Review: Atlanta Episode Seven, "B.A.N."
Donald Glover is either genius or crazy. Or both. Probably both.
Episode seven of the FX hit Atlanta does the complete opposite of what anyone expected. After one of the most serious episodes of the season last week, which saw Van (Zazie Beetz) lose her job, Donald Glover and company decided to do a sketch comedy, Charlie Rose show parody episode. While nearly every bit of the show is laugh out loud funny, I can’t help but question if now was the right time to throw a cog in the wheel. By creating a show that goes against the rules of black-centric television, and then to go against that formula, is something completely gutsy and unprecedented. Sure, comedies will have Christmas themed episodes or episodes that place the characters in some alternate timeline, but I have never seen a show stray as far from their routine as this week.
Centering around Paper Boi’s (Brian Tyree Henry) appearance on a talkshow on the “Black American Network,” the episode goes from witty and thought-provoking conversations about race and gender to parody commercials that focus on popular African American items. A fake commercial about an upscale malt liquor is really funny, but it’s simply not the reason I tune into Atlanta. While the animated cereal commercial featuring a police officer brutalizing a black version of the rabbit from Trix is both sobering and humorous, it doesn’t make me care more about the characters that I love.
The conversation between the two panelists on the parody Charlie Rose show, “Montague,” Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) and fellow guest, the transgender activist Deborah Holt (Mary Kraft) is the most Atlanta that the episode gets. The rapper makes the point that many in the African-American community have made it unfair to criticize their community for not being vocal advocates of LBGTQ rights because in many ways African-Americans face just as much discrimination. While Paper Boi is not against equality, he admits that it makes him feel weird, a sentiment echoed by some in the real world rap community.
In a vacuum, this episode was enjoyable and hilarious. The skit about a black guy transitioning over to being a white guy by saying staples of white male twenty-somethings like “what IPA do you have on tap?” and “did you see Game of Thrones last night?” was incredibly funny, despite not being totally original. The Chappelle’s Show influence is loud and proud on this episode. Glover, who wrote and directed the episode, proves yet again that not only is he totally in touch with black culture, but he is in touch with the genres that he dabbles in. Assuming that this is a one off, Atlanta continues to show its range and almost unrivaled ability to make viewers think and laugh.
Atlanta is on Tuesdays this Fall at 10pm (ET) on FX and available to stream at FXNOW
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