TV Review: Atlanta, 4×2, “The Homeliest Little Horse”

Given the previous season, while I was sure it would have more of a direct connection to the cast, it was certainly getting things off to an odd foot with a focus on some random white lady at the start of “The Homeliest Little Horse.” I was already bracing for another Twilight Zone-like entry into the world of Atlanta, wondering what kind of crazy premise we were in store for. Obviously, we learn just how sinister the purpose of this plotline actually was, but what a walk to get there.

The thrust of this episode is on Earn and his therapy sessions. At first mention, I honestly thought that meant couples therapy, as I’m still caught up in what’s going on between him and Van. But no, we are watching Earn work through some of his own personal issues, which we slowly catch up on in terms of the degree to which he’s shared. The comforting voice of a black male therapist seems to make it clear Earn has gone for a few weeks at least, and has detailed some personal traumas. With that in mind, we see some key sessions as far as having us understand where he is in his life.

Earn’s confidence has been interesting to see build over the course of this show. We’ve known from the start that Earn is an intelligent man who seemed to miss out early on by being kicked out of Princeton. This week we learn why, and it comes down to what one would expect for Atlanta, let alone modern America – race-based nonsense involving a white woman calling foul and Earn being made to look like the villain by default. As he details the story of what got him expelled, it’s relayed in such a strikingly authentic way. It can undoubtedly have varying effects on who hears this story.

With that in mind, there’s no mistaking the unfair treatment of Earn. While this is a far more direct way to tackle the various themes constantly referenced on this show, it’s a strong episode for further developing the series lead/creator. Fittingly, Earn talks about how he sees people, explaining, “I trust people to be themselves,” which means he basically trusts no one (except maybe Darius, which makes almost too much sense). Hearing Earn relay a couple of stories this week, it’s easy to see why. Looking at the absurd things he’s had to deal with throughout the series, it’s easy to see why.

It’s not always so simple. Earn isn’t perfect. However, having him be in the position he’s in now means he can prove just how much of a force Earn believed he could be. It speaks to why he and his cousin, Paper Boi, can rely on each other even if they don’t always get along. They’ve survived certain struggles thanks to their inherent knowledge and put up with the nonsense thrown their way, particularly when it stems from being Black.

Of course, for all of Earn’s success, he also notes how much he loves spite. Recalling the Princeton incident is all based on the idea that he could now be a guest speaker, having been invited back. What’s Earn supposed to say to this? If he wants to win, it would be just as easy to say no as it would be to go and throw it all in their face. Ultimately, he chooses to go, as it would also mean having time away from his family. However, we learn that none of this happened because a person at the airport (another white lady) made things impossible for no good reason.

That brings us back to the story of Lisa Mahn. Throughout this episode, we check in with this random woman, who has apparently been discovered for her children’s book manuscript. She has a meeting that lets her know there’s an opportunity for her to attend a public reading and possibly get signed on and become a major figure. This means getting an illustrator for her book, getting her hair done, and being ready for the limelight. Lisa goes as far as to quit her job in preparation.

None of this ends up going well, as the reading in the library is a disaster. The kids hate the book, an important recruiter leaves immediately, and it’s all an embarrassment. And then the knife is twisted even more, as the whole thing as a setup by Earn. Lisa was the horrible person at the airport, and Earn decided to spend some of his hard-earned money on building a fake scenario fitting of Nathan Fielder’s The Rehearsal. He even had it all filmed and photographed, so he could play a highlights reel at a wrap party. This is wild.

Paper Boi and Darius do not know what to say. Darius goes as far as to note that this whole ordeal is either “extreme pettiness or terrorism.” He’s not wrong. Even if the woman deserved some sort of comeuppance, this is one hell of an elaborate way to get back at someone. Earn, ultimately being self-reflective enough to realize his actions, at least notes that it may be time to go back to therapy.

Maybe others will have figured out what was going on sooner than I did (although Lisa notes she works in an airport right before the reading, so I was getting suspicious). Regardless, while this episode serves as a major developmental episode for Earn, we get to see him at his most mischievous (to put it lightly). Given what we’ve heard he has gone through, seeing a twisted light at the end of that tunnel is the sort of dark reward one can appreciate in a fictional series. Now we can push forward and see what Earn decides next that will ideally positively affect his life.

Bonus Tracks:

  • In terms of significant developments, we now know Earn will be deciding to leave for Los Angeles and finding out if Van will want to go with him.
  • It’s great to see how much backstory is given to Lisa, despite the show knowing it’s all going to go a certain way. A truly wonderful subversion.
  • Speaking of, the whole literary agency scene had so many fun clues about its illegitimacy, but being Atlanta, we’re pulled right in, willing to accept this as true.
  • That whole airport story, much like the Princeton one, feels absolutely true to life, and I’m not only curious about which of the writers experienced it but how many of them experienced versions of the same thing.
  • Earn is so cold, but it’s still funny.

Atlanta is now airing on FX and available to stream on Hulu.

Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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