Shaun and Michael H. are back with your weekly look at Atlanta, which airs on Tuesdays at 10pm ET on FX. The title of this week’s episode is “The Streisand Effect.”
“Everything’s made up…stay woke.” – Darius
Paper’s Got Haters
Shaun: The fourth episode of Atlanta was one of those television episodes that did not exactly move the plot forward, per se, but it certainly was entertaining nonetheless. While last week’s installment highlighted Paper and Darius making a pick up for their “other” business (hint: drugs), and Michael and I highlighted how it was the first episode that did not feature Paper’s quick-rising fame, this week made up for it by seemingly skipping over some continued career progression in between episodes.
Each episode of Atlanta, as a matter of fact, has seemed to skip some time in the plot line between episodes, as opposed to picking right up where the last week left off, and it helps move the plot along, despite the half-hour time slot of the show taking its sweet time with attention to detail and slow, deliberate scenes.
So with that in mind, last night jumped right in on Paper’s rap career again, where he is now at the point that he has Internet bullies! This sounds like such a minute indicator of success, but in the 21st-century, the fact that the Internet buzz has picked up actually does make a statement about his career arc.
We are introduced to Zan, the Asian/Dominican/half-Black (no one knows his ethnicity) photographer and t-shirt salesman who treats Paper like a long-lost best friend when they meet outside a recording studio. After Zan gets a picture with the local rapper, Paper thinks he has found a new, albeit weird, fan. But what he gets instead is an Internet nightmare that would embarrass the hell out of 16-year old me.
Zan starts roasting him online! YouTube reviews of Paper’s mixtapes (with an awfully transparent homage to Anthony Fantano – the squid that actually reviews hip hop albums on YouTube in real life), Instagram posts, and tweets alike are all aimed at taking down Paper and treating him like a corny-ass rapper. Paper can’t have that – so he goes into action and finds Zan working at a pizza delivery shop.
The ensuing scene with Zan and Paper takes an interesting turn, as the two dive into a weird (and kind of inaccurate) conversation about the exploitation of hip hop and who truly is taking advantage of the hip hop culture – is it the rapper that wants out of the streets, while talking about that life in his songs, or is it the Asian (I think?) culture vulture that stalks rappers and mocks them online in order to sell merchandise?
There might be valid points on either side. I don’t know.
Either way, Paper experiences a weird afternoon with a pizza delivery man and his 8-year old “business partner” that makes viral Vine videos. And who knows if it will truly stop Zan from roasting him on Twitter. Paper has critics online, now, so at least he has that going for him. The career continues to ascend.
The Art of the Deal
Michael H: Earn needs money because Earn is broke and, apparently, is no longer trying sign people up for credit cards at the airport. The semi-philosophical and for sure low-key brilliant Darius takes Earn on a money-making journey, trading up on various items as they go.
What starts out as just a simple pawn store visit, with the stated objective of Earn swapping his phone for money, turns into a multi-stop lesson on inner-city bartering. The two swap the phone for a samurai sword at the pawn shop, then swap the sword for a dog at an underground hipster flea market warehouse, and, finally, they swap the dog for the future windfall to be generated from selling the puppies said dog will produce.
Along the way Darius, as we have come to expect, drops some absolute gems (like I dropped out of PE), which Earn reacts to in various levels of disbelief. Darius initially claims that AIDS was invented to stop Wilt Chamberlain from breaking Steve McQueen’s record of most women slept with. Then, referencing Van’s background, Darius claims that all Chinese people are short (D: “look it up in a book.” E: “the racism book?”) because they were conquered by Genghis Khan, who did not like tall people. “You don’t think that had an effect genetically?” asks Darius in reaction to Earn’s skepticism. Darius is the best character on TV by a pretty wide margin (at least until Jack Bauer’s new show starts, JK).
Money problems are about as universal as relationship problems; Atlanta, and creator and writer Donald Glover, have approached these commonalities not necessarily in completely different ways than we have seen before, but in ways that feel earned and hyper-relatable.
When the dread and anxiety takes hold of Earn’s face after the realization that he wouldn’t be seeing any of the dog money until September, it scores a direct hit with viewers – at least it did with me. You could almost see the flip-flopping of his stomach as his mind raced to concoct some sort of explanation for Van and his daughter as to why there would be no money for food.
Darius saves the day, offering Earn his phone to pawn for a few hundred bucks (“Don’t worry, I get a new one every month, make sure they ain’t tracking me”). Earn is visibly relieved and maybe starts to see his acquaintance in a different light. As if sensing this shift, Darius pauses before getting into the car and says, “We’re friends now.” Earn could certainly use more of those.
BONUS: Best surreal moment from “The Streisand Effect”: the random Asian dude sitting on the ground crying-yelling in a foreign language into his phone while just on the other side of a fence goats are grazing.
See you next week.FOLLOW THE OPEN FIELD