Atlanta is a city located in Georgia, and is the capital of the Peach State. It’s also arguably the best new show on television, brought to you by entertainment’s Swiss army knife, Donald Glover.
Just nine episodes in, the FX show is looking more and more like the next program that everyone will reference in their Tinder bio as, “Swipe left if you don’t watch (insert show here).” The show feels so piercingly real, and not without reason. Its main characters, up-and-coming Atlanta rapper Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) and his cousin, Princeton drop-out, manager and struggling new father, Earnest “Earn” Marks (Glover), fill societal roles in which Glover himself has experienced first hand.
Glover was raised in Stone Mountain, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb. Like Earn, he attended a top-flight university — NYU. Like Paper Boi, Glover is an emcee, his Childish Gambino moniker a result of the same Wu-Tang Clan rap name generator site that turned my name of Cameron Neimand into “Lazy-assed Magician.” And, also like Earn, Glover recently entered the terrifying and rewarding world of fatherhood.
Glover’s baby is with his current girlfriend, and, in Atlanta, Earnest’s partner in parenthood is his maybe-girlfriend, Van (Zazie Beetz), an amazing, intelligent woman doing just about anything and everything to provide for their daughter. She does not have the money and Instagram-friendly lifestyle of her professional athlete-dating friends, but as a mother, Van is thankfully content with having a purpose. Her relationship with Earn, never stable and oft-tumultuous, is an all too familiar situation for youthful minority parents looking to establish a family in a world set for their failure.
For Earn, the opportunity to create a comfortable life for Van and their daughter comes through his cousin Paper Boi, a local rapper and drug-dealer receiving enough radio buzz to milk a career out of music. Educated with a Princeton experience that brought him outside of his Atlanta origins, Earn looks to bring Paper Boi’s career to a brand-new monetary level and provide a bump to their respective tax brackets.
Paper Boi is a trap rapper with street smarts and a warm heart. A la 2 Chainz and his live television schooling of enemy to marijuana Nancy Grace, Paper Boi goes on a hilariously fictional news talk show called “Montague” and is faced with a barrage of anti-feminist criticism from a hyperbolized female pundit. By the show’s end, Paper Boi and his former feminist enemy are cordial friends joined through empathy, leaving the host, Montague, at a beautifully frustrated loss for words.
In just one scene, Paper Boi effortlessly proves an always forgotten point. Rappers, despite the stereotypical associations of jewelry, crime and clubbing, are simply people.
Atlanta‘s season one finale airs Nov. 1 on FX, and, unless Glover and company come up with some Hamlet-esque ending where every character dies, the show’s first season will be viewed as a unanimous success. Already renewed for a second season, Atlanta is not just another notch on Glover’s belt of creative endeavors, but an accurate and important tale of survival.