The opening scene of episode one of Atlanta immediately brings the viewer into a scene that sets the tone for the entire series. The tone is very much a poor neighborhood with the show’s main characters trying to make it out of this poverty. It’s the way these circumstances are told and played out that make FX’s Atlanta a must-watch.
Meet Earn (Donald Glover). As the main protagonist, Earn is on a path of self-discovery. He’s a lethargic, witty and curious millennial looking to get into “the business” in any way he can. His cousin, Al (Brian Tyree Henry), is an up and coming rapper in the Atlanta area known as Paper Boi. In the early episodes, we see him struggle with the repercussions that come from the events of the first episode and his rising fame. Darius (Keith Stanfield) is Al’s righthand man who isn’t always there mentally. Vanessa (Zazie Beetz) is Earn’s former lover and the the two have a daughter.
Atlanta isn’t afraid to break the rules of traditional comedies. There’s often long droughts without dialogue and the characters just being there or moving around. There’s a real natural feeling that goes with this. A show that does this similarly is Louie, also on FX, where the camera often just pans an area to capture emotion. To add to this real world feeling, the show incorporates contemporary cultural aspects like social media into the plot and character dialogue. One early episode involves a YouTube personality harassing Al as one of his songs becomes popular.
The dialogue itself is really well-written. It’s fluid and something small it does is add pauses between word exchanges. Glover writes characters well and you become vested in them and their goals. The situations they get themselves into are often very relatable. In one episode, Earn takes Vanessa out for a date to an expensive restaurant and is stressing about affording it the entire time.
The show also blends elements of a drama into it. We see episodes that incorporate the main core of characters throughout the episode and then we see others that focus on just one character, like Al or Vanessa. This dramatic element adds to it tense and very dire circumstances where you feel yourself feeling for the characters. You’re let down when the characters are let down, you feel their happiness, you feel their anguish.
Atlanta’s cinematography is absolutely stunning. Each episode incorporates the title card into a shot and it’s always so satisfying. Overall, the wide shots and panning shots really bring you into the world and make Atlanta look really beautiful.
The only downside to Atlanta is that it’s currently only slated to air ten episodes. I’m sure its success will bring a second season, but this first season will still end sooner than it has to. The only legal way to catch up on Atlanta is by using FX’s streaming service FX NOW. If you are able to watch it, don’t waste any time and do it now.