For the past nine episodes of Donald Glover’s FX hit series Atlanta, viewers have deemed the dramedy a fresh perspective on hip-hop, ATL culture, love and struggle. With the show’s premiere raking in the best ratings for any basic-cable scripted primetime comedy since 2013, Atlanta and its colorful cast of characters — broke protagonist Earnest “Earn” Marks (played by Glover), his rapping and drug-dealing cousin Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles, Alfred’s free-associative sidekick Darius and Earn’s on/off domestic partner Van have all become homies in our head.
Hitting home on many levels, the season finale showed Marks’ hustle, sacrifice and perseverance on a new level. Zip through highlights from Atlanta’s season finale titled “The Jacket” below.
If it’s Not on Snapchat, Did It Really Happen?
One of the more comedic shifts in the episode occurred when Earn realized he’d have to resort to Snapchat to figure out where he left his jacket the night before. Like many social media junkies today, Paper Boi chronicled their earlier turn-up on the app, where Earn saw himself smoothly execute a sturdy Milly Rock in the strip club, drink booze, and have a candid conversation about Ja Rule’s growl-like delivery. Soon after, Earn solved the mystery, realizing that his jacket was probably left in their Uber driver’s car.
Van and Earn Might Stand the Test of Time
After seeing Fidel, the Uber driver, get shot by police, Earn paid Van and their daughter a visit, instead of hanging out with Alfred and Darius. For once, the character seemed at peace after the whirlwind day he endured. Showing the duality of the life he leads, between trying to make it as the spontaneous manager of an up-and-coming rapper, to serving as daddy on daycare duty, the camera cut to Van and daughter Lonnie sitting at the dinner table together, sharing an intimate family moment with Earn.
The co-parenting duo even picked up where they left off after the Juneteenth party, cuddling together on the couch, before Earn handed her a roll of money. In true Van fashion, she automatically wrote off the wad as drug money. “I’m really flattered that you think I could sell drugs,” he quipped. Ultimately, Van did have to admit: “You’re a good daddy, though.”
Earn Earns His Keep
Throughout the entire season, a number of questions have been left unanswered: Why did Earn drop out of Princeton? What exactly happened in that parking lot during the premiere? Does he really think Alfred has a chance to blow up as Paper Boi? Many of the answers are still quite hazy by season one’s end, but there are a few truth-telling moments, like Earn disagreeing with Alfred on wanting to “start stunting on n—-s more,” and actually make money.
Later in the episode, Earn finally earned Alfred’s respect, bringing his hard work full circle. From “Paper Boi” getting its first spin on the radio to supervising damage control in hopes of transitioning Paper Boi’s perception from drug-dealing rapper to full-fledged star, Earn’s many finesses turned into an unexpected wad of cash, which Alfred referred to as Earn’s five percent cut.
Because OutKast Throwbacks Are Always Appropriate
After a key is dropped off at Van’s house, viewers learned that it opens the lock on a single storage unit that holds most of Earn’s belongings, including a couch where he seemingly sleeps when he doesn’t want to be a nuisance to Van or Alfred.
In the background, Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s verses from OutKast‘s 1996 classic “Elevators (Me & You)” highlight their humble beginnings playing for pennies in underground Atlanta spots, perfectly underscoring Earn’s new reality. “And he kept asking me, ‘What kinda car you drive?/ I know you paid, I know y’all got beaucoup billfolds/ From all them songs that y’all done made’/ And I replied that I had been going through the same things that he had,” Andre can be heard rhyming.
One of the show’s editors, Isaac Hagy, even shared with the Washington Post the significance of “Elevators” closing out the season: “The song is very optimistic, but it’s also realist,” he explained. “It’s very much about struggle, but [also] about family. It just all ties together what I feel like is at the heart of the show.”
Grabbing two crisp $100 bills from his shoe, Earn gazed at the powerful pair with an ounce of hope. And just like 3000’s final flow, it became apparent that maybe Earn didn’t need a fallback plan. He’s already come a long way.