The surreal — and slightly tense — atmosphere fans have come to love from Atlanta is front and center with its first pair of episodes.
Finally, Atlanta is back Thursday night with two new episodes from its third season after having its season two finale back in May 2018, which left us right at the end of Earn, Darius, and Alfred (“Paper Boi”) getting ready to takeoff overseas for the latter’s first-ever international tour alongside “Yoohoo” rapper Clark County (sans his manager Lucas, who ended up getting stuck at the airport after security found Earn’s uncle’s gun in his backpack, which Earn had initially planted in Clark’s backpack).
Now, without giving too much away, Atlanta‘s third season doesn’t begin as a follow-up to where season two left off, and you won’t realize that until the show’s second episode. The first episode, “Three Slaps,” doesn’t even seem to have anything to do with the core cast. Instead, it begins with a dark reinterpretation of the real viral video of students (ironically from Atlanta’s Ron Clark Academy) getting into a celebratory dance after finding out they’re going to see Black Panther, while the rest of the episode offers an unnerving reinterpretation of the Hart family murders (but with a twist at the end that is absolutely satisfying).
What transpires in the first episode comes across as a dream for Earn, as the final moments of the episode transport viewers to him waking up in a hotel room in Copenhagen, properly setting up the foreign misadventures that come in the second episode (“Sinterklaas is Coming to Town”) as the core cast (including an “aimless” Van, as she describes herself later in the episode) meet in Amsterdam. As Earn and Alfred get ready for a show the latter has while dealing with the culture shock of Amsterdam (particularly the celebration of Sinterklaas — the Dutch iteration of Saint Nicholas — where a majority of people dress in blackface to look like Zwarte “Black Pete” Piet — Sinterklaas’ assistant — a real-life practice that has gained more attention across the world in recent years), Darius and Van find themselves in the middle of a death ritual. What makes the latter even more surreal is that it finds the series playing around with rap’s most infamous conspiracy theory (you know the one), and literally putting it to bed with Darius and Van as witnesses.
The most visceral moments from both these episodes are sure to leave you staring at your screen with your mouth wide open, trying to process what you just watched. But as you should know by know, Atlanta wouldn’t be what it is without these moments — these sequences that are so absurd and twisted but low-key funny that you find yourself wondering if you’re just as f**ked up as the creators behind this wild show. And the answer is yes — yes, you are.
If these first episodes are any indicator, Atlanta season three promises to push the surreal — and slightly tense — atmosphere it’s become known for even further, offering a return that was worth the wait, even if it takes a minute to try and understand what’s going on.