Atlanta: “Nobody Beats the Biebs” Season 1 Episode 5 Review

Photo Credit:

Atlanta got downright playful in its fifth episode. The show has thus far dabbled in surrealist humor while putting its deeper themes in the forefront. For “Nobody Beats the Biebs,” the show gets to have its cake and eat it too.

It was a busy entry, where the three main characters all had their separate mini-adventures. Earn and Alfred attend a local charity basketball game. Earn works behind the scenes to potentially further his career along when another attendee mistakes him for an old colleague. Alfred, meanwhile, has to save his public face by playing nice with the other celebrities in the game, which includes a fun racial recast of the one and only Justin Bieber. These separate pieces work well together because Earn and Alfred can’t keep their facades up for very long.

That said, they both initially seem to fit in. Earn scores some business cards from other guests while Alfred scores points against the Biebs. This what their lives could be, but classic character faults prevent them from getting there. Earn’s white lie to get into the event backfires on him when the person who mistook him for a colleague turns out to hate her old colleague and ensures that she’ll see Earn “die homeless.” On the court, Alfred can’t control his temper and eventually just tackles Bieber. Both of these blow-ups are hilarious and perfectly built to. They also show how far these two still have to go in their career quest.

Then there’s Darius, who just wants to go to the shooting range and have some fun. As the C-plot in an already wacky episode, these scenes oddly fit right in despite having nothing to do with the rest of the episode. Atlanta exaggerates his racial profiling just enough that you can laugh at it. Then he shoots a dog paper instead of a human paper, which freaks all the white people at the shooting range out. Darius innocently responds that he doesn’t want to shoot people, and eventually gets back up from two Latino guys who seem to want to start a revolution. Innocently, Darius says he doesn’t want to do that either. Then he’s escorted out of the shop at gun point, barely even bewildered that his all happened. It plays like a perfect Key & Peele sketch just thrown into an episode of Atlanta. This type of thing shouldn’t work, but Donald Glover still gets to bring his audience anywhere he likes before the show settles into a groove. Having a fun pit-stop like this opens up the realm of possibilities for this series.

Very similar to calling a young black actor “Justin Bieber” does. How would the media respond to Bieber if he were black? That’s a question Atlanta doesn’t want or need to answer, but it smartly places the idea in our minds and just acts as if it were true. This sort of playfulness makes “Nobody Beats the Biebs” another winning entry for this young series that, as it continues to define itself, continues to get better. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *