Atlanta Recap: No Love To Be Had In The Club

***While not a conventional recap for BNP as we discuss the impact of each episode, please note there are full spoilers for episode eight, “The Club” ***

Nicole: So first, I hate the club. For real, too many people; always feels like I’m a minute away from being trampled to death; somebody stay needing deodorant, so I was feeling Earn hard for at least part of this episode.

William: I mean, I hate the club, NOW. I’ll spare you the details of a young William who would walk into the club with a hair brush in one back pocket and a hand towel in the other because someone’s going to do their modified version of the Detroit Hustle and I needed to be prepared. But yes, without an overt objective, the club is a terrible social experiment, mostly because about 20% of the people there actually want to be there and the other 80% got dragged there by their 20% friend, were bored, completely caught up on Law and Order reruns or are on the clock. So, I feel Earn, but Earn also becomes insufferable this episode too. He’s frustrated about chasing Chris all over creation and I get that, but his loathing and disdain for everything around him just makes it worse for him. Which is true to character and works well, but I did hit a point (specifically at the bar with the all-knowing sista tending bar) where I was like, aiight man, time to stop feeling sorry for yourself and get this money.

Nicole: The part where I stopped feeling Earn was when he decided to drink while he was at work. I don’t care if you workin’ at a club, you still workin’. Why are you drinking? Why are you accepting drinks from the employee of the dude you chasin for money? I mean, I’m not blind, I know why, but that just makes it a bad choice with a good view. And before we get into how Earn was never (nevah evah) gonna get that money, can we circle around Oracle the bartender for a second? She’s one of those characters that perplexes me. She had enough lines to be somewhat interesting, but was essentially a bottle of liquor with a note that said “Fire Alarm” on it. The heavy handed exposition of it took me out of the show and I’m not sure that’s happened before (for me). Like, not even your number on the fake bar tab? Or were you needed back on Ten Forward in your true Guinan form?

William: Yeah, I think it’s established that we both love this show, right, but even the Mona Lisa can get some critique. In the journey that Atlanta pursues to critique culture and media, specifically Black culture and media, we do get a fair amount of prophesying. Oracle basically knew the meaning of life but is still restricted to man-made restraints like working behind a bar at a dead club and using archaic writing instruments to tip off Earn.

So I know we’re going to talk about Chris and Paper Boi a lot, but before we do that, let us please carve out some praise for the man, the myth, da gawd Darius. He was perfect in just about every scene. I had been asking for his next “Can I measure your tree?” moment and I about collapsed when he had that good build with the bouncer (about throwing out other bouncers “it was tough, he knew all the moves”) just to walk off with “I’m going to go watch people smoke.” And I don’t know what everyone’s gaming knowledge is, but him playing Zoo Tycoon at home as opposed to GTA or something violent just cracked me up because it was perfect.

Zoo Tycoon or how Darius unwinds after the club.

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Nicole: I’m not a gamer so I’ll take your word on it, BUT I am an antisocial misanthrope so when Paper Boi called Darius like “Let’s get up out of here” and he answered “I’m already at the crib” I couldn’t have been happier. In part, because that was what Oracle told Earn: “You don’t want to be here? Leave.” Darius left with nary a fuck to spare and, because of that, had the best night out of them all.

But we can’t forget the creepy ass look he was giving the self-proclaimed cute girl that ended up talking to Paper Boi all night? What was that? Why was that?

William: It was calculated and effective Nicole, as much as I hate to say it, haha. Darius was super aware of the look he was giving her and in Darius logic, that was the best way to build intrigue with her. Darius does things us simple mortals just don’t always understand homie, that’s all I can say.

So the “own your terrible and run with it” award for the week goes to Chris, who was the hyperbolic version of every slimy club promoter you’ve ever seen. I loved the creativity of his eluding Earn. Knowing when the lights would dim to give him the slip. Then the “shots” and the women, which was especially great because of the very quick but very real commentary that the women were not going to take drinks from a stranger. Followed up by Earn’s awareness of what their concern was and trying to make himself familiar, just to learn that his proxy was a stranger too. And of course, the revolving door, which legitimately made me yelp when I watched it live. Like, this can’t be life. Well, unless it’s Earn’s life. Then it’s about the only reality he knows.

Nicole: Maaaaan, Darius’ looks is one very real reason women don’t take drinks from strangers.

But, Chris, I loved his character because it gave me a place to focus my loathing. Because if not, it was going to land squarely on Earn. Now, I love the Earn character because this is his reality – he is hapless and trying and determined but ultimately ill-equipped for the job of manager at this point. What did he do in this episode other than vomit on Chris’s floor and set his cousin up for more unwanted interaction with the police? The thing is that he knows this about himself. In the pilot, he tells Paper Boi that he needs a Martin (to temper his Malcolm), but so far that hasn’t happened. Earn has never asserted himself, even during his “successes.” He stumbles into the press room at the Beiber basketball game. And this leaves Alfred to step up when things need a forceful hand. This difference is frustrating but rewarding. When Chris says, immediately after meeting those hands, “That boy is gonna be a star” all I could think is “he’s right.”

Followed immediately by, “Why are they recording this?”

William: Remember when I was like, “Paper Boi showed the whole range of emotions” when we recapped the B.A.N. episode? Apparently, I don’t know shit because this was the actual gamut. We saw him frustrated, depressed, angry, jealous, generous, blissful, carefree, happy, defeated, deflated, frustrated, angry and then full on rage. And then back down again. Paper Boi is shaping up to be one of the most complex characters on TV and I’m just delighted when the camera focuses on him now.

Speaking of which, I have a theory or an observation. It surprised me when he smacked Chris. And then again. Now granted, he had reached his boiling point with all the shit that went down previously in the club but somehow, despite all the examples, it catches me off guard when Alfred is that aggressive. But if memory serves me, he only goes this far when there’s an audience involved. The possible shooting, tackling Biebs during the game and now putting the paws on Chris with the entourage in tow. But then you have Zan, who straight up disrespected him on the interwebs and he was unnerved pretty easily when he met him. I don’t think he is artificially putting on a show, but I think the agro of the moment and the added tension (typically testosterone) make him tap into the persona that everyone knows him as. And yes, the line “That boy is gonna be a star” was surprising and yet completely logical. Perfectly delivered.

So…we gonna talk about this invisible car? Are we gonna talk about how Atlanta is the Black and stripped down version of Narnia where there’s always some magic in the world?

Nicole: Yes! Both! I love this magical Oracle-infested, Ahmed-sandwich eating, invisible car driving world. This is the Black magical realism that I didn’t know I needed but I really, really needed.

I like sci-fi and fantasy because of how blatantly unreal they are; you don’t love Star Trek as much as I do without having to acknowledge that it is a wish for a better world, a more-peaceful and idyllic world. But it’s lightyears away from my world; there’s transporters and holodecks and Risa.

The magic in Atlanta is smaller, more finite, and therefore reasonable. Maybe this is my escapism rearing its head more than usual. But this, the elements of Atlanta that are magic and magical feel hopeful in a different way. I want to believe that the same world I live in – where clubs are wack and police are dangerous and Earn is broke – can be magical, too. 2016 has ben a dumpster fire in so many ways and so consistently that I’m exhausted from it as are most of the PoCs I know. Atlanta, besides offering good writing and nuanced characters, has given me the smallest bit of magic and I needed it.

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