Over the last decade it is safe to say that Donald Glover has conquered just about every medium known to man. He is a Grammy award nominated artist under the name Childish Gambino, stand-up comedian, writer for Emmy winning 30 Rock, star of cult favourite Community, and will portray the beloved Lando Calrissian in the untitled Hans Solo Star Wars movie. Glover’s latest project, FX’s Atlanta — in which he stars, writes, produces and directs — could just be his best yet.
Atlanta follows Earn Marks (Glover) an essentially homeless but smart man supported by the mother of his daughter Van (portrayed excellently by Zazie Beetz). Instead of gaining fixed employment, he chooses to look at the bigger picture, attempting to manage his cousin Alfred/Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry), a successful up-and-coming rapper monikered with the label of a thug.
For those expecting a laugh-out-loud sitcom though, think again. Atlanta is so much more than that. It is a rare insight into the hardships found in places such as Atlanta and just how dangerous they can be, but also how much creativity thrives in these environments. It tackles real-world issues that are crying out to be addressed such as police brutality, gun control, mental illness and the treatment of the transgender community. The comedic elements are also superbly worked in to counterbalance the heavier themes. It does not seem forced in any way, creeping throughout the series at unexpected times and places, only adding to the eccentric charm of the show.
The show even transcends the overstated comedy-drama mix that currently plagues modern TV. “Twin Peaks for rappers” is the mantra Glover has used to describe his stylistic take on the Atlanta rap scene, and it could not be any truer. He, along with director Hiro Murai, dabbles in noir, surrealism and even sketch comedy — look out for the particularly distinctive take on commercialism in episode 7 — throughout the series. It is this amalgamation of juxtaposing styles that makes each episode feel fresh and more so like its own independent and creative project, although a little more direction as to what exactly Glover wants his show to be could be the final piece in this most unique puzzle.
Ultimately, Glover and his team still manage to find warmth and heart within these characters, despite these poignant messages and grim undertones, making for what can be described as a thought provoking but ultimately gratifying comedy experience that the world needs more than ever right now.