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Review: Atlanta Episode Ten, "The Jacket"

Photo from YouTube trailer. 

While it is not rare for a season finale to come full circle with its various narrative arcs, Atlanta is able to ostensibly take an episode about a bomber jacket and almost fully encapsulate the life of Earn Marks (Donald Glover) in just 26 minutes. From the all-too-relatable banter in the beginning of the episode about being cool with someone, but not actually being cool with someone, to the melancholy ending, Tuesday night's episode of Atlanta laid its final, powerful claim to the dramedy genre for the next 10 months. 

The show never lost its sense of self, even when it deviated into different epsiode formats. From the mass of people dressing up as cows to get free Chick-fil-A to the Outkast song at the end, this show is a true reflection of life for some in Atlanta. At an even more micro level, the episode nails what it’s like to be a social media detective trying to retrace your steps from a night of partying, or even watching someone get shot in front of you. 

Earn’s return to the couch where he first met his cousin, Alfred “Paper Boi”(Brian Tyree Henry), during the first episode put the season’s narrative arc into perspective. Truthfully, none of the characters have really gone anywhere. Paper Boi hasn’t made it big yet and Earn is still struggling to pay rent and largely self centered. After watching the man who found his prized jacket get gunned down by the police, his reaction is to see if what he left in his coat pocket is still there. The character isn’t some larger than life guy who says bold and memorable lines about moral quandaries -- he is just a reflection of a particular subset of middle-class Black America whose voice has been hijacked by market testing and culture vultures. 

While it may be cliche, the simple fact that it took Earn essentially 10 episodes to make a little bit of money is an important one. If you are not a college graduate or a drug dealer and you are trying to provide for yourself and others, it’s not easy. This whole season people have gotten in the way and messed up his best plans to get money, but finally Earn’s casual dedication to his cousin’s success has paid off. He doesn’t feel obligated to stay in the house with Van (Zazie Beetz) and his daughter. The simple fact that he was able to make them happy was enough for him.

Perhaps what is most remarkable about Atlanta has been the range of topics, big and small, that it has dealt with in ways that feel incredibly authentic and genuine. Be it Paper Boi reminding Earn not to look at the photos when he’s making a call or swallowing drugs before the cops find them, no show to date in the genre has nailed as many moments as Atlanta. Almost all of the scenes in the show would seem ordinary if the viewer was not at least partially engaged in or aware of the world that these characters exist in.

Atlanta’s brutally honest, unapologetic and nuanced take on a certain demographic is as close to reality as TV can get. You would be hard pressed to find actors that play characters that they understand as much as the actors on the show. You would struggle to find dialogue as rich, relatable and witty as Atlanta. As all good shows do, the characters have a rapport that feels as real as the friend group you have, or maybe wish you had. The show took its sweet time arriving at the changes, or lack thereof, in the characters and story we see in the finale, which sets up possible future storylines about going on tour and trying to reconnect with family, but television is in a better place for it.

Grade: A

Atlanta is on FX and available to stream at FXNOW.

growell@theeagleonline.com


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