Atlanta: “The Streisand Effect” Season 1 Episode 4 Review

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“The Streisand Effect” is the episode you get when you’re show really starts to click into place. Atlanta‘s fourth entry is the best we’ve gotten yet simply by doing what this show has been doing well since the beginning and letting the characters just be themselves.

The situational humor in Atlanta is dark, something the actors perfectly play up when reacting to the show’s over-the-top guest stars. We got the best example of this so far in “The Streisand Effect” with Paper Boi’s half of the episode. Having found an Internet troll targeting Paper Boi in his social media posts, Alfred talks big game in taking this guy down. But upon finding him, he’s just a pizza delivery man exploiting his ridiculous surroundings for a quick buck and a few minutes in the spotlight. His business partner is a six-year-old boy with an excessively foul potty mouth. The scene where Paper Boi accompanies the guy on a delivery, intending to rough him up verbally or otherwise, is probably the single best scene of Atlanta yet. The buy doesn’t turn out to be the delivery man’s son, just another subject of the brief sense of fame he achieves when he posts a video online. We learn this first through a long, continuous bleep over the kid’s dialogue, to which the inherently sweet Paper Boi can only reply muttering “Put your seatbelt on…” under his breath. Brian Tyree Henry delivers the line with a hint of parental protection that even seems to sneak up on him in the moment. This dry sweetness is what makes Paper Boi such a likable and unique character in television right now.

Now, Paper Boi’s half of the episode never intersects with the one shared by Earn and Darius, but they do have enough in common to make the episode feel like a cohesive whole. There’s a sweetness to their half of the episode too. Earn has to trade his phone in at a local pawn shop to make some money for himself and his makeshift family. But Darius convinces him to trade it for a sword, which he says will make them more money. Earn agrees, of course. Oddly enough, this character pairing is maybe the best on the show so far, even though they’re some of the least connected characters of the main four. Earn’s impulsive quest for instant gratification meshes perfectly with Darius’ wide-eyed, borderline idiotic view of the world. It’s not a huge leap for Darius to convince Earn to forego his responsibilities for a samurai sword, and it makes for great comedy. It’s also the type of comedy that so smartly builds on itself. Darius seemingly goes to sell the sword, but comes back with a dog. “One more stop,” he explains to Earn, who goes along with his arms folded but not really trying to fight the situation at all.

The final stop brings them to a dog breeder, who will likely make them $2,000-4,000 once the puppies are sold, which Darius estimates to be September. Earn goes on a rant about poverty and having to eat today, not in September, but Darius points out how unspecific Earn was in his wording. Even though it backfired, Darius took Earn around all day with only the intention of helping him. Better yet, when Earn gets upset, Darius doesn’t even bat an eye before handing him his phone to trade in. “We friends now,” he says before nonchalantly getting back in the car. It’s a quiet, beautiful moment between two people who truly have very little and one helps out the other.

Paired with how Paper Boi just gave up on beating his Internet harasser, Atlanta just rounded out these three characters into full-fledged human beings with complex emotions and interests. “The Streisand Effect” is Atlanta‘s best episode so far for it. Grade: A-

Some Other Notes:

  • The conclusion of Paper Boi’s story was perfect. “Open the f**king door!” the kid shouts as his “business partner” films him on his phone. All Paper Boi can do is walk away without saying a word.
  • Earn’s “Keep On Keepin’ On” t-shirt is just ironic enough that I sort of want to punch him. The fact that he’d probably say he had it coming is what makes me love him. Atlanta has done an impeccable job defining it’s male characters so far.
  • Let’s do some legitimate work on Van soon though.
  • That final shot of Earn basking in the hot afternoon sun contemplating the genuine act of kindness he received was really lovely.

By Matt Dougherty

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