Back from Paper Boi’s European tour, Earn, Van, Paper Boi, and Darius experience a confining version of their Atlanta origins. To kick off FX‘s fourth and final season of Atlanta, premiere episode “The Most Atlanta” sees Earn (Donald Glover) and Van (Zazie Beetz) visit open-air mall Atlantic Station, while Al (Brian Tyree Henry) mourns the loss of local rapper Blue Blood. Darius (LaKeith Stanfield), who simply wants to return an air fryer at what seems to be a Target, gets chased down by an elderly, wheelchair-bound “Karen” named Christine. With the Huro Murai-directed, Stephen Glover-written episode, “The Most Atlanta” is meme-worthy, referencing the extinguished, knife-toting woman confronting Minneapolis looters following the death of George Floyd in 2020 (with just a dash of 2014 horror film It Follows).
As Darius continues to be chased by Christine, Van and Earn get trapped at Atlantic Station, with Debra Cox’s 1998 hit “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” playing on what seems to be an endless loop. In his mourning of Blue Blood, Al plays the rapper’s final album, remarking that its lo-fi sound is “pretty experimental, I don’t even understand what he’s saying half the time.” However, this rapper sounds a lot like Earl Sweatshirt (and many other viewers of the episode took note of that too on social media). So, did Atlanta really get Earl to sort of cameo as a beloved, enigmatic Atlanta rapper? And if so, were some of the tracks played in the episode real, unreleased Earl material, or made solely for the episode? Although the latter question is still unknown, it has been confirmed that Earl was voicing the fictional Blue Blood, and now we want a behind the scenes on how the rapper became a part of the Atlanta universe. Anyways, Blue Blood’s songs give listeners clues to the rapper’s favorite spots in the city – including a BBQ restaurant, laundromat, and a 3D movie theater – which leads Al on an all-day scavenger hunt. The search ends with a grand conclusion: Blue Blood’s funeral, held three months after his death. Perhaps a nod to the late (and equally mysterious) MF DOOM — and the way he subverted performance by sending Doombots to his shows, as well as the fact that we didn’t even know when his actual birthday was — Blue Blood was all about pushing the boundaries of being a performer, something Al notes at the beginning of the episode.
Second episode “The Homeliest Little Horse,” written by Ibra Ake and directed by Angela Barnes, has a tie-in storyline, returning to the whiteness theory anthology of season three. Children’s book author Lisa Mahn — who has a fondness for Ciara’s 2004 song “Ooh Baby,” and even lusts after a Black male neighbor — proposes a new book titled The Homeliest Little Horse to a literary agent. Strangely, Al and Darius’ season two roommate Tracy works for the publisher, and not much has changed with his short temper. As the publisher finds promise in Lisa’s forthcoming book, Lisa shares the news of quitting her day job to a friend, who doesn’t support the decision.
On the flipside, Earn attends sessions with therapist Everette Tillman, mentioning that his stress is manifesting into physical pain. Although viewers have known since season one that Earn’s a Princeton dropout, he finally gets to the root of what happened. While working as an RA alongside a fellow white student and ex-friend named Sasha, Earn’s suit that he needed for a job interview was kept in Sasha’s dorm room. Using his master key to enter Sasha’s room, she flipped out, alleging that Earn’s entry was aggressive and sexually-motivated, thus prompting the Princeton board to expel Earn. Everette connects Earn’s mistrust of Sasha to him being abused by a family member, which Earn tearfully acknowledges.
Attending another therapy session, Everette gifts Earn a floor pillow to lie on. During this session, Earn divulges into a recent incident he, Van, and their daughter Lottie experienced, where they were harassed by a white airport employee who claimed to be the manager. This woman ultimately stops Earn, Van, and Lottie from getting on their plane, with Earn adding that they’re still waiting on their luggage. At this point, Earn reveals a darker side of himself: “I love spite. It’s a pure, powerful thing. It gave me courage. You know, I can count on it. I used it when I came back to Atlanta.”
Eventually, that spite comes to fruition. During Lisa’s first library reading of The Homeliest Horse, children in the audience share their disdain for the book, ultimately leaving. It’s later revealed that Earn hired actors to torment Lisa for being the same airport worker who attempted to deny him plane entry. “I can’t tell if this is extreme pettiness or terrorism,” Darius says to Earn toward the episode’s end. In response, Earn laughs before admitting that he really needs to “go back to therapy,” all while Rick James’ “Cold Blooded” brings the episode to a close.
With Earn and Paper Boi making solemn revelations about themselves and returning to their home front, we’re sure more layers will be peeled back this season.
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