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Donald Glover takes over “Atlanta”

Courtesy of Wikimedia

“I hate this f—ing place,” says small-time rapper Alfred shortly into “Atlanta’s” second episode. Based on all that he went through to get to that point, who could blame him? It isn’t the bustling city in Georgia that people like to think the area resembles,
but the side that everyone likes to forget. The side where gang violence is rampant, and the large majority of its inhabitants are poverty stricken. Welcome to Donald Glover’s “Atlanta.”
Whether you recognize him as Troy Barnes from NBC’s cult hit “Community,” or as rapper Childish Gambino, Donald Glover has pretty much established himself in the entertainment industry, even though he certainly isn’t completely mainstream yet. However, with critics already raving about “Atlanta,” his new television show that recently premiered on FX, he finally might be giving everyone else a reason for him to show them what he can really do.
“Atlanta” takes place in, you guessed it, Atlanta, Georgia, following down-on-his-luck, Princeton dropout Earnest “Earn” Marks (Glover). The show journeys through Marks’ experience with the city’s crime ridden backstreets.
Referring to himself as “technically homeless,” Earn finds himself barely able to make ends meet by pitching airline rewards cards to rude customers, while couch surfing available residences. His parents kicked him out and don’t understand him, and even his closest friend — who also happens to be the mother of his child — seems frustrated with the way that he is living his life.
However, despite bemoaning that he can never catch a break, Earn is remarkably smart and determined. So when his cousin, Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles, gets grassroots fame as a rapper after a successful mixtape, Earn immediately jumps at the opportunity to become his manager. While initially suspicious of his cousin’s sudden reappearance, Alfred is quickly won over by Earn’s promise of fame and fortune, but both of them quickly find out after a violent incident at a gas station that things might be a little bumpier than either of them planned.
Stating that one of the reasons why he left “Community” was to focus on “Atlanta,” it’s pretty clear that Donald Glover genuinely has a lot invested in the show, and you can tell.
Despite the show’s odd episode structure and offbeat humor, “Atlanta” wears its heart on its sleeve, evoking other hits like “Louie” and “Master of None” in the fact that it’s just so damn loveable. While it does tend to focus more on the dramatic side of things, Glover absolutely doesn’t forget his roots in comedy, bringing in more than enough witty retorts and oddball humor, especially from Alfred’s pothead sidekick Darius, who might be the best comedy relief character in quite some time.
Glover himself also does a great job portraying Earn. Largely becoming the straight man this time around, he gets across his immense determination to become something bigger and better than he is now, displaying such sincerity in his dialogue that you can’t help but root for him.
While this might be Glover’s show, Alfred, played by Brian Tyree Henry, comes close to stealing it. In just a few episodes, Henry is already showing the most potential in the long run with his character. Alfred is just a pothead that drops a mixtape every now and again for the fun of it and to make a few extra bucks, but when he gets caught in a violent altercation that ends with someone shot, he suddenly becomes a sexy, hard gangsta icon in Atlanta, and he couldn’t be any less thrilled. A particular scene in the second episode has him tragically — although somewhat humorously as well — attempt to show some kids reenacting the shooting that it isn’t something to idolize is an absolute standout.
Glover himself was born and raised in Atlanta, so it only makes sense that he would return to it at some point, and thank God it was for “Atlanta.” Already becoming a standout for the best television show this year, “Atlanta,” is deserving of all praise for bringing such a brilliant piece of art to television. With an oddball sense of humor, reliance on smaller moments, and tackling of issues like the use of the n-word and police brutality, it certainly won’t be a show for everyone, but give it a shot as soon as you can. “Atlanta” might not portray the nicest or happiest view of the city, but it doesn’t sugar coat how life is for those who live there and for that reason alone, it’s hands down one of the most unique and honest experiences on television right now.

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