By Justin Rodney
I know he has been waiting for this moment for a long time. I mean who could blame him. Wouldn’t you be extremely happy with a show that you totally and completely have control of?
That person in reference is Donald Glover.
The actor, singer, rapper, screenwriter, no deodorant user ,etc. Its just great to see a person flourish throughout their career without being known as that one thing, one character or whatever it might be. Now, Donald has an empire of his own and some would say that’s royalty; the freedom to express himself in any kind of way through his multiple archways of art whether it be through a screen or headphones. He is a marvel. LITERALLY. He is also Myles Morales in guest episodes of Disney XD’s Ultimate Spiderman.
Three years ago Donald penned a verse in his Yaphet Kotto freestyle revealing that he had something in the works for FX Networks. As time flew, more and more details of the show were revealed. Although in all fairness, Donald doesn’t reveal anything without doing it in secret for however long it may take. The public knew nothing about the show except of the title and that it was a comedy. Not a damn thing was talked about until the series premiere Tuesday, September 6th. For all intensive purposes it was better this way. The marketing scheme was perfect. 30 second trailers and extremely vague interviews.
September 6th hit and all the rumors and talk were laid to rest. All the audience had to do was tune in.
Within these two episodes the show has given audiences worldwide a peek into the black experience, which is important in times like these. So, what these two episodes have made abundantly clear is that Atlanta had to establish and emphasize its main characters. They will have a huge impact on the show’s success. Their actions and words will give the audience incite of how their character arcs will lead. These characters really will be the driving force for almost every single major scene in the show. Here is what’s needed to be assessed.
We have three main, yet not too different, characters that are established within the two episodes shown. Earnest Marks (Donald Glover), Paper Boi/Alfred Miles (Bryan Tyree), and Darius (Keith Stanfield). We do have another character, Vanessa (Zazie Beetz), who is given more of a side role as just Earnest’s baby momma within the premiere, although its foolish to assume that this is the extent of her involvement and depth as a character through the season.
Now let’s start with our most important character, Earnest Marks.
Earn is a Princeton dropout that just seems a little lost in his path through life. Off top, we are presented with a flawed character. We get glimpses of the dynamic between him and his family within the show. The parents, played by Myra Taylor and Isiah Whitlock, are almost in full skepticism mode with their son. The script was even written in a way where you had to pick up the clues. The parents’ tone and demeanor towards Earnest was like a business interaction instead of a kind, friendly conversation. How could you blame them for being mad at their presumed “used to be a good kid” son? They wouldn’t even let him outside the house.
Now with his baby momma Vanessa, their relationship is also strained. Within the intimate bed scene between them, Vanessa blurts out the most famous/infamous words “I Love You”. Of course in disappointing fashion, Donald does nothing but chuckle at the mere idea of love in their situation. A situation, may I remind you, that entails the two are not married, they have a child, AND LIVE together. Earnest ALSO pays rent inside VANESSA’s apartment BECAUSE CLEARLY she is trying to get her s*** together for the baby while Earnest fails at his deadbeat, airline credit card vendor job.
Having a child unexpectedly, which may have been the college breaking point for him, could definitely throw you off your life goals. Currently, we don’t know what exactly happened but its gotta be in the stars for a flashback on how the L’s began for Earnest.
This also brings up another point. Earnest may not be a good guy in the end of the season.
He is very resourceful at using other people for personal gain. Dave the radio DJ knew that. His parents certainly know that. Even Paper Boi knew that the moment Earnest walked in the house. Paper Boi knew exactly Earn’s desires to profit off his brewing success as a rapper. Earnest believes he can be trusted and that his ambitions are for the better good. In an important scene within the show, we get a hint of that. It’s the scene where he is sitting on the bus with his daughter. It seems like a normal ride back home, but we soon find out that Earn is daydreaming while riding the bus. He comes in contact with a bald-headed man in a brown suit and begins confessing his inner thoughts. Earn professes that taking L’s is all that he can do and he doesn’t know why he’s in this space of doubt. The mysterious man fires back with a gem for combating failure.
“Resistance is a symptom of the way things are, not the way things should be. Actual victory belongs to things that do not see failure. Let the path push you like a broken branch in river’s current.”
The most shocking thing after the man vanishes off-screen to exit the bus stop is that the bald man did not finish his Nutella.
OK, not really.
But more surprisingly, we see the bald man and that same ragged dog from the beginning of the first episode prance away into the woods. We don’t know if Earnest has any mental issues, but those two entities within his mind may or may not be clues.
That or he just daydreams a whole lot.
Paper Boi has a problem that he struggles with, hell, what many rappers struggle with. Its what I, and many call, as The Rap Game. Hip Hop/Rap has put a perception, especially nowadays, on people that the rapper has to be perceived as:
- A cool dude.
