There was a lot of anticipation leading up to Thursday night’s Atlanta.
In a series of episodes that centered around each of the show’s main characters, this week it was time for eccentric mumbler Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) to take the main stage.
The episode was already touted to be a game-changer since it was set at 41 minutes-long and would be airing without commercials on FX.
On Twitter, director Steven Soderbergh said, “Tonight’s episode of ATLANTA is the most beautifully photographed half hour of TV I’ve ever seen. In addition to being COMPLETELY BANANAS.”
Critics (who didn’t even get the chance to have advance access to the episode) have already begun to denote the episode as one of the best, if not the best episode of the series so far.
So let’s break it down… (and the spoilers begin here):
The Darius-centered episode sees him visiting a mansion to pick up a piano he saw for free online, being given away by a man named Theodore Perkins, aka Teddy, who many people have concluded is Donald Glover (although this has yet to be confirmed).
The piano was owned by Teddy’s brother, Benny Hope, a ’60s/70s-era musician. We learn that Teddy and Benny were abused by their father and that Teddy and Benny….could possibly be the same person? All of these were elements in what seemingly was a psychological thriller of a 41-minute episode, possibly an Atlanta version of American Horror Story… or perhaps even Get Out?
While many point to Michael Jackson being an inspiration for the Teddy character, there was also a lot of connections to other entertainers with abusive childhoods and parents. In the mansion, Teddy has a room dedicated to his father and “all the fathers who pushed their children” — Joe Jackson, Richard Williams and more. It also references black people in the limelight who have lightened their skin. Sammy Sosa was brought up in a scene of this episode, that at one point ventured off from the Teddy storyline and showed Al (Brian Tyree Henry), Earn (Donald Glover) and Tracey (Khris Harris) picking up food. This same scene also has a lot of camera work — that many could insinuate meant that Glover is actually Teddy. Later in the episode, Darius ventures off in the basement and finds a man with his face covered, wearing sunglasses, in a wheelchair. The man writes on a chalkboard that Teddy is going to kill them both. We are not sure if this is the real Benny, or if this is Teddy and Benny’s father.
After venturing all throughout the house and picking up weird vibes, the episode ups the ante when Darius suddenly faces a life-or-death situation with Teddy, who says he has chosen Darius as a “sacrifice” to set-up for his murder and will make it look like Darius robbed him. Right before Darius meets his end, the man from the basement shoots Teddy and then himself. The authorities come, taking out the bodies as Darius looks back and drives off in the U-Haul truck he arrived in to pick up the piano. Staying with Season 2’s theme of Robbin Season, was Darius robbed of his sanity here? Was this the fatal conclusion of what Teddy and Benny’s father robbed them of? We can have conclusions for days.
“Teddy Perkins” will probably go down as one of the most bizarre, yet brilliant episodes in television, period, with amazing writing (from Glover), stirring performances from Glover (if he is in fact Teddy) and Stanfield, who in one marvelous mini-monologue from the episode told Perkins:: “Not all great things come from great pain. Sometimes it’s love. Not everything is a sacrifice. Your dad should’ve said sorry. It’s not an excuse to repeat the same shit over and over.”
Also, the direction from Hiro Murai here was incredible with amazing shots during every each minute of the insanity, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats with each moment slowly building to the climactic shootings.
Atlanta is on one this season.
The series airs Thursdays on FX.