by the experimental hip-hop/punk/industrial band Death Grips, which punctuates the tension of Earn trying to ask Darius why things seem weird between him and Alfred.
It’s also good to see Darius and Alfred (aka Paper Boi) again. Although we’re led to believe something’s not right, we see ultimately that not much has changed. Darius is still out there, from his taste in music to his conspiracy theory involving the drug-addled “alt-right Johnny Appleseed” known as Florida Man (a bit of art imitating a real life meme). Every scene with Darius is a reminder that the show benefits greatly from his occasional moments. Paper Boi lays low in “Alligator Man,” and we don’t yet get to see the lovely Van, but there’s still more than enough to prove that this show has everything it needs to stay on the air for years to come, Glover-/FX-willing.
Throughout this season premiere, Atlanta has moments of hilarity, but is also heartfelt and heart-dropping, giving reassurances about the human spirit through its comedy and situations, whether that’s the blunt Alfred and Darius finally pass between each other, or our own laughter and joy for Willie as he sprints away.
It’s reminding us early this season that you can laugh with a group of downtrodden misfits and outcasts without laughing at them, because you feel for them. And you hope for them, and root for them, because they’re good people who happen to be funny as hell, even when – especially when – you have no idea what the hell is happening. And even when it pulls you down into gloom by making a deeper point about the tragedies of real life, it’s only getting better.
That’s what makes it one of the best shows on TV right now: It makes real life worth watching and celebrating, and Robbin’ Season seems certain to once again steal the whole show.