As expected, we were not through with seeing Atlanta episodes not focused on the Paper Boi European tour. “Trini 2 De Bone” once again finds us seeing the world of Atlanta through a new set of faces, particularly white faces. While I’ve noted that this season has not necessarily provided a specific narrative trajectory for our characters, this episode is another example of how the series builds off itself in terms of its depiction of race, class, and other dynamics fueling modern-day socio-economic status discussions. Once again, we also see the series finding ways to blend tension with pitch-black comedy.
Taking things out of both Europe and Atlanta, we are now looking at the lives of a family living in an upscale apartment in New York City. Miles (Justin Hagan) is just getting back from his jog (he was listening to rap music, naturally). While helping his son, Sebastian (Indy Sullivan Groudis), and interacting with his wife, Bronwyn (Christina Bennett Lind), he gets a call. Evidently, their nanny, Sylvia, has passed away.
While we never get to meet Sylvia, we hear a lot about her from everyone, as Sebastian wishes to attend the funeral after having the concept of death awkwardly explained to him. More importantly, this is an episode taking a look at how much white children learn from the housekeepers of color who take care of them, shining a light on what the parents are missing out on in the process.
Sylvia was a Trinidadian woman who introduced Sebastian to spicy sauces, island music, etc. Attending the funeral, the young boy fully embraces the ceremony, raising his hand and responding to the various calls and praises to God (“Yes!”). It’s humorous, by default, but suggests what comes from enlightening a young child to the world around him rather than seeing him be shielded from various cultures.
That’s not to say this episode is looking to shame Sebastian’s parents for hiring a black nanny. They clearly love their son and, if anything, will be keeping a closer eye on him going forward. Ideally, that’s for the best, and given how he behaves, I’d like to think that is the case. With that in mind, I do wonder about the other running element featured in “Trini 2 De Bone.”
Throughout the episode, Miles answers his front door, which is being loudly knocked on, only to reveal an envelope addressed to Sylvia. He keeps returning it until finally opening it by the end of the episode. Without delving into what’s inside, the contents suggest a number of meanings, further underlining the nature of the relationship between this young child and his secondary maternal figure. Is this closing moment meant to offer more about who Sebastian will be or what it means to step up and be a proper parent?
Of course, the episode also finds room to challenge Sylvia’s character to some degree. As the white family makes their way to the funeral in their expensive SUV, we are introduced to Sylvia’s children. This includes the very warm and friendly Khadija, who happily greets the family and quickly takes a liking to Sebastian. However, during the actual ceremony, Sylvia’s other daughter, referred to as Princess, brings up all the time her mother spent away from her kids as she was working.
The argument that Sylvia had to look after other people’s kids to provide for her own family is a fitting statement to consider. Of course, this is practically overshadowed by things reaching a tipping point, as Princess lashes out further at her mother, two other men start a fight, and one overly sad woman attempts to climb into the coffin. It all leads to one of the best exchanges of the episode.
“Hey, small man, we scarin’ ya?” Sebastian nods. “It’s okay; we just sad. This is how we sad,” responds the man heading the ceremony in an attempt to make the uncomfortable white family feel more welcome to the funeral that has gotten out of hand.
This episode has a pretty straight line to stick to as far as watching this family deal with a tragedy and engaging with them as outsiders in various ways. With that in mind, it’s hard not to feel the weight of what a character we have not met was able to bring to this little boy’s life, let alone the people who truly cared for her.
Perhaps there’s a darker undercurrent to pick up on in subsequent views that extends beyond the transactional nature of two white parents and a black housekeeper. Still, it’s hard not to notice the innocence that comes through Sebastian’s various interactions with his parents and others.
Donald Glover directed this week’s episode, and it is as accomplished as the rest of this season so far. Whatever he and the writers are hitting at week by week, there’s an evident richness that comes from how skillfully made these installments are, let alone the impact they seem to leave. That’s worth getting down for a dance to “Trini to De Bone.”
- Miles, Sebastian, Bronwyn – the writers must be having a ball coming up with the whitest names possible.
- Debating whether or not to tell Sebastian that Sylvia had died really pushes on the notion of how different the types of societies are to the point of being dismissive on one side. Coming up with a plan to simply disregard someone who clearly meant a lot to Sebastian as an attempt to shield him from the world provides the grit needed to make a point early on. Thankfully the parents did not stay on that path.
- In considering a new nanny, they lean on the idea of a Chinese person, as their son could then learn Mandarin.
- No sign of the rest of the crew this week, but there was a wall lined with banners noting “Paper Boi: Homecoming Tour.”
- “World Star!” – Chet Hanks shows up in this episode, still using his white man rasta accent, and I only wonder what he and Glover talked about as far as why he needed to be here.
- “I want to play steelpan like Uncle Samuel.” – Sebastian, you rock.
- Does anyone have any additional theories about what the contents of that package meant?