The finale of Atlanta aired this week. I have written two blog posts on the series already, so I felt like I should tie it up with a look at the finale after posting about the pilot and a middle episode. This may be less insightful, but with a show as good as Atlanta, there’s always something to talk about.
(Spoilers for the finale, though this isn’t too much of a spoilery series.)
After watching the finale, I turned to Alan Sepinwall’s review to help sort out my thoughts. I loved the episode, but so much happened even though the plot seemed so minor. (Side note: Kevin Pabst doesn’t believe I can form opinions unless they are validated by Sepinwall.) Sepinwall agreed it was a great episode and put into words some things I was thinking. Atlanta has almost always been an understated series, with a few exceptions, and the humor would usually sneak up on you. He pointed out that rather than the finale going big, it went small, which fit with what the series was. That said, the episode itself shouldn’t have worked. It should have been disjointed, but it wasn’t. Ten episodes in Atlanta has earned to have exaggerated gunfire sandwiched between bored weirdness and make it work seamlessly.
The episode focused on Earn (Donald Glover) trying to find his jacket. He doesn’t explain why, but the night before he, Paper Boii, and Darius got drunk. When he woke up, there was no jacket. He retraces his steps and finds the uber driver from the night before has his jacket. The three friends sit in a car waiting for an uber driver, discussing nothingness. While also casually advancing the plot of the series when Earn gets a call about Paper Boii going on tour (more on this later). Then the police come, the uber driver (wearing Earn’s jacket) tries to run out of house, and he is immediately gunned down. Earn then walks over to the cops near the dead body and asks if they’ll check the pockets of the jacket. He doesn’t say what is in the pockets, but we now know it’s about more than the jacket.
Just that leads you down a variety of different paths. What is in the pocket? Is it a ring for his girlfriend Van? Is it money? And why does that get more focus than the point of the show: Him managing Paper Boii? The answer is that it’s a key to a storage locker. And that gets more focus than the tour because the series isn’t about a guy managing his cousin’s rap career, it’s about this world and how Earn grows. Earn goes to Van’s house and has dinner with her and their child, then leaves when she tells him he can stay. Not before he gives her all the money he’s made (minus $200) from managing Paper Boii. Then he goes and sleeps in the storage locker alone.
While it may seem strange to say that a grown man leaving a warm bed and his family to sleep in a storage locker is growth, it is. At the beginning of the series, Earn was desperate. For meaning, for money, for Van’s love, for everything. By the end of the first season, he realizes he and Van are in a weird place and him staying over would complicate things. He realizes that while he’s making money, he would blow it on strip clubs (like he did the night before), and it would be better if he gave it to the mother of his child. Earn’s arc throughout the first season is magnificent, as we slowly see him mature while the series makes us think it is about something else. The show will be gone for a while, but I highly recommend you catch up on it if you haven’t seen it. The emotions, like the humor, sneak up on you, but when they hit you, you’ll be happy you’ve taken the journey with these characters.