Atlanta: “Go for Broke” Season 1 Episode 3 Review

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Atlanta‘s world gets a little bit richer in the show’s third outing, even if Earn’s bank account is dry as a bone. “Go for Broke” is a relatively simple outing, not quite boasting the relevance or smart character introspection of the two-part premiere, but still matching it with clever comedy and genuine sweetness. That is to say, the show’s freshness is here to stay, even when not a whole lot is going on.

The four main characters are bisected into two deliberately juxtaposed narratives that have to do with money troubles. Earn hopes to take Van out on a date while on a serious budget. Meanwhile, Paper Boi and Darius have to exchange some cash with some shady other local rappers (guest stars Migo). Both nights naturally don’t end where the characters expect, but converge at just the right moment in a way that is both hilarious and incredibly tense. That’s where Atlanta‘s fresh sense of humor comes in. The show isn’t breaking new ground in its comedic tactics, but the situations its applying them to. Two dopey characters in over their heads with some potentially dangerous people is a branch of comedy we’ve seen countless times before. But here, Paper Boi and Darius watching as the lead member of Migo shoots a man he’s been holding for days as he runs away has a certain edge to it. This is a heightened version with well-used cliches of what actually happens in parts of this community. Because Atlanta is grounded in some loose realism, and also acts as a surrogate for audiences that know nothing about Atlanta’s poorer sections, this extended joke is breathed new life. It also helps that Brian Tyree Henry and Keith Stanfield sport the perfectly subdued expressions to keep things grounded, but also hilarious.

Meanwhile, Van refuses Earn’s cheaper options for their date and they end up at a nicer restaurant. Their excitable waitress keeps expensive entrees and drinks on Van while Earn watches in horror as his entire paycheck seemingly disappears in one long bite. Van is still too much of the straight player to everyone else’s kookiness to really be interesting, but the show has certainly justified enough why Earn would need that in his life. Their conversations at dinner and afterward all don’t go well, mostly because of Earn’s weak attempts at being their for his daughter. It’s sad to hear him so sincere as he promises he’s going to work it out and work it out his way through a slammed door. Van only opens the door and talks to him again because she hears that sincerity in his voice. She recognizes that for all his failures, Earn is still an inherently good person. She still yells at him and calls him stupid anyway, and rightfully so. The fact is, Earn’s way might not be the best way for their daughter to have the life she deserves. Van deserves to be angry about that and fight him on his shortcomings. For all this complication and potential to grow, Atlanta continues to point toward being a sustainable series.

I do hope next week that Earn gets back to hanging out with his cousin and Darius. Atlanta doesn’t necessarily need to be most plot-heavy show, but “Go for Broke” was pushing how little can actually happen or change in an episode. It’s excusable because the show is still so new and every other piece of it is clicking beautifully. If the show builds its narrative arc out in the next few episodes, Atlanta will graduate from a good series with serious potential to the great one the talent behind it is striving for. Grade: B+

Some Other Notes:

  • I loved the scene with Paper Boi and Darius confidently cleaning their guns talking about mundane crap. It made the moment where the rug is pulled out from under them and the guy falls out of that trailer so perfect. More than anything, Atlanta knows how to build to its big jokes.
  • The opening scene in the fast food restaurant felt like a bit out of Louie or Master of None in all the right ways.
  • The bartender’s response to Earn asking, “How much is market price?” was a brilliant moment of slight surrealism.
  • But the best joke of the episode was how the shady guy who watches everyone’s cars circled back and pulled a white guy in a suit out of the nice restaurant because his car was getting towed.

By Matt Dougherty

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