The first two episodes of Season 4 of Atlanta will premiere September 15 on FX and premiere the following day on Hulu.
When we return to Atlanta for its fourth and final season, we start by catching up with Earn (Donald Glover), Al (Brian Tyree Henry), Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) and Van (Zazie Beetz), who are back in their starting lineup. hometown, putting their lives back on track after last season’s crazy European tour. And as expected, Season 4 of FX’s unprecedented comedy-drama kicks off with a bang! Or should I say smash and grab?
The first three episodes of this season, like those before it, use absurdist humor as a vehicle to examine the harsh realities of the current socio-political climate. Deep Southern idiosyncrasies provide a whimsical backdrop for themes of family, mental health, and a sarcastic critique of the music industry. Because these topics are tempered by the creative team’s masterful use of allusion, the writing comes across as a high and low brow simultaneously, without hitting you over the head with its message. Viewers from different backgrounds will take away varied interpretations, and frankly, that’s the point — similar to the marriage of slapstick and satire on The Simpsons for decades, there are levels of humor here. If you don’t want to read into it, you can enjoy the show for its irreverence and easy laughs (why are the walls carpeted…and wet?!), and if you’re completely immersed in the air of the troubling times today (God help us all), there are. a lot. at. unpack.
From a Karen wheelchair as an example of do-gooding zealots hungry for violence, to a fancy treasure hunt funeral, a mall stuck in time, an elaborate charade orchestrated to avenge a racist incident, and what we’ll call the D’Angelo experience, Atlanta finds its strength in seamlessly weaving incongruous timelines, while simultaneously creating an underlying sense of unease. Often we as viewers – and sometimes the characters themselves – are unable to tell the difference between wild inventions of the imagination and ridiculous references to the very real world we live in. We’re perplexed, but somehow made more aware than ever before, by a show that speaks a totally different language than any other TV series. Fortunately, the showrunners are spelling out the dictionary for us along the way.
Cinematic comparisons this season range from the fantasy of Charlie Kaufman to the meta-reality of The Truman Showthe dark realism of black mirrorand the weird tension of the 2014 horror film It follows. With such a diverse toolkit, the showrunners ensure that we never get too comfortable on a single timeline. Each metaphor unveils multiple layers of intrigue – there’s the instant gratification of recognizing an obscure reference to social media or the staple of black culture that is Jet magazine, but if you’re willing to look a little deeper away, dive a little deeper, there’s so much to download from just panning the camera to a pregnant teenager sipping a Capri Sun in a music studio. The story is told.
Moments like this are underrated – if you know you know — and the writers continue to rely on the contrasts of subtle and overt messages as they dissect phenomena within the music industry. In the wake of the death of several rappers at least partly due to inadvertent location sharing on social media, including Pop Smoke, Young Dolph and, most recently, PnB Rock, Al’s fear for his life is not outright declared – but nonetheless palpable – as a young fan broadcasts live while the rapper is stuck in traffic. The showrunners also take the time to mourn the passing of a fictional portrayal of social media stardom as a grim reflection on the reality of young entertainers who rise to fame and then succumb to addiction.
The smallest details down to the way a text is written, or the discomfort of bumping into an ex, builds a world so real that it’s absurd, or so absurd that it’s hard to accept how he is real. Every minute detail tells a story without needing verbal acknowledgment to advance a plot – marks on the wall, a bloodstain on the floor, the sound of mechanized wheels rolling behind someone – and completely silent characters. leave so much of an impact without having to say a word.
The acting continues to be exceptional, as demonstrated by the show’s numerous Emmy nominations (and one win) over the years. Darius’ silent contemplation is played perfectly by Lakeith Stanfield, and we get to see a deeply emotional side to Earn for the first time, as the secrets of his past are finally revealed. The fantastic musical choices continue to serve as valuable devices that extend the message after captivating moments. However, the devil is in the details – and sometimes that’s where Season 4 loses its marbles. While the art direction of each script is meticulously executed, the writing sometimes loses sight of the finish line due to its meandering course. A multi-day search for D’Angelo is fruitless in many ways – not only is there no reward, but the whole situation leaves us scratching our heads wondering what was the point? Arguably, in times like this, sometimes it’s okay to give your audience what they want. Too many loose threads can unravel an intricate tapestry.
Plus, with surprise cameos from huge stars such as Liam Neeson and Alexander Skarsgard providing such delight in Season 3, it’s hard not to be hungry for a glimpse of the next big star metaphorically stripped down before our eyes. but so far the season has not delivered. But overall, they’re small complaints, and each episode left me smiling and shaking my head wondering, “How do they think of this shit?Sadly, as Earn so devastatingly states in Born 2 Die, “It’s not about what feels good, it’s about what survives,” and it’s time for us to prepare our farewell. It’s impossible to predict what the rest of the season has in store for us, but we have 10 total episodes to look forward to, and all we know is expect the unexpected. Needless to say, we’ll be watching with open eyes.