Atlanta ’Robbin’ Season’ Season 2 Episode 8 Review ’Woods’

***Spoilers Ahead***


Photo: Brian Tyree Henry (center). Credit: Atlanta/FX

In the first season of Atlanta, Paperboi was a traditional underground act. Alfred was constantly undermined by artists of higher prestige and only received recognition through Earn slipping his song to the radio. While not entirely unknown, Paperboi evidently wasn't a household name. For better or worse, season two has altered Al's status in the rap game. After chasing the fame in the first season, the fame now mercilessly chases Alfred at every corner. Time and time again, the series has shown that stardom is a double-edged sword. Amidst the fame and fortune, there's the pain of having to keep things real and potentially having a target on your back. Following several episodes that did not pertain to rap, 'Woods' returns to Atlanta's roots by finally zooming in on Paperboi's career and the struggles that he faces. This installment acts as an indirect antithesis to the light-hearted 'Barbershop'. That Al-centric outing focused on humor while 'Woods' dives deep into more pressing and depressing matters.

The calm first half of 'Woods' centers on Paperboi's day with the arrogant, pushy Sierra. The clashing values between the two showcases how Alfred has stayed true to himself despite his new-found fame. But, it also highlights Al's difficulty in his quest to keep it real. The price of being a celebrity has clearly been getting to him for a while. One can sense the worry he feels about losing his identity and going down the same path as Sierra. Although Al is hellbent on being himself, the writers make sure to emphasize that you have to sacrifice a part of who you are to become successful. This theme becomes more apparent as the installment dives into the ominous second act. This episode also opens up about Earn being an insufficient manager. Between this and Clark County's talk in 'Money Bag Shawty', it's clear that Atlanta is foreshadowing a future where Earn is no longer Paperboi's right-hand man. Personally, I feel that would be a depressing and unnecessary turn. But, Atlanta works in mysterious ways and they would surely be capable of pulling it off. 

Although the outing initially takes place in a relaxed environment, the mugging of Alfred signals a drastic shift to an intense and perilous journey into the woods. The anguish that Paperboi goes through feels insanely genuine and down-to-earth. This can be attributed to the frightening scenery and visible pain on Alfred's part. These components come together to produce a spine-chilling ride. Brian Tyree Henry's acting sells the raw fear he feels as he makes his way into treacherous territory. Paperboi's hallucination of meeting his father also contributes to the eerie tone that 'Woods' sets and taps into Alfred's inner demons. While not fully developed, the appearance of both his deceased parents suggests that he's dealing with subconscious problems underneath his surface troubles. It generates a higher level of sympathy for Alfred's character and makes one realize just how much pressure there is once you reach a level of success. Overall, the suspense that comes with Al being threatened and the relief that Alfred feels when he finds himself at a gas station demonstrates how Atlanta can effortlessly hook viewers through raising and lowering the stakes. In the short time span of twenty-six minutes, the writers can make the viewer incredibly invested in a standalone storyline.

'Woods' concludes with Paperboi finding his way into a liquor store and meeting an eager fan. After an episode full of backstabbing and violence, it was a nice change of pace to have the kid not whip out a gun or knife. Additionally, it conveys how much Paperboi evolved and grew through his ordeal. Al realized that he has to sacrifice a bit of himself for the greater good. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn't have been so warm towards the fan. But, now he's loosening his rugged personality a bit. It was a calmly satisfying ending to an episode that acted as a brutal beatdown to Alfred. In all, 'Woods' was another exceptional addition to Atlanta's library. The combination of the compelling acting and intimidating landscape perfectly conveyed the raw emotion that they were trying to produce. Once again, it proves that the series has what it takes to formulate drama-heavy episodes.

  • I'm starting to miss Earn. He hasn't had a main role in several episodes.
  • Darius putting his foot in the pasta was a great bit of improvised comedy.
  • This is one of the few shows where any character can be the main character and it'll still be amazing. 
  • I'm not ready for Al to drop Earn as manager. It's going to be really depressing. 

Grade: A

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