The Donald Glover-created series continues to surprise in its second season
When the smoke cleared, “Atlanta,” in its premiere season, had become one of the most-beloved shows on TV.
The unconventional and at times nonlinear narrative managed to capture not only viewer imaginations, but a couple of Golden Globes, as well. While it would have been easy for creators to follow a similar template, “Atlanta's” second season, subtitled “Robbin' Season,” has not exactly been more of the same, though we have plenty of familiar elements to lean on. Our same core cast is back, with a couple of additions here and there. But the storytelling and the delivery of narrative have changed.
The first season of “Atlanta” was focused on world building, showing the environment as uncompromising yet playful. The backdrop lent itself well to a group of loosely connected strivers barely surviving their own ambitions and realities.
While the episodes were wholly different from one another, there was still a fairly consistent narrative. Paper Boi is a rapper who hangs out with his best friend, Darius. Paper Boi's cousin, Earn, who has nothing else going for himself, sees an opportunity to manage Paper Boi's career, growing the rapper's fame while also landing a needed job in the process. Earn also has a daughter with a romantic partner, Van. Regardless of the form an episode took, these elements almost always came in to play.
In year one, “Atlanta” also prided itself on giving us just enough information to make the plot functional and heighten our curiosity. Earn dropped out of Yale, but we never learn why. We have no idea where Darius really came from, or how he and Paper Boi met. We're not even sure how Van and Earn got together.
For most showrunners, a second season would have provided an opportunity to address some of these questions. But “Atlanta” has never been concerned with giving you exactly what you think you want. Instead, the show is one that takes your questions and then asks more questions.
Vignettes in the new season have included: Earn and Van going to a German festival that tests the bounds of their relationship; Paper Boi going on a ridiculous journey with his barber in an attempt to get a haircut; and fan favorite Darius trying to obtain a piano that he solicited from a forum discussion.
Rather than giving viewers more backstory, in each of these episodes, the narrative pushes the audience forward, allowing them to come to a greater understanding of who these characters are by the way they react in a given situation.
It's a tough feat to pull off, but “Atlanta” has been surprising audiences and surpassing expectations from the beginning.