Earn, Darius and Paper Boi are all living between a rock and a hard place, reminding us of the importance of family ties as well as its scars.
Atlanta’s “Robbin’ Season” premiere landed in our laps Thursday (March 1) with a bang–literally. Two youths (one being a fan of Young Bans) discover a chicken spot’s order 17 is code for their green treats, giving them the perfect opportunity to stick up the place. Instead of a clean getaway, the teens are met with a manager carrying major heat and a very annoyed look. It allows Tay-K’s “The Race” to creep up as smooth as the manager’s semi-automatic. The opener may have seemed like an off subplot, but it gives us a hint of just one of the ways the series will play out its “Robbin’ Season” theme.
Resident comic, but insightful gem Darius (Lakeith Stanfield) tells Earn (Donald Glover), “[It’s] robbin’ season. Christmas approaches and everybody gotta eat.” It’s true. We all have to fulfill our physical, emotional and mental state, but the way we go about it could teach us lessons in humility.
Earn is on his way to learning this. Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry), while on house arrest, has more jams lighting up the city. He has a decent crib with plenty of beds for his girl
Regina Tara and homie fresh out of jail, but his cousin-manager is still homeless. Earn feels more disconnected from his family than ever, especially after discovering Darius and Paper Boi aren’t on speaking terms.
He’s also slightly disconnected from social constructs. He doesn’t know about Florida Man, who Darius describes as “a ploy by the government to keep black people from moving to Florida and/or stop registering to vote in Florida.” Florida Man is, of course, a play on the very bizarre crimes coming out of the state, especially between 2012 and 2016. There’s even a Twitter handle dedicated to it.
He’s also unaware of how similar he is to his uncle Willie, played effortlessly by Katt Williams. After his trip to see his parole officer (stemming from his Mary Jane incident in the first season), he and Darius take a trip to see Willie, a.k.a. “Alligator Man,” who’s having a lovers’ quarrel with his partner and possible $50-stealer, Yvonne.
R&B classics like Breakwater’s “No Limit” and René and Angela’s “I’ll Be Good” seep through the “intense jail” vibes of the crib, especially when the police arrive. But it’s not Willie’s love life or Coach, his alligator locked in a room Earn should be worried about. Although it’s what he was sent to handle by Paper Boi (Willie is his father), Earn gets to tell Willie how he really feels about him. “What I’m scared of is being you,” Earn says as the cops are considering coming into the house. “Someone everybody knew was smart. But ended up being a know-it-all, f**k up that just let s**t happen to him.”
People hold the same faith in Earn. His reliable awkwardness and timely words of common sense have allowed him to be put on a pedestal by his friends. He was able to make it to Princeton, making everyone else believe his journey will transport him to aerial heights. As we see, he’s quickly reminded by Willie to be honest in his truth. “If you don’t wanna end up like me, get rid of that ‘chip on your shoulder’ s**t. It’s not worth the time,” Willie tells him. Outside of the Atlanta ethos, it’s poignant advice Willie lends to Earn. Williams learned it first hand through his own tumultuous career.
Earn is left with a gold-plated handgun and a heavy heart. Curtis Mayfield’s “When The Seasons Change” is the show’s closer, bearing the lyrics, “Can’t call no names when you got your own self to blame” and “Don’t you know if you want a good life best look into yourself, ’cause the world is cold and everybody’s bold, and there’s no one else.”
By the end of the episode, Darius and Paper Boi are back on speaking terms, Willie on the run from the police and Earn is yet again, alone in his hard truth.