Atlanta (Season 2), 2018
Signed up the 28/03/2017
After getting in a good dose of Atlanta's season 2, I immediately ran to my Twitter timeline to ask the very obvious question of whether this season was a horror anthology granted its moody? menacing themes. A very good friend of mine (who happens to be a film buff whose opinion I take quite seriously), went on to include that it very well is, though it is surrealist with elements of horror more than anything. And I have to agree, the surrealism is undeniable from the first episode. Here is where Glover wastes no time in introducing us to what type of experience this is going to be; sinister and enigmatic and, honestly, whatever the hell Glover needs it to be.
Glover, taken by the unexpected success of the first season, took it upon himself to take 10 leaps forward instead of still trying to figure himself out as a writer. The young (now) heavily-sought after superstar writer and actor took this as a chance to flex his creative muscles since almost everyone's watching now. Though his bravery comes with a sacrificing a uniform story that we occasionally miss when Glover's imagination travels wayward.
Season 2 feels like an audition to every and any movie Hollywood has plans for in the near future; whether it be horror, period piece, a thriller, a coming-of-age, etc., Glover insists that he's the man for the job as he shows capable in each of his 11 episodes.
I've been trying to make a conclusion on whether formatting almost every episode as a stand-alone was a smart or uncalculating move, and I've decided on it being a little too ambitious. The season survives on intrigue* rather than genuine* enjoyment. He's mastered a way to get people to be at the edge of their seats, and sometimes the climaxes fall short and you realise just at the end that you wasted your precious time holding your breath for an allegory of an interpersonal struggle* of sorts.
Season 2 shows off Glover's range, yes, but it fails to be engaging as a show that tackles real-time issues between a few friends trying to assume their position in the world. We instead get to witness how obsessed he has been with Jordan Peele's Get Out, and how he craves to be on the big screen more than anything. Sure, Atlanta is known for its free-form writing coupled with limitless creative freedom, but he's forgotten that there are people out there who've attached themselves to these characters and relate them back to their real lives. What I personally didn't enjoy sitting through was these suddenly being shoved into a performance piece of sorts and being hand-puppets for whatever is convenient Glover's treatment as a Hollywood golden-boy writer/director.
Also, shedding light on and tackling social issues such as racism, masculinity, drug abuse, colourism, mental illness and suicide, seem more like a sport to him; displaying these storylines more as props rather tools to drive conversation. The way he writes these issues doesn't seem of genuine concerned but rather an obligation because social justice and issues are what's popping on online social spaces right now.
Where the show excels is in its character development. The characters were introduced to us and crafted so well that we care about everything they do or say and don't want to miss a thing, no matter how mundane the plot. Even guest-stars such as Katt Williams come through and shine while making us really give a damn about who they are and what happens to them.
Hiro Murai and Glover alternate between directing the episodes throughout the season, but it's so seamless that you can't tell who directed which episode. Trust me I played the game of "guess who directed this episode" and I'm glad I was playing it against myself with no stakes at hand because I would've lost my entire livelihood.
Under the hood, Atlanta is ever so smart, so mellow and ever so charming a watch that you can't help but need more. Not many people can turn a show following a group of young hood friends who smoke pot day-in-day-out, while chasing the dream, a watercooler. On that alone Glover deserves as much props as he can collect.
Everything else such as music, cinematography, locations, colour-use, and less technical aspects such as dialogue and character interaction/chemistry works super, super well. It can only get better from here, to be honest. Donald Glover has a beautiful piece of abstract storytelling on his hands, he can choose to take it anywhere from here on and we'll all be right there rocking with it.
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