A review of this week Atlanta“Light Skinned-ed”, coming as soon as I take the Shmurda exit…
Earn’s parents, Riley (Isaiah Whitlock Jr.) and Gloria (Myra Lucretia Taylor), appear briefly in the series premiere, mainly to establish that Earn is on bad terms with them due to his post-Princeton spiral. and the sins he committed out of financial desperation. We see Gloria again in season two’s “FUBU” flashbacks, but that’s it for Mr. and Mrs. Marks before this week. Television has conditioned us to expect that if Whitlock and Taylor return, it will be for an episode about Earn reconciling with his parents. But we know that Atlanta was never interested in living up to expectations or following the obvious paths of history. (See also Paper Boi’s career development almost entirely out of frame.)
So when we reunite with Riley and Gloria in “Light Skinned-ed,” Earn is not only back in their good graces, but apparently for quite some time. Instead, the episode (written by Stefani Robinson and directed by Hiro Murai) is about Riley and Gloria’s relationship with time, not their son. Donald Glover and Brian Tyree Henry have fun reacting to the madness between Gloria and their Aunt Jeanie (Michole Briana White), but the episode isn’t really about Earn and Al
It’s not Van or Darius in any way. This is the third episode in a row without Zazie Beetz. LaKeith Stanfield is also absent and barely appeared in the previous two after the first was a pure set piece for the four regulars. Either the show isn’t trying to force characters into episodes where they’re useless, or it continues to work around the busy schedules of its stars.
Whitlock as Riley
So what “Light Skinned-ed” offers us is a pair of intertwined stories about aging, and the compromises and regrets that come in your later years. In one story, Earn’s seemingly routine trip to church with Gloria, Jeanie, and her senile grandfather (Bob Banks) takes a pear shape when Gloria abruptly leaves with her father, leaving behind Earn and a Perplexed Jeanie, who has recently been their father’s daughter. caretaker. In the other, Riley attempts to enjoy the highlight of her post-retreat week: three hours in a largely empty mall before the church breaks free and the mall fills with children. loud and disrespectful.
Both storylines are played mostly for comedy, particularly once Jeanie invades Al’s recording studio (interrupting Al’s Uno game with Gunna) to interrogate her nephews about Gloria and the location. where is his father.
. Eventually, she sets up a family conference call with her sister Pearl (Teresa L. Graves), Katt Williams’ Uncle Willy, who we last saw after his alligator came out in the Season 2 premiere. and Gloria, who remains silent on the line. All of Jeanie’s old grievances come out, including her belief that her siblings resent her being fair-skinned. When Willy and Pearl laugh at this argument, a mortified Jeanie suggests that Gloria carried out this de facto kidnapping out of guilt that their father forgot who Gloria is. Gloria’s reaction suggests there may be some truth to this theory, but it’s mostly cruel, supporting Pearl’s claim that others hate Jeanie simply because she’s evil. Jeanie eventually summons a pair of Atlanta cops, who order Earn to call Gloria on the phone. Grandpa surprisingly remembers Gloria’s name and insists that he is fine. He also thinks he’s in Egypt, but the cops ignore this, leaving an outraged Jeanie to basically demand to speak to their manager.
Brian Tyree Henry’s delivery of “Don’t Call the Cops, Please,” is a thing of minimalist comedic genius. At some point, I hope he and Nick Offerman cross professional paths, if only so we can see which of them can more effectively underplay and/or scow in disgust.
Riley’s subplot is relatively low-key at first. He’s a man who’s lived a long and full life (note the advice he gives to what looks like a former colleague when he arrives at the mall), just looking for a pocket of peace where he can find it. get, even if the rest of his family is in crisis. But being the only customer in a mall also has its dangers, like being the obvious mark of attractive hat-kiosk saleswoman Lisa (Tatiana Neva). Riley tries to walk away, but he can’t resist the compliments of a young, beautiful woman. Before he knows it, he’s spent so much time trying on hats — and buying a vintage-looking one — that his entire window of silence has closed. The mall has been overrun with young people, many of whom find this old man in his prince-looking hat the most ridiculous thing they’ve seen in a minute. He wants to walk away, wants to ignore, but his main teaser (Kelvin Hodge) won’t let go until they snap a photo for Instagram, ending Riley’s morning on a thoroughly humbling note. Once he would have stood up to this kid – and, maybe before that, he might have been the one laughing at the old man walking past him – but now he just feels helpless, the joy he took in ruined hat. Finally, our stories converge with Riley joining Gloria, Grandpa, Earn, and Al for dinner at a restaurant. Everyone is a bit frazzled by their day so far, and Gloria and Riley both use the lack of bread with dinner as a substitute for their desire to assert more control in other corners of their lives. The poor waiter has no idea Riley is verbally unloading on him in a way he couldn’t with the mall bully. And it all builds to the punchline of Grandpa being emotionally present again when Riley proposes that they go to Redbox and get a movie they can all watch together. Interestingly, all four episodes so far this season have brought their various subplots together at the end, whereas in past seasons an Al plotline might exist entirely separate from what Darius or Earn are doing. It might also have to do with cast availability — if you have certain people for an episode, you might as well find a way to get them together before you’re done — if that’s not just a coincidence. Or maybe Robinson, Murai and everyone else is getting ready to say goodbye to this show, they not only want to bring back actors like Whitlock and Taylor for some well-deserved and fun curtain calls, but to illustrate just how much the Everyone’s life here is linked to everyone else. else. At the start of the series, Earn was homeless, barred from entering his parents’ house, and a long-absent figure in his cousin’s life. Whatever issues and trauma these characters have endured over three more seasons, they are no longer loners. Al and Earn are family. As we are reminded here, the family does not always get along, and its members may go for years without speaking to each other, but they will never cease to be linked to each other. The season also spent a lot of time talking about the transience of it all. Al knows he’s already stepping out of the air, and Earn’s management career is taking him elsewhere, geographically and emotionally. Maybe a revival season decades later would show that the cousins have split up again and can’t even stand being in the same room together. Or, it could just show Al as the guy shaking his head in dismay when his alone time is invaded by obnoxious kids. Father Time is undefeated, after all, even in an episode where Aunt Jeanie is outmaneuvered at every turn.