Atlanta ’Robbin’ Season’ Season 2 Episode 9 Review ’North of the Border’

***Spoilers Ahead***

North of the Border

Photo: Brian Tyree Henry (left). Donald Glover (right). Credit: FX/Den of Geek

Despite being billed as the show's protagonist, Earn has only been the center of four of the first eight episodes of Robbin' Season. The silver lining of Donald Glover's absence has been that it's a testament to the strength of the other cast members. Darius, Van, and Alfred can all create engaging episodes on their own. After spending the bulk of season two focusing on stories with one select character, 'North of the Border' shifts back to familar territory. While Atlanta does return to status quo thanks to the plot accommodating four main characters, the road trip adventure and Earn's emotional breakdown are entities that the series has never explored.

'North of the Border' starts out with Earn, Darius, Paperboi, and Tracy going to a college so Paperboi can perform a free show. Comparable to the structure of 'Woods', the outing begins with a calm, collected scenario. Once violence is added to the equation, the installment takes a chaotic turn that results in the gang fleeing for their lives. Earn's sly foreshadowing and Tracy's overall personality made Tracy's actions inevitable. But, I did not expect Tracy to morph into an antagonist figure for Earn. It's a unique turn of events given that the protagonist eventually bonds with the reckless character in a normal comedy. In all, Tracy's actions fell into the peculiar category of being uproariously entertaining and rather alarming at the same time. The alarming part derives from the fact that this marks another catastrophe that happened on Earn's watch. While Glover's misfortunes are handled in a believable, authentic fashion, it's still harrowing to witness the writers knock him down at every point. Furthermore, the culmination of a season's worth of doubt fires off during the scene where Alfred and Earn have a heart-to-heart chat. As hinted at through the course of several episodes, Al decides that he may drop Earn as his manager. This acts as a distressing payoff that most saw coming. It's legitimately frustrating to hear that Alfred has nothing against Tracy. Despite the latter being the cause of his problems, Alfred decides to blame it all on Earn. Personally, I feel that Al is not justified to treat his manager this way. While Earn hasn't exactly been professional or competent, Al also hasn't held his part of the bargain. His disregard to Earn's plea to sign some papers in the 'Woods' episode proves this. As upsetting as this scene was, it's not surprising that this turned out to be one of the more mild setbacks for Earn. It only plays into the grand scheme of Robbin' Season to have Earn lose everything he cherishes.
The back-half of the episode takes an intriguing turn as the guys return to the campus to find their stuff battered and damaged. Upon finding his laptop stolen, Earn unleashes his bottled-up anger and futilely attempts to break down Violet's door. Although Earn doesn't come off as threatening, this moment captures his frustration in a magnificent way. Seeing him fail at another task represents the pounding he's taken since the start of the series. Even though he yells at the top of his lungs, his voice holds no power. Likewise, the fight with Tracy portrays how poorly life has treated him. Even when he attempts to do something about his troubles, he simply has no means of winning or accomplishing anything. It was fascinating and exciting to see some genuine emotion coming from Glover's character. Throughout the first and second season, he has been relatively expressionless and hasn't always shown how he truly feels. After his soul-crushing defeat, a distraught Earn stumbles his way back into Paperboi's car after sitting silently on the street for a good thirty seconds. During this scene, his pain transcends through the screen and it's nothing short of agonizing to see him in such a depressed state. Earn has gone from losing his home to losing his girlfriend and now his final shreds of dignity have been swept away. With the potential loss of his job looming, there's not a remotely triumphant moment in sight. In the end, it's stunning how realistically these scenes were executed. It really helps the viewer become fully invested in the plights of Earn and Alfred.

It's tough to say that 'North of the Border' was a pleasant episode to view. Misfortune after misfortune stacked upon each other and caused Earn and Alfred to face serious consequences. The content of the outing is tough to swallow, but it's also flawlessly written and acted. The escalation of the situation mixed with the raw emotion on Earn's part creates an unmatchable product that's horrifying, captivating, and even somewhat funny. 'North' almost acts as the climactic moment of hopelessness for the series. But, knowing Atlanta, the writers will always find a way to top themselves in that department.

  • I laughed out loud when the frat boy said that his two favorite rappers were Paperboi and Post Malone. Malone gets mad when people call him a rapper. 
  • Darius said that Clarke County was an industry plant. I'm not sure why Glover is taking all these shots at Chance the Rapper. 
  • There has been a near-death experience in almost every episode this season. I think it's leading up to a terrifying ending in the finale.
  • The next episode will be about the characters as kids. This show could definitely use a good origin story. 

Grade: A

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