Atlanta ’Robbin’ Season’ Season 2 Episode 4 Review ’Helen’

***Spoilers Ahead***


 Photo: Donald Glover. Credit: Guy D'Alema/FX

Since the beginning of Atlanta's sophomore season, Earn has ended up facing setback after setback. Because of that, it only makes sense that 'Helen' continues the trend and provides us with some intensely depressing moments. Although the episode takes place in a celebratory environment, there's absolutely nothing to be cheerful about.

As 'Helen' opens, it doesn't seem like there are any complications in Earn and Vanessa's relationship. Both characters are content with each other as they head off to Oktoberfest. Similar to 'Juneteenth', Van brings Earn into an area with an alienating atmosphere. As expected, Earn definitely does not appreciate being a fish out of the water. Unlike season 1's 'Juneteenth', the outing ends in reverse fashion as the couple breaks up instead of reuniting. Throughout the episode, the writers make sure to highlight the flaws of both characters as their relationship slowly starts to collapse. Contrary to 'Money Bag Shawty', it's clear that the two never had a stable relationship and their discomfort with each other returns to the spotlight. Between Earn not complying with Van's wants and Van isolating him by conversing in German with the bartender, neither put in the effort to make things work. Naturally, this makes one feel that cutting ties was the best option. For Glover's character, this marks another moment where Earn finds himself in a miserable situation. Except, in this installment, the blame can generally be placed on Earn instead of the universe. Unlike the previous episodes of the season, I felt less sympathy for Earn's struggles since he essentially brought it on himself. Instead of dancing and having a good time with Van, he chose to stay in his corner. But, that doesn't mean the outcome isn't joyless and a bit heartbreaking to watch. 

Apart from their destructive relationship, 'Helen' does a respectable job of showcasing the awkward nature of being in a foreign location. Everything about the German festival justifies Earn's uneasiness and makes one understand his choice to seclude himself from the festivities. The outing also further develop Van's character by introducing her viewpoint on her friend's attitude and relationship with Earn. Plus, it's been a while since there have been scenes with Van secluded from Earn. That serves as a nice change of pace. As a whole, 'Helen' has very few scraps of comedy and relies on the dramatic tension between Earn and Van to drive the episode. Moments like the ping-pong match may have comedic elements but the gloomy predicament between the duo overshadows it and sucks out any laughs.

To sum up, 'Helen' is a very morbid chapter of Atlanta. While past outings have sewn elements of comedy and drama together, this one only utilizes the latter and the result is a polished display of a dysfunctional relationship. The episode certainly doesn't put one in a good mood, but that's not the purpose of the installment. With that said, it did make things less enjoyable than the first three outings.

Stray Thoughts
  • Alfred and Darius were very missed.
  • Let's hope Alfred doesn't drop Earn and get a new manager. The man has faced enough misfortunes. 
  • The picture above would be a great album cover. 
  • I'm hoping the next episode is a bit funnier. The barbershop setting should guarantee some laughs. 

Grade: B-

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