Atlanta: “The Club” Season 1 Episode 8 Review

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In “The Club,” Atlanta perfected itself. This episode was the most genuine marriage of the show’s comfortable sense of humor, uncomfortable setting, and surrealism. Here, these elements, all of which contribute to Atlanta‘s greatness, not only supported each other, but pushed each other forward. Everything the show is trying to be just snapped into place this week.

It’s a classic comedy set-up that Girls also perfected in its first season (see that show’s seminal “Welcome to Bushwick a.k.a. The Crackcident”), not to mention Broad City at least twice per season. The main characters all go to a routine social outing only to get separated and embark on their own misadventures. What’s remarkable about “The Club” is how each character’s individual storyline complimented everything we know about them and then later strung them together with a perfect ending.

Earn has booked Paper Boi an appearance at a club for $5,000. Earn spends the episode trying to get paid, while Alfred is naturally somehow unsatisfied with his VIP status at the club and the free booze that comes with it (even if rosé is most definitely “some Spongebob shit”). Then there’s Darius, who just gets to be Darius for our pleasure.

After taking a backseat for two straight weeks, Earn’s storyline is appropriately the one with the most heft. In trying to get paid, the club owner keeps having Earn follow him through the crowded club. Initially, the punchline seems to simply be “clubs are crowded and this happens all the time.” The execution was fun and relatable. But the joke hilariously evolves when, with Earn’s back turned, the club owner disappears behind a rotating wall right out of Scooby Doo. It’s a perfect moment of absurdist humor, the likes of which Atlanta has delicately made work within its very specific yet open-ended tone. Earn ends up getting drunk by the bartender’s hand, who eventually pities him enough to share the secret entrance to the owner’s office. That’s when the owner finally just hands Earn $750, claiming Paper Boi drank too much and was supposed to perform.

Meanwhile, Alfred sits pretty in his VIP section just trying to have fun with the female clientele of the club. But another, more famous celebrity at the club steps on his toes and buys the whole bar only to leave minutes later, forcing the bar to close (another punchline perfectly landed by Atlanta‘s heightened reality). Of course, as the lights go up, the woman that was giving Paper Boi all her attention reveals she has a boyfriend. Now he’s mad, which means its a perfect time for Earn to come up and tell his cousin that they were shorted over $4,000.

The climax is perfect, as Alfred gives up on his persona to rough up the owner and get his rightful payout. I loved how this indicated to the owner after the fact that Paper Boi might actually make it in this crazy business.

The shootout in the parking lot as Earn and Alfred celebrated their victory, followed by their continued celebrations in the diner, was a nice callback to the opening scene of the series, where Alfred shot someone in a parking lot. The mirror is on purpose, naturally, as they see on TV that Paper Boi is wrongfully wanted for questioning concerning the shooting outside the club. We see how one event can spark another that they have no involvement in simply because of their reputation and the reputation of their community. It’s a more solemn note to end on, but one that sets up some major character growth to come for the final two episodes of the season.

But before that, “The Club” was as perfect as Atlanta can be at this point. These wonderfully drawn characters experience a routine night at the club in relatably absurd ways. The familiar format here to other comedies did little damage thanks to Atlanta‘s unique tone and sense of humor. Girls and Broad City have done this episode before, but the sign that Atlanta is as strong of a comedy as those shows is that its version stands out a something that could only be made for itself. Grade: A

Some Other Notes:

  • Earn’s “Keep on keepin’ on” t-shirt recurs so frequently that he might as well be a cartoon character.
  • The ever selfless Darius makes really creepy looks at women in the club just so they’ll pay more attention to Alfred.
  • Darius: “You ever have to throw out another bouncer?”
    Bouncer: “Yes.”
    Darius: “How was it?”
    Bouncer: “Hard.”
  • I’m a sucker for a good surprise vomit gag, so Earn’s moment in the owner’s office got me. Though I loved even more how it was never brought up again.
  • When Darius is denied re-entrance to the VIP area, he goes home, pours himself some Froot Loops, and plays Zoo Tycoon. There honestly might not be a better comedic sidekick character on TV right now.

By Matt Dougherty

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