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Review: Atlanta – Robbin’ Season 2×01, “Alligator Man”

Aaron Neuwirth reviews the season premiere episode of Atlanta - Robbin' Season, "Alligator Man." The Donal Glover-created series is back and is as great as ever.

The second season of Atlanta, subtitled Robbin’ Season, is finally here. Last we saw this incredibly well-received FX series was November 2016, so it has been something of a wait. Only adding to expectations are the numerous accolades Donald Glover has been awarded in between seasons. Atlanta won multiple Emmys and Golden Globes, along with a Peabody, a Critic’s Choice Award and PGA, WGA and AFI recognition. For a show initially conceived as Twin Peaks with rappers, the Childish Gambino has done pretty well for himself. Fortunately, based on the Robbin’ Season premiere episode “Alligator Man,” Glover is not merely resting on his laurels. Atlanta is back, and it’s come out swinging…or shooting.

Right away, the show takes a swerve for its cold open by presenting a stand-alone vignette that helps explain “Robbin’ Season.” A meetup between two guys turns into a drive to Mrs. Winner’s Chicken. This is a fast food joint that doubles as a weed dispensary and becomes the perfect opportunity to stage a hold-up. Turning into a wildly violent and very tense shootout, it proves Atlanta very much exists in a world where criminality is common, stakes can suddenly change, and we will be following characters that deal with this daily.

Lakeith Stanfield’s Darius is the character who proclaims it to be robbin’ season later in the episode, and we can begin to understand the reasoning. This season of Atlanta is set a few months before Christmas, and the have-nots start going after the haves a lot more frequently. I’ve never been to the actual Atlanta, but by all accounts, there are many sides of the city to show. Glover’s Atlanta is focused on what he’s seen and how he can bring awareness through his sense of humor, handle of tone, and depiction of severe violence during what could be seen as an average day.

All this in mind, the rest of the episode lightens up quite a bit, even if we still have to contend with familial disputes, violent urban legends, a visit from the cops, and the presence of an unfriendly alligator named Coach. Really, everything presented feels right at home with the show I so easily responded to in the first season. There has been some progression with the characters (and one we don’t even see), but the show continues to provide a sort of awkward hang-out comedy that involves people infinitely more interesting than your standard sitcom. That in mind, there is more going on than just an excuse to set down with this strange crew.

Last season ended with the reveal that Earn (Glover) is homeless. Living in a self-storage unit, the comfort of being a manager for his cousin Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Brian Tyree Henry) and having provided for Van (Zazi Beetz), the mother of his daughter Lotti, only goes so far when it comes to knowing all you own is contained in a one-room, one-door structure described as a “unit.” And of course, Robbin’ Season starts with this being taken away from Earn, so now he’s homeless, setting up possible stakes for where things head in this episode.

It leads to a meetup at Alfred’s place, where he and Darius are currently on non-speaking terms for reasons they will not get into. Alfred is also in a new position that has given him more street-cred. He’s under house arrest, complete with an ankle bracelet, which means if Earn wants to stay in his good graces, despite not being entirely necessary as a manager, he’ll have to help out. Perfect timing means this episode knows how to deliver on errands for Earn. Alfred receives a call from a woman named Yvonne, who claims she’s been kidnapped by him and Earn’s Uncle Willie (Katt Williams). Guess who needs to sort it out?

It is incredible how Atlanta works to subvert expectations by taking on plots that seem either too familiar or too ridiculous and makes them resonate anyway. Last season had awkward dinner parties, bad dates, and a trip to jail, among other things. This season starts with a wacky uncle who happens to be the titular Alligator Man. The results are as crazy as one would expect, especially when the door opens to reveal Williams. And yet, the episode makes a poignant turn when Earn decides to stop being reasonable and lash out.

Glover really is great on this show. In addition to being the show’s main creative force, he’s proven to be a solid actor who can balance the range of emotions needed, whether it’s getting wide-eyed over whatever wild thing he comes across or downplaying the ludicrous conspiracy theories Darius shares with him. Seeing Earn get mean and personal is not a typical sight, but not much needs to be said to explain it. Atlanta is not the sort of show that needs to describe in detail the problems that happened between Willie and Earn’s mother. It also doesn’t need to go far into explaining what Willie is getting at when talking about Earn’s current station in life and how he’s somewhat feeding off his cousin.

It’s these little digressions that ground the oddness of Atlanta and make it a series well worth anyone’s time. It’s slice of life human comedy with a mix of otherworldliness that happens to be set in a real location. Putting a further emphasis on the crime-ridden nature of the series will likely have great effects as Robbin’ season continues, but for now, we get some splendidly-acted scenes that culminate in Willie’s gator-assisted exodus from his own house. That may have just confused the police further, but at least Earn may have solved his homeless problem.

Bonus Tracks:

  • I jumped when the Mrs. Winner’s employee suddenly appeared with an assault rifle.
  • Brian Tyree Henry is easily my favorite cast member on this show (and he’s in good company). The silent reaction he has to Earn confusing Tara for Regina is comedy gold.
  • This is the most I’ve ever liked Katt Williams. He delivers a fantastic performance here, which I would be happy to see more of on this show or just in general, if he takes on other roles like this.
  • Atlanta continues to be an amazing show when it comes to its use of music.
  • “Florida Man” is someone I hope I never have to come across.
  • Not sure if I’ll be able to write about this show consistently, but I hope everyone enjoys it as much as I do.

Written by
Aaron is a movie fanatic and loves talking about such things…a lot. He is from Orange County, California, but earned a degree or two at UC Santa Barbara. He describes himself as a film reviewer, writer, podcaster, video game player, comic book reader, disc golfer, and a lefty. His mind is full of film knowledge and random trivia, but he is always open to learning more, whether it’s through box office stats, reviewing Blu-rays from The Criterion Collection or simply hearing first hand from filmmakers and others about various productions and behind-the-scenes tidbits.

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