Atlanta: “The Jacket” Season 1 Finale Review

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The linearity of Atlanta‘s first season, as completed in “The Jacket,” is simply one of the loveliest emotional arcs in this year of television. This small, simple, quiet entry wasn’t the flashiest or deepest of the season, but it proved that Donald Glover’s thesis behind the series isn’t rooted in politics or even the next jokes. Atlanta, first and foremost, is a show about genuine people. Sure, their world isn’t as genuine as ours, unless the city of Atlanta has some holiday I never heard of where everyone dresses like a cow, but that only reinforces the very real emotions portrayed on screen.

Take the scene toward the end here where Van casually says to Earn that he’s “a good daddy.” Earn pauses before turning toward her as if just to look at her without mustering up any verbal reinforcement from her. He knows she meant it, but it took him by surprise, likely because he doesn’t totally believe it himself. Glover communicates all of this to us in a matter of seconds without saying a word. It’s a beautiful moment of realization of self-worth, a microscopic moment that sticks with you, as the receiver, forever. Atlanta is a better show for its ambitious social commentary, like we saw in “B.A.N.” and “Juneteenth.” It’s a more entertaining show for all of Darius’ off-kilter dialogue, like when he says in this episode that cameras suck out your soul. But those are secondary to its characters, which is what ascends this low-budget comedy to the next level of greatness.

“The Jacket” is filled with moments like this for the whole cast. Earn lightly shoving Darius when he rags on him for losing his jacket. Alfred’s restrained “thank you,” so as to not get too emotional. Every second of their hilarious Snapchat story. The super downplayed moment where they find out Paper Boi has been asked to join a bigger rapper’s tour. That last, extended look Earn takes at Van before walking back to the storage unit we find out he calls home. Moments like this could only hit as powerfully as they do in an episode about something as simple as Earn looking for his jacket. The only really big moment of the finale is the shootout in the neighborhood, which pulls a couple of Atlanta‘s favorite tricks to get some uncomfortable, though totally genuine, laughs out of its audience.

This isn’t a perfect finale, as the first couple scenes where Earn begins his quest for his jacket alone do little to excite. But the episode just gets better and better the more characters get brought into the fold. “The Jacket” isn’t the best episode of the season, but it is one hell of a note to end the season on. Instead of big story developments, we get intimate character moments that just slightly push us forward. Who would want things to move too quickly anyway? Personally, I’m hoping Atlanta will be on for years to come. Until the already confirmed second season, however, this finale showed me why I’m going to miss these characters. That need to come back and spend more time with them is what makes Atlanta an early contender for an all-time great. Finale Grade: A- / Season Grade: A-

Some Other Notes:

  • Really though, what was with the cows?
  • In the scene where Earn is on the phone with the Uber driver, go back and listen to the hysterical conversation Alfred and Darius have about sushi.
  • Thanks for reading along all season folks. I’ve loved covering this show more than any other this fall and I can’t wait to do it again for season two. So come back next year for our weekly reviews!

By Matt Dougherty

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