8 Surprising Moments From "Atlanta" Season 2

by jackstei | last updated - 2 weeks ago

As we enter the last stretch of Season 2 of "Atlanta," take a look back at the most surprising moments from previous episodes. Beware: Spoilers ahead! – Jack Stein

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Donald Glover in Atlanta (2016)

The Drive-Through ("Alligator Man")

The "Robbin' Season" tagline in virtually all promotional materials for "Atlanta" Season 2 was a strong signal that Donald Glover would be committing to robbery as a theme this season. He did not disappoint. The first episode opens not with Earn (Glover) or Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry) but rather with two bored young men playing a video game then casually robbing a drive-through restaurant … with tragic consequences. The drive-through shootout scene, in its tension and brutality, starts the new season off with literal fireworks.

The juxtaposition of casual, couch-bound video gaming with armed robbery is surprising yet purposeful. By highlighting the banal, random nature of robbery and violence, Glover sets the stage for a season where people steal, cheat, and deceive … but not without reason. After all, the holidays are right around the corner. "Robbin' Season" indeed.

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Atlanta (2016)

An Alligator Emerges ("Alligator Man")

The most surprising moments from "Atlanta" aren't always violent or eerie. Sometimes they are just plain funny. Remember Season 1's invisible car? As Earn's uncle Willie (played masterfully by a rejuvenated Katt Williams) prepares to flee his impending arrest, he releases his alligator, which struts out the front door as the Delfonics' "Hey Love" plays. Walk your walk, alligator.

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Brian Tyree and Donald Glover in Atlanta (2016)

New Shoes ("Sportin’ Waves")

Tracy makes shoplifting look too easy, and it provides a guiltily vicarious thrill for those who've never done it. An ever-earnest Earn watches with muted horror as the newly introduced Tracy prepares for a job interview by calmly stealing shoes, noting of the poor floor salesman, "He gotta keep giving me great customer service. That’s all he could do."

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Donald Glover and Zazie Beetz in Atlanta (2016)

Earn & Van’s Strange Weekend ("Helen")

This entire episode is unsettling both visually and emotionally, like being in a funhouse or masquerade ball where you watch two of your friends break up. The creepy masks and forced-smile nature of the Bavarian celebration highlight Earn and Van (Zazie Beetz's) discomfort as they grapple with the end of their relationship. Style points go to Van for beating up a costumed monster to get her phone back. More of Van, please, even if she and Earn really are through.

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Brian Tyree Henry and Robert Powell in Atlanta (2016)

Adventures with Bibby ("Barbershop")

"Atlanta" fans know that Paper Boi isn't here to mess around. However, Bibby, his frenetic barber, is. And it's amazing.

The most surprising part of this episode is how far Glover and the writers are willing to take the central gag: Bibby brings an exasperated Paper Boi with him somewhere for just one more stop before finishing his haircut (left in comically half-finished condition), pulling one over on someone, getting lambasted, and moving on to the next victim. We even meet Bibby's son along the way. By the time Bibby finally wraps up Paper Boi's long-delayed haircut and the odyssey is complete, we're left to contemplate how a con man such as Bibby can still be a somewhat empathetic figure. Paper Boi, who didn't leave a tip, would probably emphatically disagree.

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Donald Glover in Atlanta (2016)

Here’s Teddy! ("Teddy Perkins")

Where were you when you first saw Teddy Perkins? We won't forget the eerie countenance of Teddy as he welcomes a bewildered Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) into his home. Bonus points to Teddy for chowing down on a giant ostrich egg within the first half of the episode; Donald Glover deserves all of the Emmys this year for his work as Teddy.

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Lakeith Stanfield in Atlanta (2016)

Darius' Escape ("Teddy Perkins")

At a certain point in Episode 6 (perhaps after we watch Teddy eat the ostrich egg,) it becomes clear that Darius won't be going home with Teddy's coveted piano; his aim is just to get out alive. Once Darius pays a visit to Teddy's wheelchair-bound brother Benny, who scribbles out a dire warning to Darius, the stakes have become clear. The finale of this episode is genuinely shocking and quite sad, with Teddy unable to outrun his familial demons. Weeks later, it's a scene that "Atlanta" viewers are still unpacking.

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Brian Tyree Henry in Atlanta (2016)

Mo Money, Mo Problems ("Woods")

In Episode 8, the tension between Paper Boi’s burgeoning fame as a rapper and his desire to stay true to his roots reaches its breaking point. In the course of this episode, Paper Boi is visited by an image of his mother, robbed at gunpoint, and followed on a harrowing voyage through the wilderness by a strange man who urges Paper Boi to stop "wasting time." Once Paper Boi emerges from the forest intact, we are left to ponder whether the dreamlike journey is a warning on the perils of fame, or just a temporary obstacle to Paper Boi’s meteoric rise. Either way, it’s a thrilling ride.