The bottle art episode

The following article contains spoilers for Atlanta.

Hollywood has a penchant for doing more and more of whatever works and it’s this premise that makes from Atlanta third season all the more puzzling. It may be a symptom of the time that has passed since the show first aired in 2016 and this new season is four years apart from the previous one, but if there is a statement to be made from this , is that Donald Glover, Hiro Murai and company certainly don’t care about formulas of any kind.


Sure, from Atlanta The comedy brand has always flirted with surrealism and existentialist themes to portray the black experience in America, however, mere courtship was not enough for the show as it made its way to European shores where it has found new arthouse influences to morph into something truly unlike any other television production today. That it does all of this like incredibly mainstream TV is a massive win for Atlantaespecially since it executes this using a fairly non-standard medium, the bottle episode.

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Black art television

The arthouse cinema of filmmakers like Akira Kurosawa, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman and YouTuber David Lynch is made differently than most Hollywood films – while traditional films seek to entertain, these more artistic counterparts seek to explore deeply intellectual ideas and aesthetic values, often creating patterns or traditions later adopted by modern media as, say Ghost of Tsushima. East Atlanta entirely art and essay? Not even close, as the series willingly responds to its humorous roots and still successfully offers character progression for its main cast.

Nonetheless, it achieves this by means of correlation instead of causation in a season where the main cast is absent for exactly half the episodes and individual character arcs are often relegated to the background of what usually happens, whether it’s Zazie Beetz starring in her own version of Amelie or Al’s trippy encounter with Liam Neeson. Of course, it’s not the best examples of this, it’s more controversial and thoughtful episodes like “The Big Payback” and its take on repairs that are the real playground for these ideas to flourish.

Glover didn’t name any specific influences on what led him to direct. from Atlanta third season this way, but he mentioned that he sees each new part of the series as a concept album. Whether from Atlanta the second season was “Robbin’ Season”, then the last one (officially unnamed) is the Bottle Season or the artistic one.

Simply put, there isn’t another show on TV these days (certainly not quite as popular) that immerses itself in this approach, so few could get away with it from the start. Most likely the last example, although in a radically different direction, was that of Aziz Ansari master of nothing in 2017, when the show deliberately introduced unsuspecting viewers to Italian arthouse cinema before chronicling the suffering of a black lesbian couple.

Black and white

As much to say as to define from Atlanta The third season from the standpoint of its cinematic values ​​goes the extra mile to attempt something that even Stephen and Donald Glover don’t pretend to do. In their own words, season three was about “the curse of whiteness,” seen repeatedly through the scope of white individuals who, criminally or innocently, tried to navigate the waves of fracture and racial disparity.

‘Rich Wigga, Poor Wigga’ lightly touches on school violence from marginalized children, while ‘Cancer Attack’ sees Paper Boi become an ambassador of diversity for a company that couldn’t be less interested in helping the social causes it wants. defend. The Man and the Tree” is perhaps the funniest episode to come out of this Atlanta season, and yet it leaves room to castigate white guilt and privilege, and how these two are seen in black eyes, even someone as handsome as Darius.

from Atlanta The best episodes are incredibly funny, just ask “Teddy Perkins”, but they can also be very disturbing because often they are made to illuminate rather dense subjects. Bottle episodes are perfect for that, hence why it’s suddenly normal to live in a world where any white person could owe a random black family millions of dollars or why Van can mug someone with a stale wand in the same episode where people eat human flesh.

The big ideas Atlanta tries to convey this season are that Europe can be racist in its own way, but certainly less so; that colorism is a thing among black Americans; that in the wake of the police brutality protests, Atlanta never dutifully forgets that there’s no better proof of darkness than getting shot by a cop. More than ever, the series explores new facets of the black experience, not just in the United States, but through predominantly white lenses, which Glover said required doing a lot of homework.

From a narrative point of view, Atlanta transforms its characters, this does not suggest that Earn, Al, Van and Darius will all be very different people in season 4, more explicitly for Van certainly, but less for Earn who ultimately has no money as a life main concern. Atlanta does everything in season 3, and the real magic behind it is how sometimes the show feels like it’s doing nothing, maybe a bit like Seinfeld but pretty and evoking a real sense of emotion, as all art should be and – according to Glover – as television should be.

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Christopher S. Washington