Photo: Guy D’Alema/FX
Tonight, Earn spends a Sunday with his family that captures the often Shakespearean emotions and situations that come with being in a large black family. He arrives at his parents’ house to accompany his mother, Gloria; his aunt Jeanie; and his grandfather to church. Basking in the spoils of retirement, Earn’s father Raleigh skips the day of worship, opting instead to find salvation at the mall. On the way to pick up his aunt and grandfather, Earn rides a shotgun after his mother insists on driving, saying her car is too small. Catching up, Gloria tells Earn that she wants to “steal” her father from taking care of her sister Jeanie from her. She claims that in addition to being unfit to care for him, Jeanie refuses to let her see her father. Once in the car and on the way to the restroom, Jeanie asks about Lottie and Van, prudishly asking when she’s going to marry the “beautiful girl” she “left in sin.” Pulling up to the church entrance to let out passengers, Gloria waits for her son and her sister to get out of the car, then drives off with her father in tow.
Forced to attend the service with his aunt, Earn desperately tries to contact his mother. He sneaks into the bathroom and calls his father, hoping to get help on how to handle the situation. Raleigh refuses to help, stating that he has dealt with the family for 30 years and that he is entitled to enjoy the three hours at the mall every Sunday morning before the teenagers show up. This episode, written by Stefani Robinson , resembles many classic multigenerational stories. in black literature, as a raisin in the sun either Go say it on the mountain. There is a clear divide between the different generations, but there is still an underlying understanding that we are all cyclically linked to our families; for Earn, his father is officially passing the baton of manhood to him by forcing him to deal with the situation on his own. After decades of doing his duty as family patriarch, Raleigh is ready to live a carefree life after retirement. He strolls through the nearly empty mall sternly avoiding the pitches of the newsstand vendors. A woman, however, manages to break his routine; she is selling hats and flatters him enough to buy a flashy red fedora with a gold cross embroidered on the side. She even tells him that the hat isn’t technically for sale yet, but that “a special person deserves a special hat.”
With his new hat on his head and the effects of a beautiful woman’s compliments in his ear, Raleigh walks proudly through the mall. For once, he is not someone’s father or husband: the responsibility of his family does not anchor him; he is simply a rejuvenated man who wants to look good and feel loved. It takes so long to try on and buy the hat that he is still in the mall when the after-church crowd begins to fill the building. Trying to get out as fast as he can, he is accosted by a group of teenagers in the food court. One of the more boastful and annoying boys teases him about the hat, sarcastically calling him Prince (“if he never died and became a fat old man n – – – -“) and then asks to take a picture with him. Raleigh tries to ignore him and walk away, but the boy keeps kneeling and begging until he catches the picture and says, “This shit is going to go viral.”
As his father experiences a major blow to his ego, Earn is tasked with handling his grandfather’s “theft” on his own. When he tries to leave the church and leave Jeanie, she stops him at the exit and claims that he knows Gloria took her father. She refuses to leave Earn’s side and follows him into the studio. In the studio, Al is fulfilling a real item on my bucket list by playing UNITED NATIONS with Gunna (release him!) when Earn and Jeanie noisily enter. He immediately orders everyone to get out, including a very respectful Gunna, who says, “Thank you, ma’am,” when Jeanie compliments her earrings. Now alone in the room with her nephews, Jeanie breaks into a self-flagellation routine that she has clearly perfected since childhood. She puts all of her siblings on a conference call, gossiping to the family about her father being kidnapped by Earn’s mother. The rest of the siblings immediately laugh, and we get a cameo from Katt Williams as Uncle Willy and a great line that only Williams could deliver so perfectly: “You can’t kidnap your own father. I don’t have time to explain it to you now, but the word little boy is in it. So mathematically, it’s impossible.”
Jeanie throws herself into playing the victim while her brothers and sisters continue to refuse to take her seriously. She begins by listing past situations in which she felt slighted by her siblings and then, when that doesn’t work, she turns to a tale as old as time: light-skinned self-pity. This is a very specific kind of self-pity unique to lighter-skinned Black people: the kind of self-pity that nine times out of ten ends with “Everyone hates me because of my bright, fair skin.” Jeanie says exactly that, telling her brothers that they are bitter and have been all her life. She stands up in her yellow church outfit as tears stream down her bright yellow face as everyone on the phone and I in my living room burst out laughing, and one sister replies, “Girl, I hate you because you’re mean.” . Jeanie sinks further, saying that the real reason Gloria took her father away is that her father, in her old age, never remembers her. Upset by her sister’s words, Gloria hangs up.
As much as I enjoyed this episode, I felt like it was a missed opportunity to rectify some of the criticism atlanta has received about his portrayal of black women, especially since atlantaIt was written by the only female writer. She yearned for more complexity in Gloria’s story specifically. She sometimes feels like dark-skinned black women continue to take up as little space on the show as possible, and Jeanie’s insinuation that Gloria is the least memorable of the siblings broke my heart. We learned a lot more about Jeanie than Gloria, which is fine if the show doesn’t have a history of leaving out dark-skinned black women. Although examining the privilege and colorism of light skin was carefully crafted and executed, atlanta He refocused on a fair-skinned woman, leaving the darker ones in the background.
Jeanie takes her light skin a step further and calls the police, showing how much her proximity to whiteness has given her privilege and informed her actions. The cops arrive at the studio and ask Earn to call his mom so they can do a wellness check. They ask him if everything is okay and if he knows where he is and who he is with. He responds correctly, saying that he is with Gloria despite Jeanie telling him that she is in danger. As he continues to talk, it is clear that the dementia is really getting to him and he tells the police that they have been in Egypt for two weeks. Gloria abruptly ends the call, avoiding further questions. Like her aunt, Earn and Al also fall back into childish routines as they listen to Jeanie spiral. Sinking into the couch side by side with identical rolling eyes, you can see the ghosts of the young cousins they once were. Jeanie continues haranguing the officers after the wellness check, leaving the cousins at the end of their patience. She gains snaps when Al complains about Jeanie being brought into the studio and tells him that she doesn’t want to end up like her mom and her siblings fighting all the time. He is ready to break the cycle. Upon rescuing his cousin from him, Al asks a studio employee if there is a secret exit. She tells him about the Shmurda outlet, built specifically for Bobby Shmurda when he was recording while he dodged his baby mommies and the FBI. Although it didn’t work for Shmurda, she says it might work for them, as long as they don’t look back. They walk out the door, focused solely on what lies ahead.
• Earn’s family members gather for a meal at the end of the episode after their long days. Gloria realizes that they never received her complimentary bread and insists that the waiter pack something to go. When the waiter doesn’t obey, Earn’s father snaps at him, setting off the day’s irritation. This scene was a moment that reminded me so much of my father and black fathers before him, dealing with a harsh and unfair reality and sometimes misplacing that anger and resentment as they tried to command respect in a world that did not respect them. offered nothing.
• Ending the episode with Gil Scott-Heron’s “Save the Children” was an expert song choice. It perfectly complemented the multi-generational feel of the episode.
• I’ve been missing my girl Zazie Beetz! Fortunately, I got a dose of her over the weekend, as she was a guest on Andy Cohen’s show. See what happens live on Sunday. She talked a bit about atlantaThe series finale of, saying that she is very satisfied with the episode, describing it as a “touching and moving” ending, which makes me very excited.
• Another Beetz highlight WWHL Interview was finding out that she has been trying to convince Donald Glover to do a Christmas special for ten years. I can definitely be behind that.