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FX's Atlanta Has More Waves of Brilliance in Final Season

“Being Black is valuable.” 

Of the amalgam of Black-led film and television projects of the last 10 years, Donald Glover’s “Atlanta” has cemented itself as one of the most singular, iconic contributions to the culture. Continually keeping its finger on the pulse of Black identity and the state of America, no other show has delivered the level of creative commentary that “Atlanta” has. All the while, each episode exists under a masterfully woven veil of comedy. 

Season three saw the show’s core characters, Earn (Donald Glover), Alfred  (Brian Tyree Henry), Darius (Lakeith Stanfield), and Van (Zazie Beetz) confronting the overwhelming whiteness and othering in the Netherlands. But for this fourth and final season, they’ve returned to the show’s core, Atlanta. Last season opted for a more concrete anthological format; this time around, the series establishes more continuity between its various vignettes. 

The premiere, titled “The Most Atlanta” wastes no time in its initial moments, opening with a Target overcome with looters. Darius, there only to return an air fryer he no longer desires after “realizing [he] has an oven,” is unable to fulfill his refund amidst the chaos, and is forced to walk back out with the appliance. Mistaken for one of the looters, we’re reminded of an infamous moment from Summer 2020, and here a woman in a wheelchair begins pursuing Darius with a knife. She follows him out of the store and around the city, as he spends the entirety of the episode trying to escape her.  

Meanwhile, Alfred, stuck in traffic, learns of the death of rapper “Blue Blood.” Listening to his posthumous album, he begins to realize that the lyrics contain a scavenger hunt around Atlanta. Earn and Vanessa, however, running an errand at the mall, find themselves in a purgatory of former lovers, some of which have been caught in the inescapable loop of the shopping center since “Now You See Me 2 [was in theaters.]” 

This introductory episode is effective in relocating the series back to its home city. As each character is on their mission—Darius, Earn, and Van set on escaping as Alfred pursues discovery—we are transported throughout the streets of Atlanta. It makes a poignant declaration about the inescapability and interconnectedness of Black relationships. 

“The Most Atlanta” touches on this statement by juxtaposing past relationships with ones in limbo, and by analyzing the pathos between Black musicians and their audiences and the flippancy of white racism. It synthesizes love, violence, and confusion into an expert investigation of what motivates the pursuits of Black people.

The show’s cinematography remains simple throughout the season, with steady camera movements and long takes allowing the outstanding performances to steer the scenes. Yet, among the expected amount of absurdist comedy, there are true moments of emotional impact regarding stigmatized aspects of Black life. The inherent nature of spite as a part of the Black experience, the traditional anti-therapy sentiment, the shorter life span of careers, and whether or not a price tag can be put on the exchange of culture are just a few topics dissected early on. 

The afrosurrealism that has been crafted over the past three seasons of “Atlanta” continues to pump through the show’s bloodline in this final chapter. Glover has curated his own universe. The meticulousness with which current events are applied with a discernible, yet ever so slight, distance from the laws of our natural and social world is profoundly effective. 

Season four of “Atlanta” continues to tailor the widespread shared existence of Black Americans to Glover’s own corner of the uncanny valley. It’s masterful at taking tangible, conspicuous culture and emboldening the value of it; such hyper-visibility and crafting of the real into the surreal-but-undeniable is what’s cementing the legacy of the series. And in this concluding season of “Atlanta,” we can expect the waves of brilliance that have driven the show thus far to conclude with tsunami-like proportions of intellect and imagination.

First three episodes screened for review. The final season of "Atlanta" premieres on FX on September 15 with two episodes. 

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