A white woman saying the N-word should never be funny, but by the end of the first three episodes of its new season, Donald Glover’s subversive comedy series Atlanta somehow manages to make it hilarious.
The show returns on FX in March with its trademark knack for finding humor in ostensibly unfunny situations, thanks to smart and nuanced writing that makes controversial topics funny by presenting them with surrealism. Atlanta revolves around Earnest “Earn” Marks (Donald Glover), Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Brian Tyree Henry), Darius (Lakeith Stanfield), and Van (Zazie Beetz) navigating through life in Atlanta, and taking us along for the wild ride.
Digital Trends got an early look at three episodes from the second season ahead of its March 1 premiere, officially known as Robbin’ Season, and the gang is back for more raucous fun. There’s alligators, racism, and a whole lot of robbery in our first glimpse, all layered in Glover’s signature sense of humor. Prepare to laugh when you think you shouldn’t.
Donald Glover’s homemade surrealism
From the outset of the new season, Glover makes one thing readily apparent: The drama this season will be ratcheted up considerably from season one.
In the first three episodes of Atlanta’s first season, the series mined suspenseful drama from a shooting we never see, and dealing drugs in the woods. The first five minutes of the new season provides a level of volatility those episodes merely hinted at. Before the opening credits even roll on the season two premiere, we get the most suspenseful and action-packed scene of the series to date. And it all starts with a seemingly innocuous drive-thru order.
Earn is still the driving force of the first three episodes of the season, but the city of Atlanta makes its presence felt as much as any character. Glover mythologizes his hometown by inserting local folklore figures so deeply into his fictional world that their bizarre behavior is both commonly known and accepted. These figures deliver some of the biggest laughs of the first three episodes (for some of the most grotesque reasons), and their presence widens the scope of the show.
But nothing mythologizes the city of Atlanta in the first three episodes more than the introduction of “Robbin’ Season,” a nefarious sort of holiday that adds a complex layer to the show’s surrealistic take on its titular city.
A Robbing ‘Hood
The first evidence of season 2’s impending arrival came via a cryptic, now-deleted Instagram post from Stanfield in December 2017 with this curious caption: “Don’t call it Season 2. Tis Robbin’ Season.”
…production had been delayed so that everyone could get out of harms way of actual gunfire overheard nearby.
Robbery is the central theme of the first three episodes, and permeates the city of Atlanta as customarily as heat in the summer. From early on in the new season, characters have to watch who they rob, or else risk being shot by an machine gun-toting fast-food worker. While working on the the new season, Glover revealed in a recent interview that production had been delayed so that everyone could get out of harms way of actual gunfire overheard nearby. It seems Atlanta could reframe itself as a documentary series and not miss a beat.
In the show’s typical subversive manner, season 2 begins by addressing the collective desperation of a community having to resort to stealing, while still leaving you gasping for air from laughing at the pervasive and customary nature of robbery in this world. The waiter bringing drinks, the movie theater attendant, even an old lady on a bus — they all steal. One of the funniest scenes of the first three episodes involves one of the most cordial robberies you’ll ever see.
During a Television Critics Association panel discussion with cast members from Atlanta earlier this year, Stephen Glover, Donald’s brother and a writer on the show, explained how Robbin’ Season is more than just the title of the show’s second act.
“You might get your package stolen off your front porch,” he explained. “While we were there, my neighbor got her car stolen from her driveway. It’s a very tense and desperate time. Our characters are in a desperate transition from their old lives to where they’re headed now. And ‘robbin’ season’ is a metaphor to where we are now.”
The Road Ahead
As cliché as this may sound, you should expect the unexpected from the new season of Atlanta.
Darius’ eccentric mind, which theorized the effectiveness of rats being used as phones in season 1, is on full display in the new season, and if the first three episodes are any indication, certain relationships in the show will be tested. The new season may also take the characters into some truly dark places, with the death of a pivotal character not out of the question, judging by the tone of those early episodes.
We’ll update this preview once we’ve gotten our hands on the entire series, so stay tuned.
Season 2 of Atlanta premieres March 1 on FX.
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