Atlanta Season 3 Premiere Review

***Spoilers Ahead***
Donald Glover (left), Brian Tyree Henry (right). Credit: FX

Three Slaps

On March 26, 2018, Jennifer and Sarah Hart drove their SUV off a cliff and killed the six black children they had adopted in a horrific murder-suicide. This shameful tragedy may not have gotten much attention from the mainstream press but it clearly caught the eyes of Donald Glover and Hiro Murai. 'Three Slaps' cuts back on the comedy in order to bring this gut-wrenching story to the small screen in a Get Out-style fashion. Though it may appear to be detached from the main narrative of Atlanta, the themes of white saviorism and adolescent trauma feel right at home in the dramedy's landscape.  

After a chilling dream sequence that takes place in an abandoned lake, viewers are met with the character of Loquareeous, a young boy who misbehaves in class and deals with frequent visits to the principal's office. Though it's quite painful to see him chastised by his mother and slapped by his grandfather, it is nothing compared to when his mom lets Child Services take Loquareeous to his new home. Upon arrival, the fabricated sweetness of his new caretaker Amber mixed with the blunt, irritable nature of her wife Gayle is nothing short of skin-crawling. From there, Loquareeous meets his new, silent siblings, eats Amber's "fried chicken", and is forced to slave away for the farmer's market that the two ladies are a part of. 

Outside of a cheeky reference to rapper NBA Youngboy, there's little to laugh at here and this is clearly a strategic choice to drive home the horror aspect of 'Three Slaps'. The episode ultimately escalates as it progresses, going from mildly discomforting to traumatizing within the span of just thirty minutes. This culminates with the caretakers murdering a social worker that comes in to check on the kids and leads to the murder-suicide that almost takes the lives of the adopted children. Thankfully, Glover's version of this real-life tragedy ends with the kids surviving and Loquareeous finding his way back to his mother's house. Even though it is revealed that the entire ordeal was a dream Earn was having, that fails to make the events of this outing any less haunting.  

'Three Slaps' blends the eerie stylings of 'Teddy Perkins' with the childhood angst found in 'FUBU' to concoct a spine-chilling premiere. It's difficult to label this episode as enjoyable or entertaining  because of the troubling nature of what's being depicted, but the content is still incredibly captivating. Though it may seem like this installment is pointless filler, it is clearly going to be part of a larger narrative that Atlanta will be crafting this season. This episode is a masterclass in horror and the team behind the series deserves major praise for shining light on such a catastrophic crime.   

Stray Thoughts

  • If it weren't for the Black Panther 2 and Rihanna references, I would have assumed this episode was a flashback to a character's childhood, possibly Darius. 
  • I wonder if the inclusion of American Dad had any deeper meaning to it.
  • So was the lake scene at the start a dream within a dream?

GRADE: 8.5/10


Sinterklaas is Coming to Town

While the first two seasons of Atlanta primarily took place in the titular city, it's only natural that the series would change the scenery as it enters another chapter. With Paperboi becoming a much larger act and Earn growing more competent in his role as manager, 'Sinterklaas is Coming to Town' reveals that a lot has changed in four years but there are still enough familiar beats to showcase the infectious chemistry between the core characters.

'Sinterklaas' begins with a groggy and sick Earn frantically scrambling out of his hotel room to secure the $20,000 needed to get Alfred out of a Dutch prison. Although this appears to be an alarming situation at first glance, it is soon revealed that Paperboi's jail cell resembles a cozy suite more than a security facility. Some of the most entertaining moments come when Brian Tyree Henry's character treats his cell like a luxurious resort, choosing to order all the food he can stomach and taking a peaceful nap even after Earn pays his bail. 

The newfound stardom that Alfred basks in is even more enjoyable to witness, with his fans holding up "Free Paperboi" posters and Alfred returning the favor by showering them with paper bills. After that situation is resolved, the Earn and Alfred storyline takes on a refreshingly relaxed tone. Earn is far less neurotic and insecure than he was in past seasons while Alfred is in a surprisingly calm mood. The only conflict that emerges is when Alfred decides not to perform at the venue due to the blackface-wearing audience members. This ends with a hilarious moment where the event manager becomes furious with Earn and chases him down. He ultimately beats up someone wearing blackface that he mistakes for Glover's character, meaning that Earn was essentially saved by the racism that made him uneasy.

The side-plot of 'Sinterklaas' centers on the unlikely duo of Darius and Van as they deal with a death doula and watch the suffocation of Tupac (or a Tupac lookalike). The inclusion of Tupac here is reminiscent of the black Justin Bieber from season 1's 'Nobody Beats the Biebs' since both feature a well-known figure taking on an unusual likeliness. Outside of the references to the rap icon, Darius once more steals the show with his deadpan delivery and eccentric brand of one-liners. Lines like "this city is my Jesus" or his explanation of how he got his balls crushed in Nigeria illustrate why his presence has been sorely missed. They may not have as much chemistry as the others but it's still engaging to see the interactions between Darius and Van, on top of learning more about the mental state of Zazie Beatz's character.

'Sinterklaas is Coming to Town' is a flawless return to the type of absurdist comedy that Atlanta excels at. It serves as a pleasant reintroduction to the cast of characters that have made this show so engaging from the start. When it comes to the uncomfortable nature of the blackface scenes, it seems like some of the elements of 'Three Slaps' are seeping through and will continue to control the atmosphere of this season. There could not be a better way to bring these characters back after such an extensive hiatus and the events of episode two will make longtime viewers excited for what's in store for the rest of the dramedy's third season.  

Stray Thoughts

  • Both 'Three Slaps' and 'Sinterklaas' reference Rihanna.
  • Alfred being in a European jail is likely a callback to the A$AP Rocky fiasco. 
  • I wonder if Earn will continue to be sick and if it has something to do with Covid. 
  • It's a shame we don't get to see what happened to Clark County after the events of the season two finale.

GRADE: 9.0/10


Which episode did you enjoy more?
Three Slaps
Sinterklaas is Coming to Town
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What did you think of these episodes of Atlanta? As always, leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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