March 2, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Atlanta”


ATLANTA:  Wednesday 10PM on FX

Season 1 of Donald Glover’s FX series ATLANTA was, among other things, a show that went in so many directions after its premiere that judging it from its opening half-hour proved to be foolhardy.  The same may very well be true for Season 2, so we’ll deal briefly with the season’s premiere, written by Glover and directed by frequent series director Hiro Murai.

The season has been subtitled “Robbin Season,” to reflect its pre-Christmas setting, a time when the extra cash some have is liable to be stolen, which was evident in the opening sequence, in which a casual chat between friends led to an intensely violent robbery and shoot-out, apparently leaving the robbers wounded if not dead.  (As per usual on Atlanta, little was explained.)  The rest of the episode was more straightforward than much of Season 1’s text, although it made room for plenty of shifts in tone and structure.  Seemingly set a few months after the close of Season 1, it found Earn (Glover) still sleeping in a storage unit, but with his time there about to come to an end.  He had hopes of finding a temporary home with his cousin Alfred, aka the rapper Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry), who was under house arrest but also apparently prosperous, and who sent Earn and Alfred’s temporarily estranged pal Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) to calm down a situation in a house Alfred owned or managed.

There the two found Earn’s uncle Willy (Katt Williams), whose girlfriend was accusing him of kidnapping after he locked her in the bedroom after claiming she’d stolen $50 from him.  Oh, and Willy had an alligator in another room, so much a matter of neighborhood lore that Willy was known as “Alligator Man.”  Much of the episode’s action, such as it was, stemmed from Earn’s attempt to keep the situation contained–Earn himself is on probation and doesn’t need the cops in his life–and his interactions with Willy.  Room was found, though, for a hilarious sidebar journey to Florida, to illustrate the belief that Florida Man, as in headlines like “Florida Man Eats Man’s Face” and “Florida Man Shoots Up Ex’s Delivery Room,” always refers to the same guy, an “alt-right Johnny Appleseed” who commits random crimes to discourage black people from coming to Florida and voting.

As usual with Atlanta, the detail work was what made the episode great, from the lush, stunning photography, to the music cues, to the superb acting turn by Katt Williams, who’s known for broad comedy, but who here mixed the gags with memorable notes of regret and perspective.  We may never see uncle Willy again, and on the other hand, there wasn’t even a mention in the episode of Earn’s daughter or her mother Van (Zazie Beetz), one episode giving little guide to where the next may go.

Even in an era of non-stop TV superlatives, Atlanta‘s first season received a level of critical adulation that felt rare, and the pressure is on for Glover.  (Even more so because with the enforced absence of Louis C.K., and the impending flight of Ryan Murphy to Netflix, Glover is now FX’s signature talent.)  Whether Glover can fully cash that check remains to be seen, but Atlanta seems as unique and idiosyncratic as it’s been from the start.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."