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  • Writer's pictureAlex Orona

Atlanta's Final Season Makes It All About The Culture

The final season of Atlanta had a lot to answer for since the show had initially aired in 2016. From its humble tale of a struggling Earn, trying to come up for his family, to its controversial third season filled with interstitial one off storylines; we’ve traveled all around the world with this show. Donald Glover and associates have found a way to tell a cohesive story that is a mix of Sopranos, Chi-raq and Twin Peaks. It is an unheard of amalgamation but it’s been an arguably successful run throughout, so how did the final season pan out for our gang of globetrotting troublemakers? The answer is that it is one of the best written and executed final seasons of a show that I’ve ever seen.

Atlanta has always followed the adventures of Earn (Donald Glover,) Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry,) Darius (LaKeith Stanfield,) and Van (Zazie Beetz,) in their journey of personal growth and global success. Starting with Earn, down on his luck, teaming up with his underground rap star cousin Alfred, there have been twists and turns, and we, the audience, have always been there for their successes and failures. Darius playing the Kramer style friend, plus Van, Earns’ baby mama, everyone has come into their own as characters.

Earn and Alfred have successfully grown into superstars in their own right, Earn now a successful manager and Alfred attempting to figure out what’s next as his stardom may fade sooner than he would like. Van has become more than just a “baby mama,” with her own badass adventures including being an actress. Darius, is just, more of Darius which is never a bad thing. This season sees our characters reassess their relationships, discarding the superficial for more meaningful connections. Van and Earn finally pin down where they stand with each other, which has always been up in the air since episode one. In one of the more touching and down to earth episodes, we see a classic camping trip for Van, Earn and their daughter Lottie. It’s a pretty slow and inconsequential episode, but what we get from it are the deep feelings we’ve seen from the pair since the start, laid bare. It’s one of the sweetest, most human, episodes ever for the series.

Darius has always been the wild card of the show and in the case of this final season, it’s comedically our one constant. While everything is wrapping up around us, Darius is there to have surprising insight on the proceedings. We do get some backstory to his enigma of a person, with some tragic family history. It’s only a brief glimpse but puts a lot to his character that he is able to keep up such a demeanor this whole time. By the end of the final episode, there comes a realization that we are all part of Darius’ chaotic world. Despite being as awkward as he is mysterious, his closure stands to put a final pin to the surreal world Donald and company have built in Atlanta.

Alfred investigates several retirement ideas which include starting a farm and becoming a manager himself, choosing to find himself a YWA (young white avatar.) Of course, these lead to calamitous results but puts you in the headspace of Alfred. This season also takes time to have Alfred reflect on what his contribution to music really is. Performing for “the culture” can lead one to question if you will really be remembered, or did fade into obscurity. This is of course a common fear for a lot of us, but in this case it feels especially poignant as Donald Glover’s rap career in Childish Gambino, has always struggled with this idea; choosing to create albums that span multimedia including art installations, short films, scripts and hidden in website coding.

A lot like finding hidden messages in coding, these messages are all baked deep within scenes of sushi hostage encounters, time loops and prophetic 90’s R&B singers. As in previous seasons, we’ve seen the gang take on Justin Bieber and Michael Jackson, the final season asks such questions as: “How much does Tyler Perry contribute to African American Culture?” and “How petty is too petty?” Generally the answers are always something in between but where would Atlanta be without the surreal?

One holdover from season 3 is the return of an interstitial side story. This time we get a faux documentary about the creation of The Goofy Movie and how it is one of the blackest movies ever created. As always with Atlanta, this is a hilarious premise but it’s rooted in African American culture, with numerous academic articles written on this subject. Of course, since this is the Atlanta alternate reality, it devolves quickly into the director slowly transforming into Goofy, and faking his death. It’s a wild ride from start to finish and one of my particular favorites.

The main thing I’ve always grabbed from Atlanta is its roots in real life. While it may display an alternate reality with outlandish events, if you were to dig deeper, you can find numerous articles reflecting exactly what’s depicted on screen. There have been a number of times that I’ve watched an episode, then researched the events of the show to find that they are based on actual events. This puts the outlandish nature of Atlanta, more in reality than initially thought. That’s where the show has always stood out, at the end of every episode there’s so much more to think about. While Donald has always focused on being a multimedia creator, Atlanta forces you into next step thinking. Theorizing and debating what the episode meant, and what it means for the world at large.

When Atlanta finally hit the credits on its final episode, I was left stunned. We see the characters we’ve all known and love in a final place. Not in death, but in a way that we can surmise what’s next for them. The real trick is that this is an alternate reality, where their normality is so much different than ours, so we really don’t know. Not since Sopranos, do we have this subtle sense of uncertainty bubbling under the surface. I didn’t want the show to end, but there would be no good way to end something of this caliber but to continue with its world of ambiguity. We get answers, but in the same way, we don’t. It’s the best and worst way to end a show but in this case it’s everything Atlanta stood for. There were no more questions for the characters, just more to think about, always more to ponder. That's always been the point.

What did you think of the final season? Was it a satisfying wrap up? Let us know in the comments!



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