Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Review: Atlanta Episode Nine, "Juneteenth"

Photo from YouTube trailer. 

Donald Glover is the boldest voice in comedy today.

As much attention as comedian Eric Andre gets for his off-the-wall late-night show parody on Adult Swim, Glover’s Atlanta is in a league of its own. This week's episode of Atlanta, “Juneteenth” is as close to an episode of Louie as television can be while maintaining it’s own totally unique stories and vision. Centering around the predominantly southern holiday that celebrates the ending of slavery, the episode brings together witty ideas about race and social status as well as providing added layers to the characters of Earn (Donald Glover) and Van (Zazie Beetz).

The show’s selection of music is as strong as shows like Breaking Bad, where the music not only conveys mood, but it speaks volumes in the moments where there is no dialogue. Having jazz giant Kamasi Washington’s song “Changing of the Guard” be the opener speaks volumes about what the show is attempting in Hollywood. By taking a typical sitcom situation like not fitting in at a fancy party, and padding it with cultural insights into white guilt and marrying for the wrong reasons, Glover aims to make viewers think as much as they laugh.

Van’s attempts to impress potential employers at the Juneteenth mansion party is ultimately thwarted by the subtle and not-so subtle ideas of modern ideas of slavery. Everyone at the party except Earn and Van are so obsessed with money and status that it is almost like they are back in chains, a theme that is reiterated throughout the episode. Earn’s eventual outburst leads to Van’s realization that making your own way through life and not losing sight of what is important to you is what makes it worth living. 

Talking about cultural appropriation is best left to the culture who is being appropriated. With near laser accuracy and semi-absurdity, the show illustrates just how far unchecked white people will go to show that they are “woke” or “with it.” The entire episode could have been focused on the character of Craig (Rick Holmes), a wealthy caucasian socialite married to an African American woman, and the episode would have still been dynamite. From showing Earn that he has been to Africa to “ask for forgiveness” (for slavery) to painting interpretations of Malcolm X quotes and doing slam poetry, Craig is one of the most specific and funny ideas of the season.

Atlanta has become a true rite of passage for all those wishing to understand the future of the dramedy genre. Each week the show pushes the creative envelope and delivers stellar performances from all first-rate members. Either by going outside the box, like they did in the Van-centric episode or the public access parody, or working within the paradigms of the genre, the show has proved that it deserves to be the topic of conversation every week.

Grade: A

Atlanta is on Tuesdays this Fall at 10pm (ET) on FX and available to stream at FXNOW. 

growell@theeagleonline.com


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