Atlanta: “Value” Season 1 Episode 6 Review

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Up to this point, it didn’t seem like Atlanta valued Van all that much compared with the rest of this blossoming cast. It makes me wonder exactly how the idea for “Value” came about. With Donald Glover directing his first episode for the series and sharing a writing credit with Stefani Robinson, the first female writer given writing credit for Atlanta, it seems like the show’s creator wanted to right the ship with Van.

Of the four cast members credited as regulars, Van had the most routine, unimaginative role of the group. What “Value” sets out to do is develop this character while sticking to the themes Atlanta has thus far put forward. So for 22 minutes, we watch Van get in her own way as she tries to keep her life together. But the writers don’t just take another character’s skin and slip it over Van’s. This exploration of this person feels authentic to both what the show has done with Van so far and the show itself.

We start with Van joining an old childhood friend for dinner. Her friend has found success dating star athletes and traveling the world with them for work. There’s a lot of one-sided bragging that we clearly see get under Van’s skin before she says anything. But then she treats her friend with the same forgiving animosity she does Earn. Van has some attachment or loyalty to her friend, which is how she ends up smoking weed with her in the car.

And just how Earn only makes Van’s life more difficult, it turns out she has a drug test the following day at work. Though there’s an argument to be had for Van letting these people get in her way. We see Van call Alfred to ask about getting weed out of her system, showing her in a place she never really wanted to get to. But Atlanta differentiates Van from the rest of the characters by making her not used to these sort of shenanigans. She’s still entirely competent here, as she is in most aspects of her life that we’ve seen, but she lacks that sense of defeat in Earn’s voice every time he has to call someone for help.

Still, “Value” doesn’t end well for Van. She confesses to her boss that she smokes weed, only to be told that the test isn’t even checked and that it’s just to keep the staff on their toes. She’s then fired for saying it out loud. Now Van is as low as the rest of the characters and that’s something I can’t wait to see play out. So while this episode didn’t exactly revolutionize Van, it did strengthen her depth. Atlanta feels less like it has a weak link now. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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