Previously on Atlanta, “The Jacket”
Last we saw Earn, he appeared as determined as he’d ever been to get his cousin’s rap career off the ground and prove to all who doubted his potential as a manager, father and son can and will be made manifest. From what is gathered in the premiere at least a third of Marks’ goals were accomplished as viewers learn during the premiere Paper Boi is a name out on the streets. While Earn made good on Al, the demands of the job clearly robbed him of any personal development. Still living in a storage unit, still supposedly on the outs with Van and the very real possibility of jail time looming over his head, his window for success is closing fast. Whereas Atlanta’s inaugural season featured a wayward Marks that treated his life like a game of checkers, this volume will require him to be methodical and deliberate in his actions like a damn Grandmaster.
“…everybody gotta eat.”
“Or be eaten.”
No one can be caught slipping this season, as the opening moments of “Alligator Man” prove. Robbin’ season is here and no one is safe: a pair of opportunists heard a fast food joint was selling “gas” from the drive-thru and decided to gank the place and didn’t put any mind in an exit plan. What follows was a ridiculous firefight that resulted in an innocent woman tossed out of the car and left alone on a corner, bloodied and hysterical after being shot at with automatic fire.
Obviously things won’t be the same this season and stakes will be raised to Earnest, Al, and Darius now that Paper Boi is making a real name for himself. The streets are hot and desperation abounds. As Darius remarks to Earn about the advent of Robbin’ Season from the roof of his car, Marks asked his amigo for another lift to see the eponymous Alligator Man, who is none other than his surly Uncle Willy, played by Katt Williams.
Originally there at the behest of Alfred (who remains under house arrest), Earn unwittingly stumbles into a spat between Willy and his girl over 50 dollars. Naturally, that devolves into a shitstorm that involves a pair of sheriffs, a full-grown cayman and towering amount of ego. His appearance may have been brief yet Williams provided a sublime performance that caters to Atlanta’s unique brand of humor and drama so perfectly. Willy and Earnest are essentially two sides of the same coin, albeit one is more tarnished than the other. Now a bit more aware of his limitations, Earn sees a possible future through his uncle, a savvy but ultimately conceited individual.
Willy might have conceded that he made plenty of mistakes in Earn’s youth and in the treatment of his mother, but at the end of the day Willy left Earnest holding a piece and hauled all kinds of ass (Katt be faaast) to evade the po-po. Indeed, robbin’ season is in full swing. Though Marks should be concerned about getting bodied for the few things he has in his backpack, he should be smarter about what he receives from others so he isn’t robbed of his future.
“Just make sure you tell ‘em to watch out for Florida Man…”
Although there was so much to take in during “Alligator Man”, arguably its most lasting moment occurred when Darius cautioned Earn about the unstable dumpster fire of a human being known simply as Florida Man. Unsurprisingly, Marks knew nothing about this White menace that carried out random yet typically vicious crimes – all in the hopes to prevent Blackfolk from moving to and registering to vote in Florida, according to Darius.
While Darius educated Earn on Florida Man’s exploits, we’re struck with dramatizations of his crimes, beginning with the outright killing of a Black teen in his car. What follows are a series bizarre crimes like the assault of a man while his girlfriend is in labor, and a flamingo beaten to death. It concludes with a reenactment of the unforgettable news from 2012 about a man high on bath salts eating someone’s face.
After that segment, no one should be able to dispute Glover’s genius in flipping a meme born from generally ridiculous though occasionally despicable headlines into a fearsome legend with its own Reddit page. In keeping with Atlanta’s particular balance of humor and commentary, the introduction of the legend of Florida Man plays into the show’s wheelhouse. The sequence in full goes heavy on the surreal but kicks you in the gut first by showing an all too likely crime of a racially motivated murder. Like the opening and many offbeat scenes in its first season, Atlanta thrives by quashing tropes and subverting topics and instances in the Black community.
It’s possible much of what Darius said to Earn about Florida Man wasn’t true, but who’s to say Darius’ wild theories and suppositions haven’t any merit? It’s obvious from its fauna alone that the Sunshine State is deadass lethal.
In the fifteen months (!!!) that has passed since the season one finale, “Alligator Man” proved Glover and company hadn’t lost a beat and are eager to shape a deeper nuance in their esteemed series. If the premiere is a strong indicator of this season’s narrative, Earn may finally accept the internal strife within himself and endure a few growing pains in the process. Unless the three ever have to go to Florida. Then they’re shit out of luck.
Atlanta S2E1 Review Score
Atlanta – S2E1 – Alligator Man | Donald Glover, Brian Tyree Henry, LaKeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz | Writer: Donald Glover | Director: Hiro Murai