It is a testament to the very fluid nature of Atlanta that an episode like this week’s “Champagne Papi” can come after the nightmarish “Teddy Perkins” from last week. The series has a way of taking on big ideas or isolated locations and building entire episodes around them, and “Champagne Papi” was certainly a nice break, following the haunting experience Darius went through. I was surprised Darius even made an appearance this week, but he only exists to add to the dense level of thematic resonance this episode seems to be playing at. While the premise sounds relatively slight, as we mainly follow Van’s misadventures at Drake’s house, it ends up being a surreal joy to see what takes place on New Year’s Eve.
Despite lacking a traditional narrative structure to best understand the arcs for the characters in Robbin’ Season, there is a nice amount of work done to fill us in. Much of the season had been building up to the holidays, which has supplied much of the framework for Robbin’ Season, to begin with. Now we are actually at New Year’s, which means Van and Earn have been apart for a couple of months. Feeling empty, noting the joy Earn seems to be having with another woman via Instagram, Van is hoping to bring some light into her life by attending the party and getting a selfie with Drake.
Given the unpredictable nature of Atlanta, I was half-expecting the episode to revolve around the whole process of merely getting to the party. Van and her friends Candice, Tammi and Nadine first arrive at an empty parking lot and have to name the right address to a shuttle driver. They then have to get through security, who are requiring invitations and enforcing a rule involving plastic booties when walking in Drake’s house.
Once they make it inside, my new concern was whether Atlanta was about to feature Drake as a guest star, which could happen just as easily as it couldn’t. Between Michael Vick coming on the show and the skewed take on Justin Bieber, there’s room for embracing the surreal qualities of the show in a way that promotes the wildest of results. One could say the actual result, which involves two women charging to take pictures with a cardboard cutout of Drake, is a bit of a letdown, but given how much of the episode rests on the women’s various experiences in the house, it was only fitting.
That’s a good way to touch back upon the cast. It’s easy to highlight Donald Glover because he’s the creator of this series, and Lakeith Stanfield because he’s an enigma that’s eminently watchable. However, Brian Tyree Henry and Zazie Beetz are as important because of how well they ground this series. Beetz is worth noting for sure, as this is another episode that features her as the main character, which is good to explore. It allows the show to be more than just a look at the culture around a male rapper but also works to enliven Earn’s world. Rather than simply have a girlfriend character with little personality, we’ve had time to explore Van’s position in life, as well as her past, and ambitions, however small they may currently be.
All this is to say that her night doesn’t amount to much, but we get some clear displays of what it is to be a friend, deal with creepy men, and arrive at an epiphany. Plus she takes one of Drake’s jackets so that I can link to the whole Robbin’ Season thing. However, the look Van gives to the women charging for photos is about a good a moment as any in this episode, as we watch her process the whole concept of gaining Instagram followers for a false reality. It’s a plan that ultimately makes sense as far as what Van was initially after, but it means building a false narrative or stealing your way to what you’d consider the top.
Elsewhere, Van’s friend Nadine goes on a weird trip after eating a weed-infused gummi bear. This leads her to have a conversation with Darius about the Simulation hypothesis because of course it does. At the same time, Tammi, also high, gets into an argument with the white girlfriend of a black actor. It’s only a small portion of the episode, but fascinating to hear a perspective on what it means for black women to see successful black men be preyed upon by white women. Of course, there’s a greater context for this particular scenario, but writer Ibra Ake happily finds a way to balance the level of indignation with the humor of the situation.
At some point, I will have to sit down and ponder the meaning of some of the more random ideas that emerge in these episodes. Van’s discovery of Drake being on tour in Europe is what necessitates the whole visit to the TV room with the Spanish-speaking man that may be Drake’s grandfather, but why is that the way to have handled it. It builds up to a hilarious closing line of the episode (and a brilliant choice of using a Spanish remix of “Hotline Bling” as a closing song), but is there more to this angle?
Answers are certainly not what I tune into Atlanta for, so it’s nothing that brings the episode down in any way. Still, the weirdness that extends beyond random Darius musings allows for plenty of things to consider, which is appropriate for a show so packed with ideas, yet wonderfully entertaining on a consistent basis. The good news is that Candice may have gotten to meet up with T-Pain at his party, but Van still got away with a sweet new jacket.
- Sad I missed writing about last week’s “Teddy Perkins” but wow, what a crazy episode. Glover’s makeup face is seared into my brain now.
- The “pizza guy” begging to know the address was a fun touch as far as adding to the whole mystery of the party and emphasizing, once again, how everyone in Atlanta is trying to make it.
- “Keep your booties on at all time. These are marble floors.”
- I got anxious about that Brandon. Great start with the water bottle, only to immediately turn into a threat, once he isolated Van and wouldn’t leave her alone.
- Upon walking into a random room, “Drake?” – Something about that line reading made me laugh.
- “Drake’s Mexican.”