- A cool dude that has to be hard in the streets.
- A cool dude that has to be hard in the streets and gets money.
- A cool dude that has to be hard in the streets, get money and has lush relations with women.
The list can go on and on FOREVER. All that just makes being yourself hard.
So in reality, my man Alfred has no girls, no lucrative money bags, and is definitely not out in the streets slinging dope and killing dudes on some goonie gang sh*t. There are moments within the show that may lead the audience to believe that Paper Boi is that type of guy that is the stereotypical rapper. Moments like in the first scene in the entire series, when Paper Boi is confronted with a haggler that breaks his car’s mirror. The edit fast-forwards the scene to when Paper Boi has the pistol out ready to fire on the haggler’s chest. I might add that this is a good place where editing is effective. We later find out in the episode that Paper Boi reached for a pistol in the glove compartment but Earnest stopped him from reacting on impulse to solve a problem. Then Earnest brings out the pistol in fear that it might escalade to something worse, BUT in irrational rapper/ “R&B n**** with a six-pack” fashion, Paper Boi pulls out another pistol that he had on his person.
He then pulls the trigger.
Once again in reality, we find out that Paper Boi is actually not that type of dude deep inside. That hits the audience when Paper Boi realizes that his music may be the cause for imprinting the wrong beliefs in children.
On one of his walks through the hood, he encounters a group of young kids playing around. There is a boy with a toy gun. The boy is referencing Paper Boi while he fantasizes about shooting his sister in back as she runs away. Paper Boi tries to teach the boy why it is bad to do that but gets into a misunderstanding with the kids’ mother/aunt. This scene really captures the essence of Alfred as a person and not an upcoming star. Of course the caretaker of those kids didn’t see it that way. You see, Alfred has a reputation to uphold. Not as himself, but as Paper Boi.
It all comes back to the Rap Game that Alfred has entered and will soon find out that its hard to maintain a spot within it. In the Rap Game, people do not respect you until you earn their respect through various acts. Whether it is spitting bars on bars in freestyles, dressing in unique ways becoming a trendsetter, or having the streets respect you because you really live the gang life.
The list could go on and on.
Since he is on the come up people, more importantly the streets, don’t believe that Paper Boi is about that life.
Why not shoot a fool in front of a convenience store and get sent to jail for it. I’m sure that will start a buzz. Marketing is a huge key for hyping up a brand and what a great way to do it.
Maybe you didn’t a catch why Paper Boi wasn’t kept in jail for too long. Well, in many black communities like Atlanta, the police and black community relationships are utterly in shambles. Black people won’t snitch on each other, just as the cops won’t snitch on each other. If nobody saw (PEOPLE DEF DID SEE THAT S***) Paper Boi pull the trigger then just post the bail on a pending (NOT PENDING) investigation on a shooting.
Paper Boi is truly trying to get out of Dekalb County with his music no matter what the cost is to his honest self. This disconnect from the real person and rap persona may get further and further as we go.
Lastly, there is the absolutely mysterious Darius.
There is no back story that the audience can have on this dude. He’s just Alfred’s homie. He is a seriously odd character who may or may not have had inhaled to many puffs of the ganja. Darius is a character with only one name like mythical people such as Beyoncé or Prince. He has moments within the episodes where he can drop major keys like when he was providing comfort to Paper Boi’s reminiscing inside the fried chicken spot.
“As humans we are always close to destruction, life itself is but a series of close calls. I mean, how would you know you were alive, unless you knew you could die?”
Then other times Darius is just completely out of it like when he asked Earn’s father if he could measure the man’s tree. I might add that Darius showed up to this man’s house smelling like several swishers with a baby in the front yard.
LIKE WHAT, FAM?
Darius really has the potential to becoming a fan favorite for the audience because of his interactions with literally anything in the show; like the time he looked inside the lemon pepper wet sauce wings. His touch, or the power from the chicken box, brought a golden Pulp Fiction hue coming from the chicken inside. I don’t know what shenanigans Darius is going to send our fellow main characters into, but it sure will be hilarious.
Moving forward, this show is definitely going to surprise people on how good it is. Many moments of great comedy and drama have been presented through its pivotal scenes. My personal favorite is the scene inside the prison. It was a smart way to encapsulate not just the black community’s, but our society’s prejudices and lack of care for mental health issues.
All in all you just have to experience the show for yourself. The ride through Atlanta can be thrilling, hilarious, and shocking for its viewers. Hopefully, it gets better with every episode. Just rememeber to pay close attention to the details that are more than often unspoken in this show.
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Justin Rodney is a contributing writer for YourSitch.com