Almost halfway through the final season of Atlanta, Earn’s parents return in new episode “Light Skinned-ed,” and have seemingly mended their differences with their entrepreneurial son. Written by series executive producer and longtime writer Stefani Robinson, the episode centers family conflict, specifically between Earn’s mother Gloria Marks (Myra Lucretia Taylor) and Aunt Jeanie (Michole Briana White). Gloria grows frustrated with Jeanie caring (or lack thereof) for their ailing father (Bob Banks), “kidnapping” him and leaving Earn (Donald Glover) and Jeanie to attend a Sunday church service alone.
Earn’s father, Raleigh Marks (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), who’s spent 30 years resolving his wife’s family disputes, instead spends three hours at the mall before “kids show up.” As Earn tries to escape church to hit the recording studio with Al/Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry), Jeanie confronts Earn and decides to follow him.
At the studio is special guest Gunna, who asserts that Paper Boi cheated at their game of Uno by using a yellow card. Evidently, Paper Boi also knew that Gloria planned to take off with her father, sending Jeanie into a panic and putting her other two siblings, Willie (Katt Williams) and Pearl (Teresa L. Graves), on a four-way call with Gloria. Jeanie emotionally spirals, accusing her siblings of hating her because she’s “light skinned-ed.”
“It’s about daddy never remembering Gloria,” Jeanie says during the siblings’ call. “Daddy got kids all over Georgia and he can remember most of them, but never little Gloria. He didn’t remember her birthday, Christmas, he didn’t come to graduation, and now that he’s dying, you can’t even talk to him because he don’t know who you are.”
Jeanie’s declaration strikes a nerve with Gloria, who immediately hangs up, causing Jeanie to call the cops for a wellness check. Meanwhile, Raleigh is being held up at the mall, with a flirtatious saleswoman flattering him into buying a cross-embroidered hat. He confidently attempts to leave the mall before being harassed by a group of teenagers, with one who calling him “Pops” and hounding him to take a “picture for the ‘gram.”
Back at the studio, Earn shares his fear of not wanting himself and Al to “end up” like their older family members who “argue all the time.” Always one to find a solution – and having his cousin’s back since middle school (“F.U.B.U.”) – Al finds a secret “Shmurda Exit” through a studio employee, named after Bobby Shmurda who once had “the FBI and three baby mamas after him.” Although the exit is in their aunt’s line of sight, Earn and Al are told that Jeanie won’t see them as long as they don’t look back. The two don’t, literally and figuratively, although Jeanie tells cops on the phone that both should be arrested.
At the episode’s end, Raleigh loses his temper during a family dinner when Gloria and the waiter have a brief back-and-forth over free bread. Raleigh realizes he couldn’t fully avoid family drama for one day, as the young waiter resembles the teenager who harassed him at the mall.
Everything seems to be back to normal – or is it? During the first season, Earn was barred from visiting his parents after leaving Princeton. He had to gain Al’s trust as a business partner, nearly losing it in season two. “Light Skinned-ed” illustrates the ebb and flow in harmony between relatives, and viewers may anticipate the same with Earn and Al during the series’ final season.
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