Atlanta’s Season 2 Premiere Takes Show’s Brilliance to Another Level

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Atlanta’s Season 2 Premiere Takes Show’s Brilliance to Another Level

Two kids are hanging out in an Atlanta apartment complex. One is sucking pretty bad at FIFA. The other one is getting scolded for not drinking Powerade from a cup. They’re talking about local rap, new mixtapes, wannabe stars from the neighborhood. There’s a fast food place in the neighborhood that’ll hook people up with an eighth if someone orders a number 17 off the menu. They’re gonna go, but first one of the kids wants to finish his Xbox soccer match.

So begins the second season of Atlanta. It’s been a year and four months since Donald Glover’s anomaly of a show aired its Season One finale with Earn falling asleep in the storage unit where he’d been staying. Multiple Emmys, Golden Globes, and Grammys later, we’re back in Glover’s home city, watching a hyper-realistic conversation between two dudes seemingly going to score drugs.

Glover told Esquire in our February cover story that the pitch to FX was “a Trojan horse to be able to just tell stories. I’m just not a person who wants to give people what they want, because I’m more complicated than that.” (He reiterated this notion in a recent profile in The New Yorker: “If I told them what I really wanted to do, it wouldn’t have gotten made.”) If the pitch for Atlanta was a Trojan horse to convince FX to produce one of the most groundbreaking, amorphous shows on television, then Glover has successfully challenged the expectations for what his audience will see in Season Two.

Donald Glover has successfully challenged the expectations for what his audience will see in Season Two.

The two kids roll up to the chicken place, order a number 17 and a peach cobbler. They pull up to the drive through window in masks, one jumps out with a gun, fires, goes into the storage closet to steal the drugs. But the guy working the counter isn’t just slinging burgers—he pulls out an assault rifle and fights back. After a brief shootout in the restaurant, the robber stumbles back into the car and takes fire from the fast food employee. The car rolls to a halt. A woman steps out, stunned, covered in blood, crying. The camera switches to an arial shot with the sound of sirens getting closer.

In Season One, violence and guns occupied a peculiar space in Atlanta. The first episode opened with an accidental shooting during an argument. Then Migos gunned down an unarmed man in a forest. But all of these events took place within situations defined by surrealist humor. That’s not the case in this opening scene. This is the most real and chilling Atlanta has ever been.

FX

In the same way that David Simon’s The Wire would juxtapose the mundane with the everyday crime of Baltimore (Snot Boogie was murdered because of a craps game), Glover opens Atlanta’s second season with a heist that’s planned almost too casually. This is real shit. It’s jarring, too—another genre jump from a show that refuses to be defined.

But, this is “Robbin’ Season,” as Lakeith Stanfield’s Darius points out later in the episode. He and Earn sit outside a gas station, looking at police standing around a different body at a different crime scene. “Christmas approaches, and everybody gotta eat,” Darius explains.

At its heart, Atlanta is a show about aspirations—whether they are Earn’s aspirations to reach his potential or to make enough money to eat for a day, Paper Boi’s creative aspirations as a rapper, or just the Atlanta black community’s aspirations to thrive within systematic oppression. “Robbin’ Season,” it seems, is also aspirational—an actual time in Atlanta in which the number of robberies increase to take advantage of seasonal spending.

And that’s a desperate place Earn finds himself in now: living in a trailer, doing odd jobs for his cousin, hoping to make a few bucks until the rapping thing takes off. “Robbin’ Season” is cold, it’s dangerous, and it’s only the beginning.

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