Your Guide To Watching Atlanta Season 2

Photo: Courtesy of FX.
As nearly every awards show has signaled, Atlanta is one of the best comedies out there. With the surrealism of Twin Peaks and the unapologetic Blackness that has become the signature of creator-sometimes-director-star Donald Glover, the FX series doesn’t feel like anything else on TV.
Unfortunately, that uniqueness has also led to some prospective fans not totally understanding the concept of Glover’s brainchild. In fact, I had a conversation just last week where I found out a Donald Glover obsessive didn’t realize until this year Atlanta was a half-hour comedy. Thinking it would be an intense, energy draining hour-long drama, she skipped season 1 entirely since the world is already soul-sucking enough in this political climate. And, this is from someone who loves Donald Glover. Imagine what everyone who just likes him thinks.
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But, everyone should watch Atlanta season 2, premiering Thursday, March 1, with the subtitle Robbin' Season — not just people who have already binged the genre-smashing series. To help make that a little bit easier, we put together the explainer you need for the comedy’s freshman year, from the wonderful cast of characters to the biggest plot points. Keep reading to get the refresher course you need on the show everyone will be talking about.
And, even if you watched Atlanta season 1 with the rest of us, you’re probably going to need to click along. After all, season finale “The Jacket” aired well over a year ago in November 2016.
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Earn Marks

Oh Earn. Our hero, our hardworking Princeton drop-out. Earn (Glover) starts out Atlanta season 1 working as one of those people in airports who tries to get you to sign up for more credit cards. He is terrible at this and literally walks out of his shift when he realizes his cousin Alfred Miles (Brian Tyree Henry) is actually the up-and-coming rapper Paper Boi. Paper Boi’s eponymous track is the hottest thing in Atlanta.

So, Earn joins Al’s threadbare team as his manager and is pretty great at it. He gets his cousin into celebrity charity basketball games, on Black culture panels, and, most importantly, the radio. This is good, since Earn is technically homeless, despite the fact he usually has a place to crash.

By the season finale, flush with at least enough cash to live thanks to managing, Earn is able to get a home of his own. That home happens to be a storage unit with a cot in it, but, hey, at least it’s something.

From there, it seems like things can only get better for Earn in season 2.
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Vanessa

While Earn’s burgeoning career is a big part of his storyline, he’s clearly at his best when he’s with on-again, off-again girlfriend Van (Zazie Beetz), who is also the mother of their child, Lottie. Vanessa dates other people (smart), clearly tries to have a more stable career (despite that time she got fired for accidentally admitting marijuana usage), and tends to drag Earn for filth (despite really loving him).

The wonderful episodes that are “Value” and “Juneteenth” perfectly set up the tension between Van’s ambitions and the reality of who she is and what makes her actually happy. It’s pretty clear life is better for Van with her daughter and trifling sorta-ex than forcing a smile while married to a wealthy, wack, and culture-appropriating white man.

As we found out from Donald Glover’s recent New Yorker profile, Atlanta season 2 will reveal Van also knows fluent German for reasons never explained. It just so happens Vanessa’s portrayer Zazie Beetz is half-German in the real world.
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Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles

If there’s one thing you need to know about rapper-drug dealer Al, it’s the fact he’s more than his profession. He chafes at the idea of simply being a rapper named Paper Boi, because he’s actually a person, not a stereotype. While the show starts with Al shooting a man in a parking lot, the rest of the season works hard to prove he is a thoughtful, caring, and pragmatic businessman, friend, and family member over anything else.

Considering how successful Al becomes in season 1 — even police officers want to take photos with him as of just episode 2, “Streets On Lock” — it’s likely his career will be on fire in Atlanta’s sophomore year.
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Darius

It’s no question whether Darius (the truly great Lakeith Stanfield) is Atlanta’s best character because everyone always knows the answer is yes. Often, Darius feels like what would happen if a portal to the astral plane was turned into a living, breathing person with a dope fashion sense.

Within the first episode, it’s signaled Darius can either predict the future or suffers from extremely intense deja vu. By the end of season 1, he’s eerily calm about swallowing two entire blunts to avoid jail time. Between those two points, Darius takes Earn on a magical-feeling journey that ends with the two trading a “good dog” for… absolutely nothing. It’s a long story only Darius could explain (and it just might come back in Robbin' Season).
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The Season Finale

Time doesn’t exactly exist in the Atlanta world, but I understand wanting to know precisely where Atlanta season 1 left off. So, let’s get into it.

Earn wakes up in a previously unseen person’s home following a wild party. Everything would be cool, except Earn’s jacket is missing. It’s unclear why the jacket matters so much, but the music manager goes to great lengths retracing the night’s stops to find it. First it’s a visit to the strip club, but there’s no luck there. Next it’s a visit to Al’s place, but that’s a no-go too. Finally, the group’s Uber driver from the night prior, Fidel, calls and informs them he has the jacket. Fidel wants a $50 finder’s fee.

Earn agrees to fork over the cash and heads to “F-Money’s” house with Al and Darius. The vibe around Fidel’s house is creepily quite, and it quickly becomes clear why: the driver is the target of an Atlanta PD investigation and a bunch of police vans converge on the guys. Apparently Fidel isn’t merely a huge fan of ride-share apps — he’s also a drug-and-weapons kingpin. Our trio of heroes watch as officers gun down Fidel in front of his home while wearing the jacket in question; whatever Earn thought was in there is missing.

At the end of the episode, Al finally gives Earn his cut of the money he’s made as a manager. However, there is so much cash, it’s pretty obvious Al is also trying to do his homeless cousin a financial kindness. So, Earn heads to Van’s house to have dinner with his sometimes-girlfriend and forever-daughter. It’s adorable. When the night ends, Earn and Van cuddle on the couch.

That’s when Earn’s co-worker Swiff (Harold House Moore) arrives to give Earn a key. That is what he believed was in the jacket the whole time, but, Earn smartly told Swiff to hold onto it the night prior. This means the day’s adventure was actually pointless. At least this all leads Earn to that storage unit bedroom we were talking about.
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Justin Bieber

If you need to understand Atlanta’s sublimely off-kilter vibe and still don’t, simply know in this world Justin Bieber (Austin Crute) is Black, without explanation, and very much the charmingly petulant show-off we all know and are told we should love.

Atlanta then saw its Black Justin Bieber, and raised the stakes with “B.A.N.” a riff on Black news shows complete with fake advertisements for malt liquor, Swisher Sweets, and a cereal whose cartoon mascot is brutally murdered by police.

Nothing is more unabashedly Atlanta than that.
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